As summer winds down and local residents look for somewhere to go besides beaches and pools, they may want to check out the historic Bennett cabin at Riverfront Park on River Road in Point Borough.
A few local organizations, including scouts, have already used the cabin for meetings.
The cabin had been dismantled at its original location on Dorsett Dock Road because property owners had intended to demolish it to make way for new housing, said Richard Morris, administrator of the Point Pleasant Historical Society.
Morris and a band of volunteers then reconstructed the cabin at the park.
The beginning of Morris’ effort to save Herman Bennett’s cabin for future generations started shortly after Bennett passed away in 2001. Bennett, a carpenter, and his wife, Sarah, had lived in the cabin after it was built sometime in the 1920s, Morris said.
Morris, a longtime local resident, volunteer, historian and teacher, has led the effort for a decade now – which concluded with the nearly 100-year-old cabin’s grand debut at the park on Earth Day in April.
Since then the cabin has seen a steady stream of visitors. Morris, a former woodworking teacher at the borough high school, has been there often, giving informal tours of the cabin and describing the decade-long process to reconstruct the structure at the park.
But the real beginning of Morris’ involvement with the Bennett cabin likely started in the 1940s, when a young Morris went to his first day of school in the borough.
The person who walked Morris to class that day: Nellie Bennett, Herman’s mother, the namesake of the borough elementary school on Riviera Parkway.
“She was my babysitter,” Morris said recently at the cabin. "But I don't think Nellie Bennett ever lived there. I believe she lived in a farmhouse on the same property."
Over the years, the Morris and Bennett families – both with centuries of roots in the borough – became close.
For example, years later, when Morris was a teacher at the high school, Herman, a carpenter in town and known decoy duck carver, would often bring wood to the school’s shop that he needed cut.
“This goes back a while,” Morris said of his history with the Bennetts.
And when Herman passed away, Morris said, and Herman’s daughter was selling the property off Dorsett Dock Road known as the Bennett Farm, she contacted him about the fate of the cabin on that site.
Knowing it might be razed, Morris led the effort to first dismantle the cabin and store it away until a plan was created to reconstruct it.
The plan moved forward in earnest in 2009, when the council approved its placement at Riverfront Park and a band of volunteers led by Morris went into action.
The number of volunteers, including residents and business owners, who donated elbow grease and supplies eventually grew to more than 100.
One of them was Ed Lavan. Recently retired to the borough from the Bronx in 2009, he was reading a news story about the reconstruction of the project and decided he’d like to help out. But the story had no phone number to call to volunteer.
So Lavan jumped on his bike and rode to the cabin site at the park. It was June 2, 2009, he recalled.
“(I saw) two men (Rich Morris and Jim Canzanier) working on the cabin,” Lavan said. “ Rich said, ‘Hi!’ and I asked if they needed a hand. He said, ‘sure’ and I said, ‘I'll be right back’.
“I rode home, loaded some tools in my car and that was my start,” Lavan said.
Lavan joined a team that worked nearly every day until April of this year. The volunteers carefully pieced back together a cabin constructed sometime around 1920 with white cedar logs that grew along the shores of the Beaver Dam Creek near the Bennett Farm.
The only real obstacle to the project, Lavan said, was the chinking – the material and process to fill in the space between the logs in such a cabin.
“No one had any experience in that,” Lavan said, “Fortunately we were able to hire professionals to complete that phase of the project.”
Otherwise, Morris and Lavan said, the project was an everyday joy. They enjoyed the work and enjoyed knowing they were literally creating history.
“Unless there was a safety issue, we always encouraged the public to see what we were doing,” Lavan said. “It is still really a work in progress although the major work is complete.”
Although he is clearly credited with leading the effort, a humble Morris said the teamwork and sheer volunteerism of those who lent their time and effort should be recognized more than any one person.
To that, Morris said, “I would just like to thank everyone in town. That’s all.”
The Bennett Cabin does not have regular hours open to the public, Lavan said. "Right now it is open by accident or appointment," he said.
Lavan said he and Morris are looking for volunteers to host events at the cabin, which has heat and air conditioning, but no bathroom, Morris said. There is a bathroom on the other side of the park, near the play equipment.
Anyone interested in donating their time or requesting use of the cabin can call Lavan at home at (732) 892-5905.