The Maine Outing Club’s cabin in Carrabassett Valley near Sugarloaf Mountain has been selected for renovation by the Magnolia Network’s “Maine Cabin Masters.” Now, the University of Maine club is fundraising for the $20,000 needed to complete the renovation before Sept. 1.
“Maine Cabin Masters” is a docu-follow television show on the Magnolia Network (formerly known as DIY Network) documenting the restoration and renovation of cabins in Maine by the Kennebec Cabin Company, led by contractor Chase Morrill, his designer sister Ashley Morrill, and her carpenter husband Ryan Eldridge, along with carpenters Jared Baker and Matthew Dix rounding out the team. The show debuted on Jan. 2, 2017, and completed its seventh season earlier this year.
The Maine Cabin Masters receive thousands of applications each year from cabin owners who want to participate in the show. Orion-Bay Tucker, treasurer of the Maine Outing Club, said that the student group entered their cabin for considerations “a shot in the dark” when a former member’s father suggested they apply. Tucker says he and the other club leaders figured that, on the off chance that they were chosen, the renovations would be a great way to celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the club in 2023.
The club members were shocked – and thrilled – when they learned their cabin had been selected.
The Maine Outing Club’s cabin is an important part of the university club’s history. The original 1926 cabin at Chemo Pond was used as an off-campus trip destination for teaching basic camp skills before the building moved to Orono in 1938. The club’s cabin went through several rounds of demolishing and rebuilding on campus until 1958, when the club leased land near Sugarloaf Mountain from the Scott Paper Company to build a cabin that would serve as a central hub for club ski trips. Tucker says the cabin hosts dozens of students every winter.
“We as a club just want to get more people to experience outdoor recreation and we do a really great job with that in the fall and in the spring, but it’s difficult in the winter,” he explains. “One of the highlights of the club has been the cabin and the access to Sugarloaf Mountain and the camaraderie it brings.”
Tucker says that the cabin has always been bare-bones, but the club applied to “Maine Cabin Masters” with the goal of addressing basic structural issues to ensure a safe and fun student bonding experience – for example, replacing the sagging foundation, swapping propane lights with electricity, improving the insulation and ensuring the fire escapes work on the top floor.
Still, Tucker says the Maine Outing Club told the Maine Cabin Masters that they hope to keep the simple charm that makes the cabin special.
“It’s special because it’s this rustic four-walled wood structure that, while it’s degraded over the years, the memories that people have there really haven’t,” Tucker says. “When we talked to them, we said we wanted to keep that culture, so we advised them to keep as much as you can in tact but just make it structurally sound. They are doing some extra things but they didn’t tell us because they want it to be a surprise.”
The Maine Cabin Masters began renovations on June 21 and are expected to finish on Sept. 1. The episode featuring the cabin will air next season.
“Maine has a long tradition of outdoor sports and recreation, many members of our team are University of Maine graduates. We are proud to be involved in the preservation of such a unique cabin that is a part of so many Mainers past and future,” says Chase Morrill.
The agreed upon budget for the build was set at $20,000 for the labor, materials and other costs of renovations. Tucker hopes that area businesses will chip in, as well as UMaine alumni who have enjoyed the cabin in the past. Any additional money raised before the end of the build will go to “wish-list” items requested by the students that fall outside the necessary structural upgrades.
“When we posted about this on the Maine Outing Club on Facebook, there were so many comments like, ‘Oh, I practically lived there in the eighties,’ ‘I remember splitting wood,’ ‘I remember meeting the love of my life here,” Tucker laughs. “It’s cool to scroll through the comments and see how the cabin has changed so little.”
To donate, visit the Our UMaine campaign webpage.