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Unveiling the Potential: Silver Knob Cabin's Journey to a Vacation Rental

Fresno Flats’ New Vacation Rental To Fund Ongoing Maintenance Costs

OAKHURST—Anyone who’s been involved with a non-profit organization knows how tough it is to secure funding—and then to keep the funding going over the years. Fresno Flats Historic Village & Park is no stranger to those issues, except that some of the facilities there celebrate their 150th anniversary this year. Upkeep of buildings that age presents even more of a challenge.

Fresno Flats recently received a grant dedicated to improving exhibits and programs showcasing the history and cultures of underrepresented communities, digital asset upgrades, and critical infrastructure repairs. Improvements and repairs to the museum include replacing a rotting log on the bottom of the Taylor Log Cabin, built in 1869, and repairing the roof and flooring of the museum, creating a safer experience for museumgoers.

2023 Grant Didn’t Cover Maintenance Costs

MaryBeth Harrison contributes her Big Trees painting to Silver Knob Cabin.

What the grant didn’t allocate were monies for repairs or maintenance to other buildings in the compound. Not only that, Fresno Flats needs a steady income stream to make funds available regularly for upkeep and maintenance of the property.

Creative Way to Raise Funds for Historic Structures

The Fresno Flats board-initiated discussions of making a vacation rental out of one of the small cabins on the property. Three years passed before the board approved the concept. Eventually a building now located on Fresno Flats property called the Silver Knob Cabin, became the vacation-rental target. 

Fresno Flats President Paul Adelizi explained its vision of the vacation-rental project:

This year is the 150th anniversary of our community. In 1874, our new post office officially named the town Fresno Flats! Some of you have a growing concern that our history is at risk of being erased. We’ve already witnessed the demolition of structures like the Gertrude Schoolhouse and the old Mattie Fhy home . . . 

Paul went on to say, “by participating and aiding us in building a sustainable future, you have the opportunity to help preserve our community’s heritage. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.’ Doing nothing at our historic park means losing structures, one by one. Help us prevent that by supporting our project.”

He reasoned as follows:

  • Vacation rentals are increasingly impacting the local housing market by driving up rental prices. However, our rental won’t contribute to this issue as it’s not used as a residence.
  • Preserving our historic structures is costly. The builders never expected these buildings to last as long as they have, and maintaining them presents significant challenges.
  • Our historic park requires a sustainable strategy for maintenance. With our changing times, we must develop innovative approaches to generate the necessary funds. We can’t rely solely on community handouts when there are so many other pressing needs locally.
  • Historically, our community has thrived as a tourist destination due to its proximity to Yosemite. For over a century, visitors have traveled through Oakhurst/Fresno Flats on their way to the national park. Even President Ulysses S. Grant and his family stopped in town en route to Yosemite in 1879. Additionally, this very same cabin served as a rental when it was located at Holiday Village on HWY 41. Its use as a vacation rental is consistent with its history and our history. 

Brief History of Silver Knob Cabin

Volunteers hard at work getting the cabin ready for its grand opening.

One certain fact, as corroborated by US Forest Service information and stated in a Sierra Star article, is that the cabin originally sat located approximately a quarter mile east of Silver Knob, a prominent hill used as a landmark. Some silver ore mining took place there, in the vicinity between Ahwahnee and Westfall/Fish Camp, very near the old Stagecoach Road between Raymond and Yosemite, with a postal drop along the stage route at the nearby hotel station stopover hamlet of Cedarbrook. Evidence of wood shake-making is in the area.

Close technical evaluation confirms the cabin construction probably took place in the 1880s. Research of surveying maps shows it was located on Homestead Act property of that era. Records indicate it belonged to John LaTouche, an early settler, a Union Army Civil War veteran and roof shake-maker. He had an ongoing controversy over timber rights with the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company which ultimately led to his death in 1893. He purportedly was murdered when a tree cut by some lumberjacks fell on his cabin. This apparently followed up a threat made regarding the timber arguments. They demanded that John LaTouche leave the area, but he refused. 

Cabin Has Received Extensive Modifications

This cabin received extensive modifications from the original configuration over the years before it arrived at Fresno Flats Museum. Doors and windows were covered over or moved, including a completely rebuilt roof structure above the log walls. This may be consistent with the impact of the tree that fell on LaTouche while he was in the cabin, if it is indeed the cabin of the John LaTouche story. 

Although it is likely, no conclusive evidence exists that John LaTouche built or used the cabin. Research continues. (Silver Knob Cabin historical info courtesy of Professor Ken Machoian.)

Birth of the Vacation Rental

Once the project gained approval, the organization hired Tim Breidestine to put in a mini-split air conditioner/heater as well as a water heater. Volunteer extraordinaire Kathy Zingrich swung into action, obtaining items needed to set up the cabin, including quilts, tables, chests, chairs and more. Her first purchase was an old cedar chest at Bass Lake.  The young man who sold it to her said his grandfather made it. Kathy assured him he could come and visit! 

They installed an indoor shower, a coffee bar, a queen-sized bed, a table and two chairs, as well as another upholstered chair by the fireplace.

Community Donations

Kathy Zingrich (right) and Joan Earnest hold up the quilt Sierra Mountain Quilters Association has donated to Fresno Flats.

Kathy contacted various resources in the community to gather up as much as she could to furnish the cabin. The support she received overwhelmed her.

  • Ernie at Clean Cut Tree Service has offered to build a new railing around the porch with manzanita! 
  • Diane Mannina  has donated a quilt rack and two old lamps.  
  • Sierra Mountain Quilters Association has made a wall-hanging quilt.
  • Fresno Flats friends Ken Machoian and Laurie Thiessen donated a brass headboard.
  • Kathy Zingrich has purchased the softest sheets and towels, and Oakhurst Ink will donate their time to embroider SK in silver thread so that they are not mixed up with laundry from the other properties they clean.

Rental Opening Targeted for Memorial Weekend

As this article is written, work is nearly completed on Silver Knob Cabin, with the anticipation to have it ready for occupancy by Memorial Weekend. That date traditionally marks the beginning of tourist season in this area.

To celebrate the opening of Silver Knob Cabin Vacation Rental, Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park is holding a very special event on Saturday, May 18, starting at 5:30 pm. Enjoy a superb buffet dinner catered by Willow Creek Catering as well as candlelit tours of the park and Silver Knob Cabin, as well as special silent auction items. More information is available here.

Photos courtesy of Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park, Kathy Zingrich and Sierra Mountain Quilters Association.



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