The Story of Our Family's "Back Cabin"



The Back Cabin was originally built in the early 1950s and was initially located across the lane, on Wagon Wheel Bay. It was called the Jordan cabin, and was owned by a local Boise family who still has homes on the bay. The Jordan’s were newcomers, as our own family cabin was built in 1934 and was just a few houses down on the bay.

When the Jordan's decided to rebuild in the 1960s, our grandfather bought the cabin and moved it over to one of our lots in back of our 1934 cabin on the bay, hence the name “The Back Cabin.” In order to move the cabin, it was cut in half and positioned on our lot. You can still see the saw cut down the middle of the livingroom floor. The cabin was used by our family as spill-over space during endless and idyllic summers, occupied by our extended Idaho and East Coast family, including Idaho senators, scientists, teachers, musicians, politicians, lawyers, engineers, ranchers, artists, writers, athletes, etc. Typical of the time, the cabin took on a Nordic appearance with dark wood, yellow paint, short eves and a line of scalloped trim. The cabin had a main room, 2 sleeping lofts, a single simple bathroom, and a small galley kitchen with a wood stove. The cabin was somewhat renowned for the inexplicably steep and precarious ladders used to access the upstairs sleeping lofts.

In the early 1980s, the cabin was updated to accommodate our family during a remodel of the 1934 front cabin on the bay, and to become a bunk house for many of us who worked on our family’s large llama ranch. It also housed visiting musicians who would perform for the McCall Music Society Concerts, and the 7 Devils Playwrites, a NYC group who write plays and try them out in realtime using a local playhouse. Much of the original house remained in this update, and a lovely large deck was added facing the creek. Unfortunately, the stair situation did not resolve, and the adapted stairs were equally treacherous and cursed.

One of the pleasures of our lane on Wagon Wheel Bay is that our family owns most of the 2nd tier land around the cabin, giving us close access to woods. Many generations have run wild in these woods, explored the creek and built trails. In 1990, the youngest generation of our family, with great effort and with a local tradesman created “The Tree House” in these woods. A classic elevated fortress. Sleepovers, tea parties, ghost stories, and giggles galore.


Come 2013, and the 65-year old cabin needed attention once again. A bit lonely and in disrepair, The Back Cabin was begging to be given new life and a fresh start. The project was spearheaded by a family member, labor came from friends and family, and new laborers became friends. Instead of tear-down, we carefully removed elements of the cabin so we could reuse them – the siding, doors, old stairwell pieces, cabinets, hooks, railings, trim, mirrors, door handles, wall heaters, lamp fixtures, and anything else that could survive re-use. We removed a few walls, moved a few doorways, and pulled out layers of carpeting, paneling and dust. Along the way, we discovered that to reuse was not always the easier or economical path, but we were determined to keep the character of a classic Idaho mid-century cabin and to refresh the old. No drywall, no plastic, no linoleum, just the real stuff please. With some stubborness, not a stick of furniture was purchased for the remodel; instead we refinished and/or reupholstered all the old pieces, including ones that have some history. Our Idaho grandmother’s sewing machine. Six dining room chairs acquired on a roadtrip through Stanley. Our father’s childhood bedframes. The dragonfly lamp our mother crafted. Even lobby furniture; long ago, our Idaho family once owned the Owhyee Hotel in downtown Boise, and upon the hotel’s upgrade in the early 1950s, we were handed the hotel’s lobby antique furniture - a massive couch, numerous arm chairs, and end tables. That is what our guests lounge in, once again.

To our joy, The Back Cabin is now reborn from familiar materials and preserves memories for our family, neighbors, and our renting guests.