When Fred Ogle put in a low-ball offer on the long-vacant Explorer Post 38 cabin at 651 Saratoga Road last fall, he never really thought it would be accepted.
But it was.
For $25,000, the 75-year-old Clifton Park resident became the proud owner of a tattered little piece of history perched on the bank of the Alplaus Creek.
The trouble was, he had no idea what he was going to do with it.
The log cabin, which measures approximately 25 by 30 square feet, was built by Explorer post members and adult supervisors on a piece of town-owned land that was deeded to the post in 1949.
According to Melissa Tacke, librarian at the Schenectady County Historical Society, the cabin was constructed over a two-year period and opened as Post 38’s headquarters in October 1951.
The Explorers went on adventure trips and specialized in search and rescue techniques.
In 1976, the cabin was severely damaged by fire and subsequently rebuilt. Renovations were completed in 1978.
The Explorer post disbanded at some point after that, and the property sat vacant for years. Eventually the town of Glenville declared it abandoned and it was put on the tax rolls, seized and sold in a county real estate auction in October 2011.
The property changed hands twice before Ogle purchased it, but renovations appeared to be restricted to a new roof and a new electrical box, he said.
He estimated that the cabin was unused for at least 15 years before he bought it.
When he received the key to the front door, the place was in need of a whole lot of TLC.
Luckily, Ogle’s no stranger to renovation work. He recently redid the former Jan’s Roadhouse at 658 Saratoga Road, which is located right down the street from the cabin. He and his family now operate the former restaurant as the Creekside Cafe and Coffee House.
The Explorer post cabin was structurally sound when Ogle purchased it, but that was pretty much the extent of the good news.
On the upper level, which consists of a main living area and a walk-in-closet-sized room, floorboards needed replacing. There were gaps between the graying logs that make up the exterior walls, the windows didn’t work and the ceiling had caved in.
Ogle had new windows installed, stained the logs, painted the floor a warm barn-red, patched gaps, and put in a new ceiling and light fixtures. He had the electrical system updated and added a composting toilet, because the structure has no running water.
Kitchen appliances and cupboards have been installed and, in one corner, wicker chairs sit in front of a 60-inch television set.
The gray stone fireplace has been inspected and is in working order. Logs are stacked and waiting on the hearth.
Trap door, double doors
A full basement can be reached through a trap door in the floor as well as through double doors on the side of the building. In that lower space is a small room with a pipe coming up out of the floor. Rumor has it, it was once a bathroom.
“The story I got was, under cover of darkness in 1951 they put in a toilet,” Ogle said.
The cabin sits on just over an acre of land.
A major brush removal project had to be undertaken to make the yard usable, and Ogle also put in a new gravel driveway.
Two picnic tables sit in the woodsy backyard, where there’s a picture-perfect view of a three-foot waterfall on the Alplaus creek.
The sound of the rushing water drowns out the sound of cars rushing down nearby Saratoga Road.
Ogle’s grandson, Jason Brown, who runs J&F Lawn and Yard Care in Ballston Lake, created a flagstone walkway that leads down to the creek.
The total cost for renovations and furnishings for the property came to around $15,000, Ogle estimated.
If it weren’t for the fact that the only running water accessible to the cabin is in the creek behind it, the place is now nice enough to live in, but Ogle’s not moving in.
About a week ago, he put a sign out front, alerting passers-by that the newly renovated cabin is available for use by nonprofit groups, free of charge. He’s decided he’d like groups to use the space for meetings, day outings or support groups.
His insurance policy is sufficient to cover such usage, he noted.
Inquiries already have been coming in from groups interested in using the cabin as a home base for fishing trips and church youth-group events.
memories of post 38
Just over a week ago, Ogle held an open house at the cabin, and past members of Post 38 stopped by to share their memories.
“One of the stories was, when they built the foundation, there was one person that was an expert in building foundations and he sat on a chair in the middle of the area that was being built around and he just sat there and directed everybody on what to do,” Ogle recounted, noting that he has acquired a photo of that gentleman.
The only mementos from the Explorer post days that were uncovered during the cabin’s renovation were some old certificates of appreciation from the 1980s and 1990s, and a charter document.
Down in the basement there’s also a large, hand-painted wooden sign that reads: Picnic Tables Custom Built by Explorer Post #38.
There’s an old oil-burning furnace in the basement too, but Ogle said he’s worried it might cause a fire, so he doesn’t plan to heat the cabin in the winter.