Cabin joins historical Depot complex

By Mary Atkinson · Wednesday, October 3, 2012
No one had left the light on when Tom Brooke stopped at one of the cabins his father rented to motorists traveling through West Liberty on U.S. Highway 6 some 70 years ago.

But seeing the old cabin, which had been moved to ground owned by Radine White of West Liberty, gave Brooke an idea.

“I opened the door and here sits a lavatory and a mirror and a light above it, and off in the corner is a commode and shower stall,” he said. “Nothing had been really changed just a little deteriorated and I thought right away, ‘I want to restore it.’”

The cabin has since been moved by Kenny Morrison of Morrison Construction and some of his employees to the grounds of the West Liberty Depot and Museum.

“It’s part of the heritage of the town and it’s part of how the traveling public evolved from cabins, to motels then hotels,” Brooke said. “We will get it restored and then people (can) go in and see what a cabin like that was like.”

The cabin was one of the many that sat along U.S. 6 on the western edge of West Liberty until almost 50 years ago. The Liquid Grow Fertilizing plant now sits at the cabin site, which was known as North Point.

The cabin, built in the 1930s, was part of a trailer and cabin camp that had been owned previously by Vernon Meyer. Similar camps popped up all over the country, expanding the motel concept.

In the late ’30s, Clare Brooke and his longtime business partner, Jess Swart, decided to try their hand in the lodging business and purchased the camp. They added five more cabins, built by local construction contractors Clarence and Harry Johns, as well as a service station. After Swart died, Clare Brooke sold North Point.

When his father sold North Point, Tome Brooke said he was 6 or 7 years old. The cabins were sold individually and people soon came and moved them away, he said.

“After that I don’t remember anything else,” he said. “Evidently, maybe the motels started coming in and the cabins were no longer the big thing.”

As the years passed, Brooke became involved with community work, including the town’s Heritage Foundation.  Brooke said the Heritage Foundation thought it would be great to move the cabin to the depot grounds.

When asked what the general consensus is concerning a vision for the West Liberty Depot, Brooke said it is to promote the town’s heritage. The depot and railroad are the reasons West Liberty exists, he said.

Visitors also may tour an old school house and barn, a 100-year-old train caboose and the museum, which is inside the depot.

The cabin, Brooke said, shouldn’t be the last attraction developed at the complex, which has a total of five acres ready for development.
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