Jan 28, 2009

Historic Homes on National Wildlife Refuges

The Oregonian recently offered an interesting look at historic homes that are located on national wildlife refuges throughout the country. Among the homes described are Native American plankhouses at Ridgefield NWR, near Ridgefield, Washington; a restored plantation house at Black Bayou Lake NWR, just north of Monroe, Louisiana; historic pioneer cabins at Kofa NWR in Arizona; and a cabin that belonged to Alaska’s first licensed big game guide, Andrew Berg, at Kenai NWR in Alaska.

Eleanor RooseveltOne of the more unique buildings mentioned is a log cabin from the 1930s that resides at the Salt Meadow Unit of Stewart B. McKinney NWR in Connecticut:

This unpretentious guest house was a getaway for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure in the White House. There, she would visit her friends who owned the farm on which it stood–Elizabeth Read and Esther Lape, and write her syndicated column, “My Day.”

Today, the land is no longer a farm, but the woodlot Roosevelt may well have explored is considered one of the few remaining old-growth maritime forests on the East Coast and provides crucial habitat for migrating neotropical songbirds.

The property was acquired as a wildlife refuge in 1972. The main farmhouse, covered in stone and a decorative iron grate that once graced New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, now houses the refuge headquarters. Visitors can view all of these buildings and visit inside the farmhouse during office hours. The refuge occasionally hosts open houses so visitors can tour all of the historic buildings.

In March 2003, the President issued Executive Order 13287, which states: “The Federal Government shall recognize and manage the historic properties in its ownership as assets that can support department and agency missions while contributing to the vitality and economic well-being of the Nation’s communities and fostering a broader appreciation for the development of the United States and its underlying values.”

Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Historic Preservation website to learn more about historic properties within the Refuge System and how the Service is managing them.

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