Historical Society of FW honored for restoring Denny Cabin

Pictured: Bert Ross, Lou Olmstead, Vernon Jenkins and Jerry Knutzen receive the AKCHO award on April 23, 2013. - Courtesy photo
Pictured: Bert Ross, Lou Olmstead, Vernon Jenkins and Jerry Knutzen receive the AKCHO award on April 23, 2013.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

On April 23, the AKCHO (Association of King County Historical Organizations) awards were presented at the Museum of History and Industry by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The Historical Society of Federal Way was awarded the AKCHO award in the long-term project category for the restoration of the Denny Cabin.

The Historical Society serves the public through researching, preserving, educating, and displaying the history of Federal Way to build a sense of community identity and heritage.

The David T. Denny Cabin restoration began in 1966, and has continued off and on for years with society volunteers and fundraising activities (including recent 4Culture assistance) until the completion of restoration in May 2012.

A restoration celebration was attended on May 12 by community leaders and members who believe in the preservation of our history. The Denny Cabin and the restored Barker Cabin now grace the entrance to the West Hylebos Wetlands Park on South 348th Street. The Denny Cabin, the Barker Cabin and the Wetlands Park are definitely a part Federal Way’s hidden jewel.

The foresight of early community leaders to capture the history of our area — and the persistence of many community volunteers over the years — allowed this to be accomplished.

While the Denny Cabin restoration is a most significant accomplishment, the Historical Society of Federal Way has had other important related activities that have made this restoration a major long-term improvement to the history of our community and region.

These additional activities include a book regarding Federal Way history; a 93-page monograph written by secretary and historian Richard Caster on the subject of the Denny Cabin; and several excellent display panels (funded by the Federal Way Arts Commission) that provide a brief explanation for visitors regarding the cabins.

A new brochure (funded by a Federal Way tourism grant) encourages people to visit the two historic cabins and observe our past and how we lived.

David T. Denny came from Illinois by covered wagon in 1851. He was arguably the first permanent non-native settler in what was to become Seattle. By 1870, Denny controlled a lot of real estate in North Seattle.

In 1889, he built the Denny Cabin as an office on Queen Anne Hill. After his land business went bankrupt, the building had many uses (a kindergarten class, a men’s church group, and personal residences). From the late 1920s until it closed in the 1950s, the cabin housed Green’s Tavern.

In 1966, the cabin was relocated from the base of Queen Anne Hill to the Federal Way Shopping Center to become part of the pioneered theme Heritage Village. The cabin was moved again to its present location at the West Hylebos Wetlands Park in 1992.

In 1992, a few years after the Historical Society was organized, and two years after the City of Federal Way was incorporated, funds were organized to begin restoration with volunteer labor.

A roof structure was installed on the Denny Cabin and the door and window openings were covered with sheets of plywood. In 2010, funds became available from original fundraising activities. Windows and doors were fabricated by a craftsman and stored inside the cabin awaiting installation.

In early 2010, a comprehensive plan for final restoration of the cabin was developed in different phases under the direction of Historical Society board member Bert Ross. After a major grant of $15,000 from 4Culture was received, a variety of phases were started beginning with structural integrity. During the last half of 2011, and into early 2012, approximately 700 volunteer hours and approximately $15,000 in Historical Society funds were incurred to complete the project.

Although the Denny Cabin roof is relatively new and some of the logs have been replaced due to deterioration, it’s mind-boggling to think that most logs are original and over 120 years old. We are very lucky to have in our community an artifact of this size and importance.

Both the Denny Cabin and the Barker Cabin have been restored by the Historical Society of Federal Way in order to preserve local and regional history and to inform future generations of a past that continues to define our American experience.

This AKCHO award to the Historical Society — for the development of a long-term project and their efforts — is much appreciated.

Learn more

For more information, contact the Federal Way Historical Society: or (253) 945-7842.

Both the Denny and Barker Cabins are open for public viewing noon to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month until October.


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