Cutting the ribbon reopening the historic log cabin are, first row, from left, Miss Neshoba County Macken’z Smith, Casey Mars, Earvin Sims, Mingo Tingle, Rep. Scott Bounds, Chris Burt and Cheri Gamblin, surrounded by other city, county, park and state leaders.
Cutting the ribbon reopening the historic log cabin are, first row, from left, Miss Neshoba County Macken’z Smith, Casey Mars, Earvin Sims, Mingo Tingle, Rep. Scott Bounds, Chris Burt and Cheri Gamblin, surrounded by other city, county, park and state leaders.
The historic log cabin in Northside Park, which was built in 1933 to house the public library, officially reopened Thursday after it was destroyed in a EF-5 tornado in 2011.

The $140,000 rebuilding project was funded through the Mississippi Landmark Grant Program and a 20 percent match from the city.

Over 50 people attended a short program and ribbon cutting at the cabin which was relocated to the park in the 1970s and served as a community meeting place and venue for birthday parties and family reunions until it was hit by the tornado.

"The cabin is reopen and up for rent immediately," Parks and Recreation Director Chris Burt said with a laugh just before the ribbon was cut. "We have a little revenue to try and recoup!"

The state Department of Archives and History was instrumental in getting the cabin rebuilt after having it designated a Mississippi Landmark.

Park officials were only able to salvage the cabin's original fireplace, chimney, floor and several logs in wake of the tornado. In addition, two of the cabin's three original wagon wheel lights were salvageable.

Mingo Tingle, preservation specialist with Archives and History, said working with residents and local governments on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina drastically changed state officials' thinking as to what could or could not be saved when disaster strikes like the 2011 tornado.

"We worked with many property owners across the Gulf Coast where we saw buildings with only one wall or just the foundation standing," he said.

Tingle and other officials from the Department of Archives were already familiar with Philadelphia and the historic log cabin, as they worked previously with officials here to survey the downtown area for its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

"When they did that survey they had record that this log cabin was by the school but it was missing," Tingle said. "No one knew that it had actually been moved out here. We believed that it had been torn down."

It wasn't until Rep. Scott Bounds of Philadelphia contacted Archives after the 2011 tornado that we realized it was still standing, Tingle said.

He recalled his first visit to the park to inspect the cabin after the tornado.

"We were told it was in this really nice grove of pine trees at the park," Tingle said. "It seemed like every one of those pine trees were laying in the middle of this cabin. It was kinda like going back to the Gulf Coast after Katrina. We were all out here and there was so much community support. When we work on preservation projects across the state, we know that if we don't have community support, it is not worth trying."

Park Commission President David Vowell expressed appreciation to Tyler Construction Group, the project's contractor.

"They went above and beyond," Vowell said. "They put a lot of personal care into it."

He told the crowd at the open house that Cherie Sampsell Gamblin of Tyler searched for and found a wagon wheel light at a flea market which matched the two that were salvageable after the tornado.

"It would be hard to tell which one it is," Vowell said, pointing to the fixtures.

Rep. Bounds, Mayor James A. Young, Vowell and Burt thanked all the city, county and state officials who helped make the cabin reconstruction a reality.

"Sometimes when you spend money to preserve history you get a lot of criticism," Young said. "But if we forget our history we won't know where we came from."

Vowell thanked everyone "for pulling together," saying much could be accomplished in both the city and county it everyone worked together toward a common goal.

The original cabin was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps for use as the public library. When the collection outgrew the building, a new library was constructed in the 1970s and the cabin was moved to the park.

Tingle said the Landmark Grant Program which provided monies for 80 percent of the cabin construction is funded by interest from the abandoned property fund in the state Treasurer's office.

"It's an interest fund so therefore there were no tax funds spent on the state level on this project.

"This fund is there for emergency cases such as this," Tingle said.