Paul Schaefer writes in Cabin Country that he built Beaver House in the first part of the 1960s. Hunting friend Don Hall helped pick out the site between the old log cabin once owned by Johnny Morehouse, and Howard and Alice Zahniser's camp - "Mateskared"-- up the road. Don told me he thought the year was 1964. The site had great views of Crane and Eleventh Mountains, and the meadows down the valley which were quickly reverting to forest. Paul decided to build it to resemble the Adirondack Room at 897 St. David's Lane in Niskayuna, with large, hand hewn beams, open gable ceiling and plank floors of pine. The beams came from an old house "older than the hills" on Sanders Avenue in Albany. That house was known as the "beaver house." There were empty vats in the building. This evidence plus the sweet musty odor emanating from these beams during sanding convinced Paul that the beams might have been impregnated with the musk of beavers processed for their furs.
Paul writes in Cabin Country that he worked weekends with brother Carl to construct Beaver House. He wanted the cabin to be somewhere between a home and the "simple life we knew in wilderness tents," "for occasional overnight stays", a "gathering place for hunters on their way into the wilderness, and a place for conservationists to plan strategies for the continuing battles to retain the wild-forest character of the Adirondacks," a "refuge from the hustle and bustle of the life that I was living, a place to sit in front of the fireplace, alone or with friends, anticipating the trip on the morrow or reliving the adventures of the day."
The parcel on which Beaver House was built was part of Lot 59, divided from one of the Great Lots of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase. This included 40 acres from the Louis Morehouse Tract. A 10-acre tract to the west was added when Paul started paying taxes on it. Paul acquired these lots sometime between 1926 and 1940. Paul stopped paying taxes on these and other lots later on when he became so busy with his homebuilding and with his Adirondack conservation work, and the lands were given to someone else for unpaid taxes. He then began a long effort to regain title on two of the tracts, and finally did so. The State of New York acquired much of the other land Paul originally owned to the north and west of the cabin, and which is now part of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area. All of these tracts were accurately surveyed by the Conservation Department's Chief Surveyor Albert Davis between 1929-1932, who installed copper and nickel bolts in boulders or piles of boulders at all significant corners. The survey was actually begun because of an alleged timber trespass by Paul's mountaineer friend and teacher Johnny Morehouse who was accused of cutting six spruce trees on the NYS Forest Preserve. Morehouse challenged this, and the survey began. Ultimately, Morehouse was only charged with cutting two trees, and fined $10. Paul paid the charge, and then purchased the 50 acres from Mr. Morehouse. Paul writes that Mr. Davis told him that the survey was "probably the most accurate map of an Adirondack area of its size in the entire Park."
Beginning in the 1930's, Paul and brothers Vincent and Carl Schaefer planted the red pines and occasional norway spruces on this land during the conservation fervor of that time to reforest former agricultural lands. Later in his life, Paul regretted how these trees grew and began to obscure his view of the old log cabin down below Beaver House, and even of Eleventh Mountain from the cabin porch. However, some twenty years ago a number of these tall red pines served as logs for a new log cabin which friends built near Garnet Lake.
In 1993, and getting on in years, Paul asked a group of friends and associates to buy shares in Beaver House, he retaining one share. Five of us did, forming the Beaver House Gang. Legally, this partnership is a tenancy in common. An ownership agreement was drawn up describing the arrangement, including indivisible shares, and how these could be sold within the group or, with common consent, outside the group. The gang pays taxes on the property. The assessment, however, is "frozen" thanks to Paul's foresight in enrolling the land in the Forest Tax Law 480 program. Currently the cabin is used just as Paul hoped - for occasional visits and overnight stays, sitting by the open fire, or simply enjoying the views of Crane Mountain from his old wooden rocker, and breathing in the mountain air which, as Dan Berggren's lyrics of the song by the same name goes, "blows away all the cares that build up day to day." Beaver House therefore continues as a retreat for informal talk, a base camp to foray out into the Wilderness, and as a place to strategize, dream and contemplate more of the natural world that we are so fortunate to have in the Adirondacks.
Dave Gibson and Tom Cobb