Members of the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) celebrated the rebuilding of two legendary structures this fall. The Harris Centennial Cabin, widely considered to be the largest DOC construction project since the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge was built in 1938, was honored on Oct. 13, and the Appalachian Trail’s Velvet Rocks shelter, first built in 1937, was dedicated on Oct. 7.
Situated on a gentle slope on Moose Mountain, the Harris cabin strikes a commanding presence on the site of the first DOC cabin, given to Dartmouth in 1910 by Dr. John Gile, Class of 1887. The cabin offers a large common room and a restored historic fireplace, lofts that sleep 30, a kitchen, a porch, and a balcony. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” said Walker Weed ’40, who helped cut ski trails around the cabin as a student and has lived nearby for 42 years. Putnam Blodgett ’53, who built several cabins as a student and alumnus, said it is “the finest DOC cabin I’ve ever seen.”
Jay Evans ’49 speaks at the dedication of Velvet Rocks shelter. (photo by Lauren Wool '08)
The Harris Centennial Cabin is named in honor of DOC founder Fred Harris, Class of 1911, and in recognition of the organization’s upcoming 100th anniversary in 2009. “It is the result of two years of effort by more than 650 volunteers, who put in over 15,400 hours of work,” said Chris Polashenski ’07, the founder and overseer of the project. And it’s designed, engineered, and cared for entirely by students who continue to shave trees for railings, paint window frames, install partitions, and cut planks for the flooring. “We’re enormously grateful for everyone’s help, but, as you can see, there’s still work to be done,” said Phil Bracikowski ’08, president of the DOC. Bracikowski said he expects the cabin to be fully complete by spring.
Speakers at the celebration emphasized the history of the site, and shared their pride in the students for continuing the legacy of the DOC. “As I saw everyone working together on this, I couldn’t help but think, this is the best of Dartmouth,” said Dan Nelson ’75, acting dean of the College. Andrew Harvard ’71, director of outdoor programs, said he was humbled by what the students had accomplished.
Polashenski thanked Dartmouth’s alumni for creating an environment that made this possible. “You understand the inexplicable feelings that caused us to do this. Had you not taken risks, we probably wouldn’t be here today.” Stressing the importance of student leadership, he said, “Hopefully this cabin will be an inspiration to students that come after us.”
Meanwhile, over on the Appalachian Trail, the Velvet Rocks shelter was dedicated to the memory of J. Wilcox “Will” Brown, Class of 1937. In his senior year, Brown and his classmate, Richard McCormack, built the structure with double-bit axes. Brown was a crucial figure in the maturation of the DOC, serving as chair of Cabin and Trail and directing several trail crews, including the one that cut Hell’s Highway ski trail on Mt. Moosilauke in 1936. After graduating, he was the DOC’s second general manager, and worked alongside C. Ross McKenney, Class of 1937, to help build the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.
Beginning last year, over 50 students helped rebuild the shelter, some as volunteers and others as members of a class on timber framing. “After having enjoyed so many DOC structures built by past students, I wanted to give back,” said student leader of the project Thomas Bonamici ’07. Built out of local red pine and hemlock, the shelter sleeps “four comfortably, six if it’s raining,” says DOC General Manager Julie Clemons, who oversaw the project. It is one of 10 Appalachian Trail shelters overseen by Dartmouth.
By STEVEN J. SMITH
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Last Updated: 12/17/08