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Native American Lodge Repaired

Detail from painting by, John White c,1585

If you have spent any time walking the various Nature Preserve properties, sooner

or later you will stumble onto the Native American lodge replica in the Lindale

tract forest. This structure has been used for decades as teaching aid for Native

American studies. Literally thousands of schoolchildren, as well as adults, have

benefitted from programs given by the Delaware Nature Society. This article

should help you understand a little of how the lodge came to be and some recent


Sussex County, Delaware was populated by various groups of Native Americans

during different periods of history. It was decided by the Abbott’s Mill Nature

Center staff at the time to build a replica lodge to more clearly illustrate the

Native American lifestyle. The plan I used was based on the first contact painting

of John White c. 1585.

Detail from painting by, John White c,1585

Although the Roanoke people he was documenting lived on the Northeast coast

of present-day North Carolina, his paintings give us the most accurate depiction of

the construction details of early coastal people. It was decided that our lodge

would use natural materials as much as possible and be of the same scale. A later

article will give a more detailed account of the actual construction.

The materials used were red cedar, red maple, white cedar, and phragmites

rushes. They have survived surprisingly well through all kinds of weather

including the devastating ice storm of 1994, numerous hurricanes, wind, and golf-

ball sized hail that broke windshields, house siding, and dented car roofs.

Lodge framework- 1993

Lodge completion-Apr1993-note-original 2 tier thatching

When the lodge was first completed in April 1993, naturally the surrounding trees

were much smaller and did not pose a serious threat. Just recently I met a lady

with her family at the lodge who told me she had been hiking to the lodge for 27

years, beginning as a third grade Milford School student, then college, marriage,

and now motherhood.

Personally, I was the first person to stay overnight in the lodge in April 1993. I

had a restless night due to the endless honking of the Canada geese setting up

territories on the adjacent millpond. Then, in the wee hours of the morning, I was

disturbed by a rustling in the leaves and rushes outside and paid a visit by a

striped skunk. Actually, the lodge has been lived in on two occasions that I’m

aware of. First, a pair of runaway teens one winter until thankfully discovered,

and more recently by a pair of black vultures in the summer 2021. The Nature

Center staff cordoned the area off until the vultures completed their nesting


Lodge in 2007-note 'bark' painted roof

The frequent windstorms of 2021 took down a large oak limb that fell onto the

front section nearest the doorway and crushed several framing bows. The roof

frames are made up of semi-circular bows of bent saplings spaced 24 inches


"OUCH!" Lodge roof damage-2021 (Photo- Matt Babbett)

Lodge roof damage-2021

The first three sections were broken as well as the front, south corner

post. After some discussion it was decided to jack the roof back up to the original

height, as much as possible, and to replace the broken framing poles with new


Broken bow-truss ribs-2021

Interior damage to roof- 2021

These repair materials were cut on our farm and hauled to the site. The work was

done by Elliott Workman, Mike Rivera, Steve Childers, and myself. There are still

a few finishing details to be done before the work is entirely complete. The new

bark slabs above the doorway need to be hung and the phragmites rushes need

to be replaced. The rushes are gathered in winter after the leaves have fallen.

Hopefully, that work can be completed soon.

Corner replaced=jacked up with new vertical bracing-2021

Removing dangerous Oak-E.Workman + D.Pro

Additional preventive maintenance done was the removal of one dying black oak

(Quercus vellutina) that posed a danger not only to the lodge but hikers as well.

That work was done by Nature Society staff Dave Pro and James White, Jr. The

high, dangerous, overhanging oak limb at the rear of the lodge required

professional attention by A+ Tree Service for safe removal.

Setting lines prior to high limb removal-2022
Attaching lines-for removal-2022
Additional storm damage tree work-Jan 2022 AMNC

The lodge has not only served in the education of thousands of school children,

but it has also served as to test the durability of the components used. Over the

years the phragmites have been replaced three or four times. The original

horizontal red maple tie sticks that hold the thatch in place, were replaced with

rot resistant Atlantic white cedar. The roof material, painted to look like bark, has

been punctured and patched. A second layer of roofing was added to the center

portion. The burlap covering the inside of the vaulted ceiling, has suffered some

damage by squirrels that seem to think it would serve better as a lining for their

nests. Carolina wrens have built nests under the protection of the roof, too.

Work crew-'hurry up, Paul' 2021

Paul Layton, Mike Rivera, Steve Childers, Elliott Workman,2021repair crew

Hopefully after the current repairs are completed, the lodge will be enjoyed for

years to come.

Abigail + Andrew Baker-the future looks bright 2008

Why don’t you take a walk in the Lindale Woods? Enjoy the pondside trail, the

birds, the trees, and the lodge. Happy Hiking!

All photos by the author

Note: the Lindale Woods are directly across Abbotts Pond Road from the Abbotts Mill Nature Center. The trailhead is about a third of a mile from the road.

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