Big Spring Lodge and Cabins Restoration

A conceptual color pencil drawing of a historic stone and wooden building with people on the deck
Watercolor artwork representing the restoration of Big Spring Dining Lodge.

NPS Photo

September 2022:

The Big Spring Lodge & Cabins restoration project started this summer and is already well underway in most of the buildings! Here's a glimpse at the progress being made so far. A sub-contractor, Pishny Restoration Services, working under general contractor Blinderman Construction, Inc., is gently removing doors, windows, and screens from the buildings and carefully transporting them to an off-site facility for restoration. There, the old paint is being stripped and any needed repairs are being made before repainting and bringing them back, good as the day the Civilian Conservation Corps originally hung them in their frames. Interior architectural, plumbing, and electrical demolition and salvage of items to be restored for future re-installation, are also under way.
November 2022:

Workers begin the process of cleaning and restoring the surfaces of the historic stonework on and around the Big Spring Lodge & Cabins. Years of patina and built-up algae and microorganisms are being removed, leaving the stones looking freshly cut, as though they had been put in place yesterday. Once stonework has been cleaned, stone masons will be able to assess any repairs needed for the stones and mortar. Other ongoing work includes preparing the buildings and excavating for the installation of upgraded utilities.
December 2022:

Work continues on the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins with the return of the doors and windows that had been removed and sent for restoration previously. Sub-contractor, Pishny Restoration Services, working under general contractor Blinderman Construction, Inc., has stripped the doors of their old paint and finish and are now giving them a fresh coat of finish or paint.
January 2023:

Great strides are being made this week down at Big Spring with the Lodge and Cabins Restoration. The cabins, especially, are getting some much-needed attention. With new stain on the exterior, old screens removed from the porches, and measures taken to stabilize the rock walls, the cabins are beginning to come back to life.

Out with the old and in with the... old? Window restoration continues, but before the restored windowpanes are permanently installed, the Pishny restoration team first fits and places them, in a process called dry fitting. This ensures the pane is a perfect fit before final coats of paint are applied, the glass is set, and the windows are returned to their forever homes. We can thank the teams of Blinderman Construction and Pishny Restoration Services for paying such close attention to detail.

Restoration is also being done on foundational beams. The construction team is working hard to check all foundations to ensure no rotten wood is left behind. We can see their precision in extracting the affected boards for replacement, all while holding true to the intention that the buildings remain as original as possible. Thank you to all who are involved in these processes. Your hard work and dedication show. As always, more to come!

Late January 2023:

This week’s milestone showcases a roofing mockup on the Big Springs Lodge and Cabin’s historic museum. It's not quite finished, but progress has made leaps and bounds in the last few weeks despite inclement weather.

Below, you will see the great lengths contractors have gone to replace the dilapidated roofing. They first began by removing the existing wood shingles, metal flashing, gutters, down spouts, metal strips, and broken-down sheathing. Once cleared of roofing ruins, the real fun began. Roofers proceeded to install new sheathing, lay new cap sheet, breather material, metal valley flashing, zinc strips, metal drip edge, lead guard, penetration flashing, lead step flashing, metal cap sheet, and new wood shingles.

We are so grateful to Williams American Roofing Company, working under Blinderman Construction, for keeping a roof over our heads and a smile on our faces!
February 2023:

With Valentine’s Day just behind us, how could we not share more love for the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins Restoration? The rock wall behind the lodge takes the spotlight this week as Lawrenz Masonry is chomping at the bit to restore this piece of history.Because the original stone wall was beginning to buckle in places from the pressure of the hillside, a new concrete retaining wall is needed behind the rocks to reinforce the strength of the wall. Blinderman Construction began by first cleaning the wall. The difference in the before and after photos below truly is astounding. Once clean, Lawrenz Masonry dismantled the wall to further evaluate its condition. It was determined before dismantling that this step was needed to ensure a successful reconstruction, of course. Each rock was taken from the wall, given a designated ID, measured, and determined if it is reusable or not. Some rocks were, unfortunately, too fractured to be reused. The reusable stones' facings were then separated 5.5” from the front face, and these pieces were put aside until they can be returned to their original location.

Blinderman Concrete Company will later come in to lay the new concrete retaining wall. Those incredibly important rock facings will then be attached to the front side of the new wall to give the look and feel of the original with the added strength and support of modern concrete. This new wall will be installed with advanced stabilization techniques and will be clad in much of the original material, thus retaining the historical ambiance of the 1930’s era in which it was originally designed.

It is important to note that we are rehabilitating and not recreating. Recreating the procedures and materials exactly as used in the first construction will place us back in the same situation. We are taking measures to rehabilitate pieces and create a stronger structure so we will be left with a piece of history that lasts much longer.
March 2023:

Recent rains have put a bit of a damper on exterior work on the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins, but the folks at Blinderman Construction haven't been idle! First, deconstruction of the retaining wall behind the lodge and preparation of the stones for reconstruction continues. Among new developments are the removal of the outer surface of back wall of the lodge itself, along with removal of old, damaged mortar between the beams above the museum building entry. The rain did give workers some time to focus on interior work, but we'll let that be a surprise for later!
April 2023:

For our update on the lodge and cabins this week, we'll elaborate a bit on a subject that came up in the Facebook comments a few months ago: the use of modern materials in restorations of historical places like the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins. A more accurate term for this project is "rehabilitation," which involves bringing a historic structure up to modern standards for use, including safety and accessibility, while still preserving the features which convey its historical, cultural, and architectural values. This involves, as much as possible, keeping original materials that are in good condition in place while making repairs/replacements where necessary. The lodge and cabins at Big Spring are some of the best surviving examples of CCC naturalistic architecture anywhere, and it's that historic character that we aim to preserve while making much needed repairs and modernizations so they will be around to enjoy for many generations to come.

One of the most extensive uses of modern materials in the rehabilitation of the Big Spring Historic District is infrastructure. Prior to closure, the lodge was plagued by power outages and backed up plumbing due to the aging infrastructure. All of that is being replaced by modern electrical equipment and plumbing, and you'll never know it's there except that the lights stay on when they should and the toilets flush when they're supposed to.

Many non-infrastructure examples are likewise hidden out of view where they strengthen and improve the buildings without standing out, like moisture barriers hidden behind historically accurate wooden shingles or steel reinforcing anchors buried deep into the hill behind a stone wall or foundation to help stabilize it. More visible examples might include something as simple as the paint on the exteriors of the cabins; modern formulations are less toxic and also more durable than those available in the past. And on that note, some historic materials were truly hazardous, like asbestos and lead paint; materials that you really don't want to keep original.
Late April 2023:

April's update on the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins restoration features the dutchman repair. This is a technique used to replace a damaged portion of a wooden beam without replacing the whole thing. As you can imagine, this is useful in a project like this where as much original material needs to be left in place as possible.

To perform a dutchman repair, the damaged portion of the beam is removed, along with half of the beam a short distance above. Then, a segment of new beam is similarly prepared in order to match the original as closely as possible. Holes are drilled through the two pieces with deep counterbores to keep the bolt heads below the surface of the beam. Once the pieces are bolted together, the holes are plugged and painted over, and the repaired beam is put back in place.
June 2023:

This month's update on the restoration of the Big Spring Lodge & Cabins features the retaining wall once again. Removal of the wall has been completed, after the wall was cleaned of years of grime and the stones carefully documented and checked for integrity. As mentioned in previous posts, stones that were still in good shape have been cut to a uniform thickness and will be used to create a facade over a stronger concrete wall that will hold back the hillside. The hillside itself has been stripped of vegetation and pared back in preparation for the new construction.

At the far end of the lodge, space has been cleared and footings built for a mechanical courtyard that will eventually house air conditioning and utility equipment for the building. This will clear space along the back of the building that had been taken up by air conditioners and restore that section of the building's exterior to its historical appearance.

Finally, roofing has begun on the dining lodge. Including the lodge, only two roofs are left to complete on the entire project. There's much more going on as well; stay tuned for our next post!
July 2023:

The Big Spring Lodge & Cabins restoration is kicking into a new phase this month as demolition work concludes and the focus shifts to reconstruction. First in our showcase is the interior woodwork in Cabin 406 which, if we might brag a bit, looks amazing. Pending approval, it will serve as the prototype for the rest of the cabins. Next, the retaining wall outside cabin 404 is nearly complete and looks great. Speaking of retaining walls, the one behind the lodge is now being rebuilt, with its modern, reinforced concrete core coming together section by section. Once the concrete is in place, the original stones, along with replacements for those that were too badly damaged by years of weathering, will be put into place to form a facade over the concrete. Finally, a new, larger water tank is being built to support the new and improved water supply lines and fire-suppression systems.
September 2023:

This month's progress update on the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins has reconstruction making good headway. Remember the finish we showcased on the woodwork in Cabin 406 in the last update? That's been approved and floors are now being sanded throughout the cabins and prepped to have that finish applied to all. Cabinets are being reinstalled in the cabins as well. One major upgrade you can look forward to is the new mini-split air conditioning units, which have a small footprint but will keep the cabins nice and cool on those hot summer days. Finally, the retaining wall behind the lodge is coming back together, though at the moment it's looking more like a bare concrete brutalist version of its former self. That won't last for long, however, since workers are already beginning to apply the stone facade in the mechanical courtyard and are working their way towards the front end of the building.
October 2023:

The Big Spring Lodge and Cabins project continues to move along. This is more of an incremental update, with continued progress in previously mentioned areas, like stain being applied to restored floors in the cabins and construction on retaining walls like the one shown at Cabin 404. Roofing on the lodge is moving along, not much left to go before it's done! New steps are also being constructed at several of the cabins with concrete cores covered in stone cladding. Finally, electrical supply and communication conduits for the lodge and the new air conditioner units at the far end of the building are being laid in a trench behind the lodge's retaining wall, where they will be concealed from view once the wall is complete and the hillside is fully restored.
November 2023:

The Big Spring Lodge and Cabins restoration moves a little further along this month, with reconstruction continuing and a few finishing touches falling into place!

First up, the roofing on the lodge is still moving along, with very little left to go. Next, concrete walkways, which will eventually be covered in stone cladding, are being poured as quickly as possible while the weather is above freezing. A new deck is being installed on the ADA accessible cabin, with plenty of outdoor space. The icing on the cake: the completed retaining walls just look amazing. Cabinets and countertops are being installed to match the gorgeous interior woodwork of the cabins.
December 2023:

'Tis the season for giving, and the folks working on the Big Spring Lodge and Cabins have gifts for everyone this holiday season!

🛠️ We'll start off this progress update with the best one: a new accessible walkway runs from the lodge down to the boat dock! This area was once only reachable by stairs; now, it is accessible to all.

🛠️ Next, the cabins’ stairs and walkways are looking great with their new stone cladding. Progress is also being made dressing up the retaining wall behind the lodge, and the museum building is having restored windows and doors installed.

There's a ton of other work being done throughout the Big Spring Historic District that isn't visible: mostly continued interior work on the cabins. So, stay tuned for more updates!
February 2024

It's been a few weeks since our last update, but rest assured that work hasn't slowed down on the Big Spring Lodge & Cabins!

First in our February showcase: a new retaining wall for the parking at cabin 412, which is coming along nicely. And to “top it off,” the retaining wall behind the lodge is now having restored top stones set in place. (We talk a lot about retaining walls, but in our defense, we need a lot of them!)

Next up, new walkways have been poured in front of the museum building, including an accessible ramp. Plus, previously poured walkways are getting their paving stones.

As a final treat, the original corner sinks in the cabins have been lovingly restored and are being set back in place, along with new bathroom fixtures and lights.

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 490
Van Buren, MO 63965


(573) 323-4236
Call (573) 323-4236 for Big Spring Entrance Station, located south of Van Buren, MO. Call (573) 226-3945 for the Alley Spring General Store, located west of Eminence, MO. Call (573) 858-3297 for Round Spring Ranger Station, located north of Eminence, MO.

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