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Gilbert Landre's Cabin 2006-07
Gilbert's descendant signs in and more background research
and a drop or two of historic wine

(Pass view from cabin)
We are being very careful not to give away the location of the cabin because the site is still too fragile for wandering minstrels and nature lovers to tramp around it. This view of the nearby Cascade Pass area will give you a hint as to just how pristine the location is, nestled among trees and vegetation, just a quarter mile away from the historic path to the Pass.

(Stone path)
This photo from Tamara Landre shows the path down to the cabin and this view made us wonder the first time we trekked downhill if part or most of the original trail could have been covered by gravel from the nearby Cascade river, after the original muddy path was found to be nearly impassable for many months of the year, back at the turn of the century

      We had our first opportunity to actually see Gilbert Landre's cabin near Cascade Pass in 2006, when Dr. Jesse Kennedy took us on a magical history tour into the woods that were way, way off the beaten track back then in the 1890s when it opened as a roadhouse for folks crossing the Pass.
      We followed him on a path still covered with moss and ferns, over deadfalls, down old dry creek beds, threading around fir and cedar, many of which soar to 100 feet or more. The smells are almost like those of a climax forest. At that elevation, one experiences so many different species of ferns that you learn the diversity of both their structure and aroma.
      And there it suddenly was, a relic nearly 120 years — four walls, no roof and debris lying around, some of it extra cut lumber from the early years. That first impression certainly inspired awe, especially lit as it was with soft sunlight that made it to the ground through all that complex green canopy. It was not exactly what I had imagined, but what it was and is, is a trove of information and rewarding discoveries that will take us several more trips to process. We've visited three times altogether, but not since our illness.
      We were delighted in 2007 when Tamara Landre signed in. As she explained in an early email, "Gilbert was my grandfather's great-grandfather's brother." And as it turned out, ". . . grandfather, Colonel Lowell Landre, is the family historian." After we corresponded for awhile and she connected with Dr. Jesse Kennedy, she and her husband, Mike, brought a small group, including Seattle architect Phillip Duff, up to actual visit the namesake cabin in August 2007. It was a grand day with splendid weather and the hike was sublime through dry summer vegetation.

(Trail to cabin)
Click on the photo above to see part of the path that is covered with ferns and brambles, much as you would find in any climax forest.

      That is one of the joys of this avocation, to spend time with descendants who are both serious about their own genealogy and fun to chat with, on several levels. One tasty level being wine: it turned out that Mike was the property manager for Carl Doumani's Stags' Leap Winery in the Napa Valley, a name that recalls the glorious summer of 1976 when the Americans bested the French in a most-famous French tasting. And Tamara worked with Hendry winery.

We digress into wine history for a bit
      If you'll grant us a brief detour, we want to explain why Tamara and Mike's professional associations are just as filled with historical milestones as is the Cascade Pass and Landre's cabin. When they visited they brought news about Warren and Barbara Winarski, who helped move Napa Valley Cabernet to recognition on the world stage, after a Paris wine tasting in May 1976.
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      I just started writing about wine that year in a halting fashion, the beginning of semi-serious writing as a profession. Living in the Sonoma Valley, I was immersed in wine, with my favorite Kenwood Winery a hike away over a hill. California was zooming up in sales and reputation, especially for its Cabernet sauvignon, Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay, but some winemakers had a bit of a chip on their collective shoulder, chafing under the constant reviews of "but of course the French are still the masters." One who wasn't particularly chip-toting was Warren Winiarski. A former college professor, he bought the vineyard property in the southern part of the Napa Valley and concentrated more on his vision than competition per se. He wanted to counter the overly powerful, often with high-alcohol, Cabernets, which were then in fashion, with a model based on finesse, elegance, balance and aging potential.
      In May 1976 the Winiarskis received a call at home, during which they were informed that they had won the Paris Tasting for red wines from France and California. As George M. Taber humorously explained in his book, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting, it took the family a while to remember the significance of the tasting. They soon learned.
      "Afterwards I received several letters from members of the French wine industry saying that the queer results of the 1976 tasting were a fluke," Winiarski once recalled." In essence, their letters argued that 'everyone knows' French wines are better than California wines 'in principle' and always will be." Their second vintage had moved them up to celebrity status in the sparsely populated top rung of California cabs. Not that the wine was an accidental winner or atypical of Winiarski's potential as a winemaker. This sleek Ferrari was designed and nurtured by the best. After buying the land in 1970 and studying the techniques employed by Robert Mondavi and other neighbors, Warren had worked closely with Andre Tchelistcheff, who made the hallmark cabs at Beaulieu Winery, just up Hwy 37.

(Warren Winiarski)
Warren Winiarski admiring the canopy of his grape vines. More than Napa valley wag in the 1970s and '80s swore that he was obsessed with pruning and coifing his vines. As Carol Emert wrote in 2004, "Unrelenting pruning, overseen by one of Napa Valley's foremost perfectionists, has wrestled these vines into a geometric precision." The results are estate wines of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars that are often described as "an iron fist in a velvet glove."

      Tchelistcheff was a Russian who, after being left for dead in 1921 on the revolutionary battlefield as a fighter for the White Army, not only survived but escaped through various European countries and wound up as a researcher in Paris for the Pasteur Institute. That is where Georges de Latour, the legendary Beaulieu founder and owner (circa 1900), found him in 1938 and almost immediately hired him as chief winemaker for the esteemed brand and moved him to Napa Valley. By the time that Winiarski was first planning his cabs in the very early 1970s, Andre was consulting after retiring from Beaulieu with the highest bona fides. Andre knew that Winiarski's land included the vineyards that the legendary Nathan Fay planted to cabernet in 1961, and was also the site of historic vineyards and a winery that were established in the 1870s.
      I only conducted a full interview with both Warren and Andre once, in 1981, and both remarked about the 1976 tasting, but especially about the provenance of the wine rather than the prize. From the time that the 1973 Cabernet grapes fermented, Winiarski thought he had a potentially fine wine, but it progressively showed its sauvage side, so they decided to smooth out its rough edges with about ten percent merlot grapes.
      By the spring of 1976, the 1973 had been in the bottle for a year and Englishman Steven Spurrier chose it as a wine representative of the highest level of California winemaking. Spurrier owned the Cabes de la Madeleine winery near the Champs-Elysees, assisted by the very capable Patricia Gallagher, who taught classes in wine appreciation and history. Spurrier prophesized that a competition between the two countries would generate both publicity and sales. So on May 24, 1976, he hosted a competition between the countries, with both reds and whites, staged at the classy old InterContinental Hotel on Rue de Castiglione, even nearer to the Champs. The competition in the reds was mouth-watering: California's included — 1971 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, 1970 Heitz Wine Cellars Martha's Vineyard, 1971 Mayacamas Vineyards . . . the French included heavyweight Bordeaux, including Chateau Montrose, Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. After all the votes were tallied, Stag's Leap was judged best, with Chateau Montrose close behind and Mouton, Haut Brion and the Ridge Monte Bello on the next highest level. Imagine a cellar with those.
      Flashing forward, Warren's reputation grew and grew, as did the terroir of the Stag's Leap district, now designated with its own American Viticultural Area based on its unique soil, which includes volcanic soil from erosion of the nearby Vaca hills and clay and loam sediment of the Napa river. He became enmeshed in an expensive, protracted lawsuit with his neighbor, Carl Doumani, who established Stags' Leap Winery in 1975 with a bottling of Petite Sirah, and then benefitted from the fame of the Winiarskis. A lot of twists and turns ensued, but Doumani proved that he had the right stuff to make wine; the duelists finally settled in 1985, sharing the Stag part of the name, at least, with shifting apostrophes. They even made an elite wine together named Accord. Both have subsequently to this original article sold their winery interests. Mike still works for Stags' Leap, but Carl Doumani has opened his own winery, appropriately named Quixote. The Winiarskis sold their operation for $185 million to a holding company for U.S. Tobacco. Another UST holding company owned the Ste. Michelle operation in Washington state at the time. One pines for the lunches at the old French Laundry in Napa, where arguments intellectual and viniferous about Warren and Carl perked up an ordinary day. I envy Tamara and Mike for having the privilege to hear the grand old stories of Napa wine from a pioneer and many other wine veterans who drove up the lane. Nearly 20 wineries are located in the district in 2011.

(Twisted tree trunk)
These are but two scenes you encounter when you step into the small clearing where the cabin stands. Click on the right-hand photo to see a much larger version of this historic cedar stump, which may have been toppled by lightning.
(Historic cedar stump)

The Landre Cabin and family today
      To complete the circle, Tamara was able to add new information to the standing record on Gilbert Landre, the key pioneer of Cascade Pass. For one thing, her wing of the family understands that the pronunciation of the surname is properly pronounced "Land-ree, rather than Laundry or Laund-ray in the French way," as Tamara explained. The name, Landre, was the result of a change from the original French-Canadian Landry, probably because of literacy issues. The street signs in Terry, Montana, named after the brothers, indicate that it was pronounced more like Laundree. We are learning more about Gilbert's background before he arrived here and we will share updates in the upcoming issues.

(Door and window)
On the left above, you see the entranceway door and window that we saw as Tamara's group approached the cabin clearing in 2007. On the right you can see a century-old bottle that Tamara discovered and filmed, but we left it there, following the rule of all good visitors to a shrine-like site.

(Tamara's group)
Tamara's group just inside the entranceway. Note that the bare earthen and rock floor of the cabin has already been covered by brambles then, in August 2007, a year after the restoration project, which you will see below.

(Exterior wall)
This (2006) and the photo below (2007) illustrate how you first see the exterior walls of the cabin. More than once, as I circled the cabin the first time, I expected to see trapper Gaspar Petta scamper down the path a century before and slap a mink or beaver skin onto Landre's table.

Corridors of Settlement: Cascade River
Gretchen Luxenberg, NPS, 1980s
(Outside wall)
      The only early settler along the Cascade drainage whose property falls within today's park boundaries was not a homesteader in the true sense of the word. Gilbert Landre (also incorrectly spelled Landry, Landrum, and Lander) was a French-Canadian miner who came up the Cascade River in search of minerals about 1888. Never filing a homestead claim, he cleared a small area of land along the North Fork of the Cascade River, and erected a small log cabin with a fireplace. [46] Landre was known to have some mining claims in nearby Boston Basin, and he also hunted and trapped and was a skilled axman. His ability with this tool is evident in the second and larger cabin he constructed, which remains standing today.
      Cedar logs for this cabin were hand-hewn, possibly as early as 1892. By spring of the next year, the cabin walls were halfway up when an unpredicted avalanche leveled Landre's work. Undaunted by this common backcountry occurrence, Landre began again and had his new home in order the following year, 1894. For. the next decade and well after his death in 1905, Gilbert's cabin (as it was and is known today) became a familiar and appreciated stopping place for prospectors and other travelers heading into the North Cascades. [47]

(Dovetail notches)
(Window Casement)

These three photos show great detail of the original construction, circa 1892. Left, you see the dovetail notches on the southwest corner of the cabin. Above, also from the 2006 renovation, you see the window casement. Click on the photo to see the texture of the wood and a rare nail, which could have been from a later remodel. Below, see a comparative cabin and similar techniques such as the same dovetail notiches, which were employed by Ted Porter at his Illabot Creek cabin, circa 1887. You can visit that cabin at Rockport's Steelhead Park and you can read more about it and see a photo to compare methods at here.

(Porter cabin)
Ted Porter and Dick Harris at the Porter Cabin, September 2011. Note the dovetail notches, casements, etc.

The remnants of this fancy teacup are seen still embedded in the soil around the cabin. Click on the thumbnail photo for a much larger format where you can see detail of the design.

      It was used as early as 1895 by the Washington State Road Commissioners who "stored with Gilbert Landre, at head of Cascade River Skagit County: 2 Cross-cut saws, 2 Bake Pans, 1 Brush Scythe, 1 Cook Stove, 6 Steel Crow Bars, 1 Logging Jack, 1 Portable B.S. Forge, 27 Steel Drills, 1 Wash Tub and Board." [48] USFS Ranger Tommy Thompson mentioned his use of the cabin numerous times between 1916 and the 1930s. [49]
      Gilbert's second cabin, originally one and a half stories in height, two bays wide, and capped with a wood-shingled or shaked gable roof, measures 18" x 25' and was constructed with materials available on-site. Landre cut enormous trees for the cabin -- many of the planked wall logs are more than 20" wide -- and stumps are still visible nearby.
      The unique quality of the cabin lies in its construction: Landre used dove-tail notches in laying the logs, and it is the only log cabin of that type within the park complex. The interior consisted of one large room with a full space above, reached by stairs at the rear of the cabin. Bunk beds were built in, a large cache box was kept downstairs, and Landre had even devised a flume system which carried refuse from the cabin out to a nearby creek. [50]

(Lifting timbers)
The photo above and below are from the fourth week of renovation work in 2006. Note the earthen and rock floor and the hoisting technique that was designed to be as close as possible to how Gilbert and friends lifted very heavy timbers into place while building in the 1890s.

(Lifting timbers)
      After Landre's death, years of neglect caused the cabin to deteriorate. Not until the 1940s were repair efforts attempted, when a group of interested local citizens rallied to restore the cabin. With assistance from the USFS, they sought to preserve the cabin as a historic site. USFS employee Blacky Burns helped get work underway; John Dayo, another USFS employee, recalled the roof being replaced at this time, only to be destroyed the following year by a snow slide. [51] Apparently in the 1950s foundation logs and floor joists were replaced, but this work marked the last effort to revive Gilbert's cabin. In 1984, a field-check of the site revealed that four walls of the cabin are standing, pierced with door and window openings; the roof beams lie alongside the structure's north wall and remnants of a wood-framed outbuilding are extant nearby. [52] Nearly hidden from view by the forest vegetation, this cabin, once called a "woodsman's work of art," stands as a quiet reminder of early efforts to inhabit and tame this unknown region. [53]
46. Dwelley 1979, 116.
47. Ibid.
48. Washington Board of State Road Commissioners. Records 1895-6. Washington State Library Manuscripts, Olympia, Washington.
49. Thompson Papers.
50. Dayo 1974.
51. Jordan, Ray. Yarns of Skagit County. Sedro Woolley, Washington: Ray Jordan, 1974: pp. 251-3. Hereinafter cited as Jordan 1974. And Dayo 1970
52. Luxenberg, Gretchen A. Historic Structures Inventory, North Cascades National Park. Seattle: National Park Service, Pacific Northwest Region, 1984: p. 38-38a. Hereinafter cited as Luxenberg 1984.
53. CC, Newspaper Clipping Album.

      As Dr. Kennedy previewed in 2005, "This stabilization work will be completed in the Summer of 2006 by students enrolled in the University of Oregon's School of Architecture and Allied Arts' Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School." They certainly deserve our thanks and congratulations. The photos of the 2006 restoration work were provided by Tamara from a disk that the university sent to her. The 2007 photos are from the tour of the cabin that I took with Tamara and her group.

(Ax and primitive tool)
This photo shows both old tools and a modern hand-ax, which are used to plane at least one side of the timbers.

(Timbers and planks)
This photo shows both old planks left around the cabin as well as logs split in half and given a simple planing and polishing. The latter resemble the old cedar puncheons that were used both by loggers for skid roads and by road builders for the original "corduroy" roads of the 1880s and 1890s. The photo

(John Platz)
The photo on the left shows John Platz illustrating during the 2006 renovation how the corners of the cabin are stabilized by the use of cribbing and other means. The frequent rain and snow storms cause constant erosion in the winter months, which washes away soil and rocks that originally formed a level bed for the cabin. The photo belows shows a modern jack used to raise another corner, this one where the huge bottom planks were removed because of having been rotted to the core.
(Jacking up corner)

(Separating rotten timbers)
(Jacking up corner)
The photo on top shows the rotted timbers that were removed or repaired during the 2006 stabilization work. The photo on the bottom shows an extensive crack in one of the timbers that was caused by dripping water and exposure to the elements.

(Texture of wood)
(Timber cross section)
The photo on the left shows the texture of the wood, especially if you click on the photo and see the much larger-format version. The bottom photo shows the grain and rings of the butt end of one of the aged timbers. Click on either photo to see a larger version close-up, including the one on the right, where you will actually be able to count the rings.

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Story posted Oct. 11, 2011
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This article originally appeared in Issue 58 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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