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History of the Living History Community

The Modern Cabin Community: 1915-1942

The permit system of the early 1900s dramatically accelerated the growth of the Mineral King Community. With the advent of the automobile, recreational sites were growing in demand everywhere, but especially in California. Granting permits for private summer homes became a major function of Forest Service policy.


Temporary Mineral King Store 1921

The passage of the Term Occupancy Act in 1915 was a major impetus. It replaced "terminable permits" that were issued annually at the Forest Supervisor¹s discretion with "term permits" that could be issued for periods up to 30 years. It also provided design guidelines and clearly defined rules for the development, construction and maintenance of summer home communities. For the first time, permittees felt comfortable in the knowledge that what they built had a future.

Another impetus in that year was the realignment of the Mineral King road to better facilitate automobile travel. As more and more people began taking day trips up the road, the demand for more camping spaces and overnight facilities in the valley increased. Although Mineral King already held a long-term community, the Forest Service decided to enlarge it.

Some of the original surveyed lots were divided and others were opened on request. In the 1920s, organized Forest Service summer camps and cabin tracts were opened. A new survey in 1924 delineated lots drawn around existing cabins, but also showed new lots for which cabin permits were to be issued. Several families who had camped out, used the cabins of friends, or lived in the degraded structures from the mining eras, took advantage of the newly opened lots to build cabins of their own.

More than a dozen new lots were opened in East Mineral King in conjunction with existing structures of the resort and old Beulah community. At West Mineral King, below the area of Barton¹s Camp, about thirty lots were opened in the area now known as Faculty Flat. On down the road, another small tract was opened in the 1930s around Fred Scott¹s cabin. These lots attracted 6 more cabins at what now is called Cabin Cove. Over all, approximately 50 cabins were constructed during this period of 1915 to 1942. Since 1942, very little change has taken place.

The Forest Service guidelines were simple. In 1915, $2,000 must be spent on construction of the cabin. It must be "rustic" with rough sawn lumber, logs, or log siding. Foundations were to be kept low and usually made of stone. The positioning of windows and doors was to be uniform in shape and pattern. Exterior colors were required to be brown, gray, gray-green or any subdued color that would not stand out in a forest setting. The permittees were responsible for securing an adequate water supply and for sewage and refuse disposal as directed by the Forest Supervisor. Plans for all construction, including building additions, had to be submitted for review.

The Mineral King cabins followed both the Forest Service guidelines and traditions set by the area¹s harsh winter geography and available materials. They are utilitarian, usually designed by the builders, constructed of local or near-by materials.

Most are rectangular, with wooden sidings of board-and-batten, clapboard, shakes, half log, and in one case the use of slats from orange crates. Most have massive stone or brick exterior chimneys. Their roofs are mostly gable-ended and covered with shakes or metal. The interiors contain two or three rooms including a living and sleeping area, often a sleeping loft or attic, a kitchen and a convenient indoor bathroom. Porches are a common addition.

Simple amenities are important. The positioning of the cabin often is determined more by view or stream placement than by alignment to a road. Any yard work is basic with most cabin owners simply nurturing and propagating the native plants that lie on their properties. Exterior fire pits, patios, steps, retaining walls and paths are constructed of native stone.

And so the Mineral King cabin community as we know it today has evolved. Now numbering 66 cabins situated on federal land, it comprises a district stretching from Cabin Cove to the end of the road. Added to it is the Silver City enclave. Between 1926 and 1931, around 30 private cabins as well as a small resort were built on the Cutler property. Still privately owned, it has remained a significant part of the Mineral King road community since its inception in 1873.

Unique in its evolvement from a high Sierra mining town to the well preserved recreational community of today, the Mineral King cabins are a historical treasure that both the Park Service and the community¹s people are working to preserve together.

History of the Living Historic Community
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