I’ve just returned from my summer vacation in Canada where I’ve grown up each summer at our cabin on the Lake of the Woods. We are above Minnesota in lake country; our area is dotted with rocky and wooded islands and clear water.
My parents are originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and in the late 1940’s my grandfather bought 2 acres of water frontage land for $700. He bought it, understanding that he had to have a house settled on the property within 2 years or he lost his claim. With no roads to the property, the raw land filled with poplar, fir trees and poison ivy was reached only by water. On weekends they would slowly move piles of lumber and salvaged building materials on choppy waters in a small wooden boat. In time, they cleared the land and built a small 400-square foot cabin that included a living room, a kitchen with a wood burning stove and one bedroom. There was no running water and of course they used an outhouse as necessary.
When my father finally built a winterized cabin in the 90’s the question of keeping the Bunkie, as it was now called, was discussed. Being a young and newly educated preservationist, the story and narrative of the first cabin that my grandfather and dad built was too appealing to lose or forsake. Later that summer, me and my new bride, decided to fix up the Bunkie and make it ours.
Here’s a picture of the Bunkie today. The original cabin did not include the deck or the lower roofed porch on the right. Hardly a great beauty, but still a great story. It tells me how my grandfather, used salvaged windows and doors to cobble together a cabin.
The interior is where the Bunkie shines. It’s painted tongue and groove wood paneling looks bright and fresh, we took out the fiberglass tile ceiling and painted the open rafters. We also added salvaged doors and historic hardware that sprinkle the interior with color and charm.
The water skis are the ones I learned to ski on in the early 70’s.
The furniture are things Krissy and I have gathered and found over the years. A Stickley-style rocker, a pine chest and wicker furniture.
The prints are by W.J. Phillips, a local artist (Kenora) who crafted and made wood block prints in the 1920’s. His work is haunting and dreamy and I hope to own some originals someday.
Behind the green door is a small bath that was added in the 1980’s. It holds a small shower, sink, toilet and linen cabinet. Towels are hung on pegs and the room is wrapped in a high wood wainscot with a shelf.
We luckily found that my grandmother owned some Red Wing Pottery that we now display in a small corner niche. Red Wing pottery is from the famous pottery in Minnesota a few hours south of us. Ours dates from the 1950’s or 60’s. It has a dark brown glaze on the exterior and a teal-green glaze inside. It is from their Village Green collection.
The Bunkie is a timeless house because it has a great story that needs to be remember. It’s easy to forget with our power boats and new-cottage- comforts that life, just a short while ago, was more primitive.
The Bunkie is still very small. Even with the added porch and bath it is still only a 800 square feet. This “small living” is good for us; living closer together, sharing bedrooms and one bath, makes us tighter: we talk more, we listen to music together and we function more closely as a family. This is a good thing, which we hope to enjoy for years to come.