Volunteers work to restore the last of Hopkinton-owned cabins

  • An aerial view of the four remaining town-owned Kimball Lake Cabins. You can see logs stacked next to the cabin that is currently under repair. Ben Domaingue / Monitor staff

  • Cabins restored and preserved along Kimball Lake. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • One of the smaller cabins is in the process of being restored along Kimball Pond. Ben Domaingue / Monitor staff

  • Cabins restored and preserved along Kimball Lake. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Interior of Cabin 1, which is receiving restoration. Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Cabin fireplace with donated gun affixed to it, within Cabin 1.  Ben Domaingue—Ben Domaingue

  • Construction of Kimball Lake.  Hopkinton Historical Society—Hopkinton Historical Society

  • Digging of Kimball Lake with steam shovel.  Hopkinton Historical Society—Hopkinton Historical Society

  • A postcard shows the Kimball Lake Cabins after their original completion. Courtesy of the Hopkinton Historical Society

  • A volunteer works on restoration of the WWII vintage cabins on Kimball Pond in Hopkinton. Courtesy of Sue Mitchell

Monitor staff
Published: 9/30/2021 5:02:09 PM

After years of work on the other three, the last of the cabins around Kimball Pond in Hopkinton is getting its turn.

Volunteers have been working since 2014 to repair the town-owned cabins by replacing rotten boards and logs, fixing the roofs and making them weather-tight again. They’ve used the same methods used to build the cabins, like hand-stripping the bark from pine logs that will be used as support poles for a porch.

Nestled on a dirt road alongside Kimball Pond, the four remaining cabins built nearly a century ago were set to be destroyed, but community advocates stepped in to save them for future generations to enjoy.

“Myself (and Lee Wilder), we are very much into preserving history,” said resident Louise Carr. “It’s a really well kept secret, I mean people drive by here all the time and don’t even know they’re out here.”

Spearheaded by Carr, the Hopkinton select board tasked a committee of residents to determine whether or not the buildings should be demolished and the property repurposed or if they could be restored. In January 2014, the committee recommended restoration and preservation.

Construction of the cabins and the pond itself began in 1931 – work that continued until World War II. The project originally employed 12 men, led by then-Hopkinton resident Ernest Archibald who oversaw construction on behalf of Harold Kimball.

“It had really been the idea of Harold Kimball, who lived in New York, but grew up in Hopkinton,” said Heather Mitchell, director of the Hopkinton Historical Society. “They provided well-paying jobs during the Depression when there weren’t any.”

Workers dug out an old mill pond using horse drawn wagons to create the larger and deeper Kimball Pond, which was sometimes called Kimball Lake. The official name for the town-owned recreation area is Kimball Lake Cabins. The only piece of machinery the men used to dig out the pond was a steam shovel, which is on display with the four remaining cabins.

Once the pond was complete, the workers erected 12 cabins that were frequented by guests to the area. However, with the construction of the Interstate Highway System, the popularity of the cabins began to fade.

Now refurbished, the cabins are available to rent.

“The scouts have meetings here. You can bunk here if you want, as one of the things you can do,” said Carr. “You can have a private birthdays party or some function.”

According to the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, seven of the cabins were lost to fire or neglect, one became private property, leaving only four under the ownership of the town.

The project has been funded entirely by donations, with volunteers offering their labor and materials during the week. Since the project began, Carr and her team have widened doorways and added ramps in order to make the cabins accessible for all visitors.

“It’s all fundraising, no tax dollars at all,” said Carr. “People have been very generous.”

With the backing of the Preservation Alliance, the cabins were included on the Seven to Save list of historical sites in 2014, which helped amplify the fundraising.

“We listed it, they were seeking support for rehabilitating and new uses,” said Nicole Flynn, who organizes the Seven to Save program at the Preservation Alliance. “The severity of the threat and the extent of how we could help them is what drove us to list it that years.”

The Preservation Alliance offers significant support to communities aiming to preserve and protect their culturally-significant historical sites.

“We prioritize our technical and staff support for their projects, offering training, tool kits and other resources to support the work they’re doing. That help lasts well beyond the year of listing,” said Flynn. “We keep track of it after the projects are done.”

The restoration project is estimated to be completed within the next two years and it remains an important cultural staple to the town.

“People go skating there in the winter, kayak and canoe in the summer,” said Mitchell. “It’s an important part of Hopkinton.”

Donations for cabin materials can be made to the Town of Hopkinton with “Kimball Lake Cabins” noted and sent to Hopkinton Town Hall , 330 Main Street, Hopkint on, NH 03229.

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