‘Paw-Paw’ builds grandson the cabin clubhouse dreams are made of

‘Paw-Paw’ builds grandson his dream cabin clubhouse in Amity

December 14, 2012
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Aaron J. Kendeall / Observer-Reporter
Jim Kovachs of Amity demonstrates how the twin beds on the ground floor of the cabin lift out of the way to provide more space. Above the bed, rafters from a 19th century barn can be seen supporting the loft. Order a Print
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Aaron J. Kendeall / Observer-Reporter
Andrew Selway said he loves the cabin his grandfather built for him, even if he may not understand the historical significance of some of the items used in its construction. Order a Print
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Aaron J. Kendeall / Observer-Reporter
Jim Kovachs recently finished building this cabin and outhouse on his property in Amity. The project started as a playhouse for his grandson Andrew ,but turned into a labor of love to preserve Americana. Order a Print

Most children want their very own clubhouse, but Andrew Selway may have hit the jackpot.

When Ruth Ann and Jim Kovachs’ grandson was born, the Amity couple was determined to build him the perfect gift. So, over the past seven months, Jim Kovachs worked day and night to make the playhouse of his dreams into a reality.

On the Kovach’s 10-acre plot of land stands a small cabin complete with a deck, two twin beds and a loft. But what is truly amazing is the fact that the structure is almost entirely made out of reclaimed and recycled materials, much of which is vintage or antique.

All of the siding for the cabin – as well as for the adjoining outhouse – was built using a historic barn from the turn of the last century that a neighbor had to tear down.

“That beam is from 1890,” Ruth Ann Kovachs said about a long support beam running across the ceiling. “It was hand-hewed with a broad ax from a walnut tree, and the bark is still on it.”

For the Kovachses, saving discarded materials was the main reason why they tackled the project.

“I’m trying to preserve old stuff and turn it into new,” said Jim Kovachs, known as ‘Paw-Paw’ to his grandchildren. “There’s still more memories to be made with this stuff.”

Jim Kovachs is a retired construction worker and craftsman. He used all of the skills acquired from decades of working with his hands, and his wife describes the effort he put into building the rustic lodging as nothing short of Herculean.

“He did 99 percent of the work himself,” Ruth Ann said. “He was a man on a mission.”

In addition to the nearly century-old wood used for the cabin, nearly everything inside has a story. Furniture dated from 1910 was found during a salvage mission in Gettysburg. A rocking chair in the loft, circa 1929, was painfully reconstructed from remnants found in an old barn.

“A family gave it to us for refurbishing an oval oak table they found,” Ruth Ann said. “I was so grateful I was in tears.”

The Kovachses said the idea originally came when they had their first grandson in 2001, but he moved to Fort Myers, Fla., before they could break ground on the structure. The idea was to build a log cabin where they could play and have sleepovers.

The cabin is a picker’s dream. The Kovachses’ love of historical tools and instruments is on display throughout the structure. While it was wired for electricity, the cabin can also be heated by a small vintage cast iron stove situated where a hearth would be. Near the door frame, authentic hand-operated wood planes from Austria and the United States are placed prominently.

Every inch of space inside the cabin is covered in knickknacks made of repurposed materials. A wooden spoon was made from a reclaimed church pew. From the ceiling hangs a chandelier made from a fixture saved from an abandoned grocery store.

Although he may not yet appreciate the historical significance of the items in the cabin, Andrew seemed pleased to have his own space. He said his favorite part of the cabin was the loft.

Jim Kovachs said it was his hope that seeing the construction process and enjoying the outdoors will be a positive influence to his grandson.

“Kids these days don’t do stuff like this anymore,” Jim said. “But Andrew likes building things and being outside.

“That’s what really makes this cabin special.”



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