Roland Cadle, left, of Village Restorations and Consulting, works at the Neill Log House with Jon Gorman, center, and Gage Tornatore. Photo by Ann Belser.

As two men pushed, an 800-pound white oak log rolled off a trailer and fell onto a log that was positioned to act as a fulcrum. It rolled once, then came to rest perfectly balanced on the other log, like a teeter-totter without children. 

On Aug. 5 from 2-4 p.m., the log will be used to demonstrate how logs are hewn for the reconstruction of the Neill Log House on East Circuit Drive in Schenley Park. Along with other logs that were delivered already cu square, it will replace rotted wood in the house.

The delivery of the first beams for the reconstruction of the house made for a monumental day for the Friends of the Neill Log House on July 7.

“When we incorporated in November of ‘21, nobody thought that we’d be able to get this going already,” Mardi Isler, vice president of the Friends of the Neill Log House, said to Roland Cadle, co-owner of Village Restorations & Consulting of Hollidaysburg, Pa., during the event.

Cadle said the work by the Friends of the Neill Log House has been astonishing, given that he and his partner will talk to 50 historical societies about the restoration of old houses and only five of those will go forward with the restoration.

The Neill Log House. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

The Neill Log House is currently held up with braces and the roof is protected with a black tarp.

Not all of the logs that form the walls for the house will be replaced, but those that are will be removed by jacking the house apart so that a new log can be fitted into its place.

The house was built around 1774 by Robert Neill for his family and was due to be restored in 1969, but just before the restoration started, the home collapsed. Instead, it was reconstructed. It still is considered the oldest existing residential structure in Pittsburgh and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Roland Cadle of Village Restorations & Consulting prepares a log for the Neill Log House. Photo by Ann Belser.

Tony Indovina, president of the Friends of the Neill Log House, said that the current project is the renovation of the 1969 reconstruction around the original fireplace and chimney.

Indovina laid out the scope of work needed to get the log house back to the condition where it can be open to the public in a recent article published in the Squirrel Hill Historical Society newsletter.

He said all the sills, which are the lowest logs around the house, have to be replaced. The walls have to be braced, and the logs realigned and made plumb. The south wall needs to be reconstructed, the floorboards need to be removed so that the condition of the foundation stones and the log floor joists can be assessed.

Also, the roof needs to be replaced with new hand-split cedar shingles, the fireplace and chimney have to be repointed and the chinking, the mortar between the logs, has to all be replaced.

Isler hopes the project can be done by next spring so that the home can be open to the public.

Register here for free Neill Log House hewing demonstration on Aug. 5.

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.