Winter Cabin Renovations at Fair Hills Resort

Two construction workers unload a trailer

James and Nate are hard at work all winter updating cabins.

Written by James Anderson, Carpenter at Fair Hills Resort

Many mornings I arrive at the resort to see what most can only imagine when they stay here in the summer. A frozen lake pulling your gaze to the far shore where icy haze obscures the distant tree covered hills. The sun is rising through the mist and clouds, promising a little warmth for a frozen winter day.

Then I turn away from that glory and face the cabins. Oh, the cabins. What I face now is another promise. Fifty plus years of seasonal use is hard on structures. Water has a funny way of getting into all sorts of little crevasses, seeping into wood grain and creating my job. I’m one of two carpenters tasked with keeping these beloved cabins alive and ready to receive guests old and new come spring. Nate is the other half of the team. Right now a few cabins are torn to pieces and far from ready for visitors. My fault. Beth and Dan assigned us to update some bathrooms this winter. It sounds simple, right? Simply pull out all the old fixtures, showers and paneling and put in shiny new stuff.

It’s the floors. The floors, and peoples love of water. Do you remember that water? It brings guests here every year. Fair Hills Resort wouldn’t be the same without a lake. Golf and tennis are nice, but it’s all about the lake! If you disagree, go jump in it. All this summer fun causes people to want the occasional shower. From a carpenter’s point of view, the worst thing that ever happened to houses is indoor plumbing! As a fellow human, I’m rather fond of it, but when that water finds its way onto and eventually into the floor we get a mess. That soft spot in front of the shower has to be checked out. Yep, a little rot. Next we’re pulling boards to see how far that rot goes, and hey! Big eyes and long whiskers on a curious face that is poking through the hole followed by a slinky furry black body, then two more! Cats! The trio of resort mousers have found their way under the cabin and inside to help us. How sweet!  Dan has suggested fitting them with cameras and sending them under cabins for inspections. Maybe next year.  For now, we’ll use Nate.

After evicting our cat pals, we’re replacing whole bathroom floors as well as the fixtures. The bathrooms are completely gutted. A shambles! This is actually nothing new or special. I cut my carpenter’s teeth working on old cabins with my dad long ago. You quickly learn not to look too closely, because if you pull just one board, you may not like what you see. My problem, and especially Nate’s, is that we can’t help but look. Our sense of responsibility, spelled “curiosity”, gets the best of us and nearly every project snowballs! One poke and old boards are flying everywhere! I’m actually shocked that Beth and Dan keep us around with all the chaos we create. We try not to look. Really!

So, cabins 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23 are a disheveled mess but will have new floors, bathrooms or both. I’ll have nightmares over what lies hidden under floors which are sometimes 100 years old. You’d be amazed! For the most part, these cabins are in really good condition considering age and hard use. Each day the sun will rise a little earlier over the frozen lake, melting the frost from the trees. The dripping from the rooves will remind us to get moving. You’re on your way and you demand indoor plumbing! Paneling needs to go up, shower doors, toilets installed. Doors hung and cased! New flooring!

Soon enough I’ll be staring at the blinding ripples reflecting the early morning sun over the lake. Happy bright eyed people will be everywhere walking to breakfast or for a cup of coffee. In the meantime, there’s a cat rubbing against my leg demanding attention. I think I’ll just watch that frozen mist obscuring the trees beyond the ice, while taking in the quiet. The cabins can wait one more minute.  Summer is coming soon.  Fair Hills Resort will be ready to welcome you back. I hope you’re excited!