History of the Ganahal-Hanley Log Cabin

The Ganahl Connection: 
The Ganahl-Hanley Log Cabin Was built in the early 1930's for Gaston Alfred Beck Ganahl (1887-1958), who was born in St. Louis, MO, and died in Seattle, WA. He was raised in Los Angeles, where he worked for various lumber firms.
I
n 1922, Gaston went to work for the lumber/shipping magnate Robert Dollar, who had stated hi connection in this state as early as 1893 with the purchase of a lumber sawmill in Mukilteo. Over the next several decades, Dollar Purchased or controlled at least four more operations in Washington alone. As of 1931 he had the largest fleet of sailing ships, cargo and passenger liners operating under the U.S. flag. For multiple reasons hard times followed. Ultimately, the company because American President Lines Ltd., then APL Associates, which is still one of the biggest container shipping companies in the world. 
Gaston traveled the world for Robert Dollar before becoming the manager of its Seattle Division. After the death of his wife Nell in 1930, Gatson purchased acreage in the Seaview Heights area of Edmonds.
Soon after that he had the hand-hewn Douglas Fir log cabin built as a guesthouse by a man (name unknown), who learned his trade at Yellowstone Park. All the materials, logs and stones were taken from the land itself. The stairway handrail was made from a single young bent tree. 
The Cabin, tucked in it's little forested hollow, was used often during the next fifteen years by visiting relatives and friends. Gaston told of one who described the Cabin as "the little house with a soul". This pleased him, as he too had a special feeling for his log cabin. Oral history confirms that some of the more famous visitors include a German general, the actress Gertrude Lawrence, and Ernest Simpson, also in the shipping business and the second husband of Wallis Simpson, who later married the former King Edward, Duke of Windsor. 

The Hanley Connection: 
Gaston lived in what was called the summer house, complete with a lighted tennis court. This house, the orchard, and the Cabin were sold in 1945 to Lee and Dorie Hanley. Gaston then built another home on the remaining property, which is now the site of Seaview Elementary School. Then the Cabin became home to Lee's youngest brother Homer Hanley and his family of four for about a year. 
In 1947, Dorie's parents, John and Thyra Nihlroos, moved from Illinois and made the Cabin their permanent home. John, originally from Sweden, died at the age of 73 in 1959. Thyra lived on in the Cabin for a total of more than 25 years. During this time, the Cabin took on its Swedish flare with
John's handiwork, Thyra's flower boxes and gardens, and distinctive Swedish decor such as the cabinetry, shelves and red trim. 
All three of the Hanley daughters, Mary Jo, Bridget, and Molly, spent much of their childhood there. Though all became profession women, Bridget Hanley is one of the most well known "daughters of Edmonds". She is a successful actress, having starred in the TV series "Here come the Brides" as well as many other venues. The first four of the fourth generation of the same family, were frequent visitors to the Cabin while their great grandmother lived there. The cookie jar was never empty. Later, along with the younger ones, they became involved through their schools and community. Cabin visits are part of the local grade school curriculum, and during December it is delightful as the City's designated "Christmas House". 

The City Connection: 
In 1975, the Hanleys sold the property. Understanding the importance of its history even then, they donated the Cabin to the City of Edmonds. Mayor Harve Harrison and the City Council felt it would be a great Bicentennial Project. It started its two-mile trip from the 8500 block of 188th St. S.W. to the town's center. Telephone and electrical wire had to be disconnected at every intersection because of the high roof. At the end of the day, the cabin remained overnight at the foot of Maplewood Hill. On August 28th, it was set up next to the historic Andrew Carnegie Library, which now houses the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society's Museum.
On March 16, 1976 attorney Chet Bennett presented the completed project to the appreciative City Council. He noted that over 150 citizens and businesses had donated their time, labor and materials to permanently establish the Cabin in its new location. The next day Al Kincaid, president of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, set up new quarters for the Chamber in the "Bicentennial Pioneer" Log Cabin. Formal dedication was on July 4, 1976. "
Staffed primarily by volunteers, the Cabin also housed the part-time executive directors until 1990, when it became the Visitors' Information Center, created by the first consortium of the City of Edmonds, the Port of Edmonds, and the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce. It provides space of local advertisement brochures as well as other communities in the state, maps, ferry schedules and bus schedules. The volunteers. also sell bus tickets and collect PUD and garbage payments. 
When the Cabin was moved, it was not placed on another stone foundation, thus the bottom logs rotted, as did several others due to the water from the window boxes and leaking gutters. The roof needed replacing by 1995, but the City chose not to repair it. In August 1998, the Algoma Garden club of which Dorie Hanley had been a member, instigated an effort to restore the Cabin. The Save Our Cabin Committee was officially started three months later under the umbrella of the Edmonds-South Snohomish Historical Society. Fund raising for over $80,000 was begun in earnest. In September 1999, the newly named Ganahl-Hanley Log Cabin was officially added to the Washington Heritage Register, validating its unique history. In July 2000, construction of a new foundation and roof plus log and floor replacement was underway, finishing the following October. The grass roots effort was accomplished with the help of hundreds of supporters, but, as directed by the City's contract, without City public funds. A plaque inside the Cabin lists many of these generous people and grantors. The Hanley family and the donors present the restored Cabin to the City once again in November of 2000, just over 25 years after the first time. 

History of the Log Structures:
The exact origin of log building is lost, but archaeologist have suggested it started with the Scandinavians and northern Russians during the Bronze Age.  Because of careful design and excellent craftsmanship, these structures have endured the elements for hundreds of years and stand today as testimony to the longevity of logs as a building material.
Approximately two decades after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Swedish and Finnish immigrants brought European log building technique to America, settling the area we now call Delaware in 1638. Using only axes, they could raise a suitable cabin in a single day: a decisive advantage in the hostile environment of an unsettled land. Over the next 75 years, Swedes and Finns did the majority of log building on the eastern seaboard, but wilderness eventually gave way to technology. Though log building was no longer necessary, nostalgia kept it alive. 
At the beginning of the 2oth century, log building enjoyed a glorified resurgence, particularly at the Great Camps of the Adirondacks. Architects throughout the country designed buildings similar to those at the Adirondack camps, the most famous of which is Yellowstone Nation park's Old Faithful Inn, built in 1904. 
The Ganahl-hanley Log cabin, though not architecturally designed, is of this "Camp" type. Its builder practiced his trade at Yellowstone prior to creating the Cabin. Though built in the early 1930's, fifteen years later the Ganahl-hanley Log Cabin acquired the decidedly Nihlroos/Swedish influence, bringing this log structure full circle to the origins of all log building. According to the Snohomish County Planning and Development Services, thee are no other known log cabins of this vintage in the county of this type. These artistic and architectural qualities define the Cabin's special history--recreationally, ethnically and locally.

Courtesy of the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society

This page copyright © 1997- 2002, Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society,  Bridget Hanley,  and Patti Wilkins.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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