Dr. Melville Little decided to build a log cabin in Niles Center, Illinois in 1923. At that time, the area was a vast open prairie of tall grasses and few trees. Carpenters hired from Finland designed the cabin after buildings in their native land.
- White cedar logs were harvested and shipped down from Phelps, in the north woods of Wisconsin. The logs are very long and straight, scarcely tapering, even through the length of the largest room in the cabin.
- There are 36 tons of granite in the foundation of the 4,000 square foot building.
- The huge fireplace in the Great Room was built with recycled cobblestones from Chicago’s old streets as modern pavements were being laid and cobblestones discarded. The cost of the fireplace alone was $5,000.
- In the Great Room, legend has it that a large tree stump was left and used as a table with seats built around it.
- At the north end of the Great Room there is a small balcony, where musicians would perform for dances and parties below.
- The cost of the entire Log Cabin was $45,000 – a huge sum in 1923 and even for houses built in the decades to follow.
1927 to 1929 – Military Academy
In 1927, Dr. Little sold the property to the North Shore Military Academy. The Great Depression hit only two years later, however, and the school did not survive. For about a year, the Log Cabin stood empty, with tramps and hobos taking refuge in the deserted building.
1930 to Present – Central Church
In late 1930, a new church congregation, the Niles Center Community Church, purchased the Log Cabin on Lucille Court (now Concord Lane) at a cost of $18,000 – quite a bargain compared to the $45,000 Dr. Little spent building it just seven years earlier.
The Log Cabin has served this congregation as sanctuary, parsonage and Sunday school for more than seven decades. During the early years, ministers and their families lived in the three east rooms on the cabin’s first floor. The second floor was occupied by students from Northwestern University and Garrett Seminary, who paid off part of their rent doing odd-jobs – firing up the furnace, shoveling snow in the winter and cutting the grass in the summer.
In 1952, Central Methodist church had outgrown the Log Cabin and a separate parsonage was purchased for the pastoral family. The land directly west of the Log Cabin was purchased for a new sanctuary building. On February 15, 1953 the last Sunday service was held in the Log Cabin and the first service in the new sanctuary was held the following Sunday. In 1957, the Education Building was built to house Sunday school classes and church offices.
Through the years, the Log Cabin has remained a vital heart of the Central Church congregation. Today, it is used for classes, meetings, youth group and various church events, in addition to the summertime early morning Sunday services. The loft overlooking the Great Room has been the headquarters of Boy Scout Troop 72 for over 55 years.
Central United Methodist Church – 8237 Kenton Avenue, Skokie, IL 60076 – (847) 673-1311
www.skokiecentralumc.org (April 2010)