The Log Cabin
1923 was the year of Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin
Coolidge. It was also the year that a physician, Dr. Melville
Little, decided to build a home for his family in Niles Center. He
chose to build a log cabin and hired carpenters from Finland who
designed and styled the log cabin after the buildings in their native
Niles Center (now called Skokie) was a vast open prairie of tall grasses
and few trees in those days, so the logs were harvested and shipped down
from Phelps in the north woods of Wisconsin. The logs were white
cedar and very long and straight, scarcely tapering – even through the
length of the largest room. Thirty-six tons of granite were used in the
foundation of the 4,000 square foot building. The huge fireplace
that still stands in the Great Room was built with cobblestones recycled from Chicago’s old streets as modern pavements were laid.
The fireplace alone cost $5,000. The total cost of the Log Cabin
was $45,000 which was a huge sum in 1923 and even for houses built in
the decades to follow.
the two-story living room where the fireplace stands, a large tree stump
was left and seats built around it. There was a balcony at the
north end of the living room. From this high vantage point
musicians would perform for the dances and parties below. This
balcony has been used for over 50 years now as the home base for Boy Scout
In 1927, Dr. Little sold the property to the North Shore Military
Academy but only two years later the country was hit by the Great
Depression and the school did not survive. The cabin stood empty
among the tall prairie grasses but then the homeless, often called
tramps and hobos in those days, found the deserted building, took
refuge and set up housekeeping in this sturdy structure.
In late 1930, a new church congregation was formed, the Niles Center
Community Church, sponsored by the Methodist Episcopal Church.
They rented a store room in the Bronx Building on Dempster Street for
their worship space. A few months later, the
congregation purchased the log cabin on Lucille Court (now called
Concord Lane) at a cost of $18,000–quite a bargain compared to what
Dr. Little spent to have it built only seven years earlier. The
building was still in good shape and did not need many repairs, although
the tree stump was cut to the ground and a raised platform was
constructed over it.
The Log Cabin served as the sanctuary, parsonage and Sunday school for
the little church for more than three decades. During that time
the ministers’ families lived in the three east rooms on the first floor
and the upper floor was occupied by students from Northwestern
University and Garrett Seminary. The students paid off part of
their rent by firing up the furnace and shoveling the snow in the winter
months and cutting the grass in the summer. This arrangement
continued through many pastorates until 1943 when the pastor volunteered
to serve as a chaplain in World War II. The congregation had grown
and a separate parsonage was purchased for the pastor’s family.
Over the years, the balcony that overlooks the Great Room has served
many purposes. It has served as the choir loft, Sunday school
classroom (with more classes being held in the room below), and as seating for the service as membership grew. For the last few
decades, the balcony has served as the headquarters for Boy Scout Troop
72 which has been sponsored by Skokie Central UMC for over 50 years.
On February 15, 1953 the last Sunday service was held in the Log Cabin. The congregation had grown along with the Village of Skokie and so the
adjoining property was purchased and the church now extended to Kenton
Avenue on the west. The sanctuary building was constructed and the
first service was held the following Sunday in February of 1953. In 1957 the Education Building was built to house the Sunday School
classes and church office. The Log Cabin has remained a vital
“heart” of the congregation and is still being used for classes,
meetings, youth group activities and for Boy Scout Troop 72 today.
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