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HAMILTON – Lake Como’s iconic Hayward Lodge – locally known as Wood’s Cabin – is now officially on the list of this nation’s historic treasures.

The historic cabin was named to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places in May.

“It took 19 years of trying to get to this place,” said Bitterroot National Forest historian Mary Williams, who has been advocating for this since the day she started working here.

While it won’t change much in the way the important historical structure is managed by the Bitterroot Forest, the designation does place the cabin built in an unusual hexagonal shape in the top tier of historic gems in the country.

The Bitterroot Forest has 140 cultural sites that are considered eligible for the National Register. So far, eight have actually made the list.

The Magruder Ranger Station was placed on the list in December.

The others include the Alta Ranger Station, Blacky Foster Miner’s Cabin, Lost Horse Guard Station, McCart Lookout, one archaeological site and the privately owned El Capitan Lodge (also called the Hamilton Hikers Club Cabin).

Hayward Lodge was built in the late 1920s or early 30s by Hamilton physician Dr. Herbert V. Hayward.

It was an era when the Forest Service encouraged private enterprise to build summer homes and resorts to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors to national forest lands.

Hayward was 19 years old when he immigrated to the United States from England. He earned his medical degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. in 1908 at the age of 26.

After completing an internship, he moved to Darby to establish a general medical practice in a rented space in the former Hammond Hotel.

At that time, Darby was a thriving community of 200 that the R.L. Polk Directory said supported two hotels, two restaurants, three general stores, one clothing store, one cigar store, one drug store, one jewelry store, two blacksmith shops, one harness shop…and a commercial club with orders of Odd Fellows, Modern Brotherhood of America, Owls, and a Rebecca Lodge.

“This town is surrounded by unsurpassed fruit land, equal to any and superior to most of the fruit land in the Bitter Root Valley,” the directory said.

Hayward married Grace Kerlee, the daughter of a local rancher, in 1911.

He remained in Darby until 1917, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He served stateside during World War I and moved back to Darby in 1919.

By 1930, Hayward had moved his practice to Hamilton, where he continued to practice medicine until 1951. He was credited with influencing Margaret P. Daly to build Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital.

Hayward’s interests weren’t confined to the fields of medicine and science.

During his lifetime, he built 12 different structures in Ravalli County, including cabins at Medicine Springs and Lake Como.

He also built intricately crafted wooden boats, specifically large cabin launches, that he named Osprey. Both were operated from his cabin on the northern shores of Lake Como.

Hayward donated the second boat to the U.S. Navy during World War II, which used it to patrol the Pacific Coast.

No one knows for certain why Hayward was so enamored with hexagons. Some guess it might have had something to do with metaphysics or potentially a symbol attached to Freemasonry, a fraternal Christian organization, that Hayward belonged.

“All we know for sure is that Dr. Hayward had a thing about hexagons,” Williams said.

The original building was topped with red, blue and green hexagonal shingles. Even the original outhouse was built in a hexagonal shape.

Hayward kept the cabin along the northern banks of Lake Como for about 16 years before selling it to his friends, C.M and Lois Buxton. That family retained ownership until 1958, when they sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wood of Arizona.

The Wood family used the lodge and its outbuildings for the next 35 years. Besides enjoying the property for their own family gatherings, they also offered its use to local organizations such as the Girl Scouts.

Prior to the expiration of their special use permit at the end of 1993, the Wood family offered to donate the buildings to the Forest Service. Regional Forester, David Jolly, acknowledged the donation the next year.

Stabilization of the building occurred over a 10-year period between 1999 and 2009, when Forest Service and National Park Service historical preservation teams worked to repair the deteriorated foundation. Restoration of the building to its original appearance, including removal of a stone chimney and reconstruction of the original entryway, occurred in 2011.

Williams helped lead one of the first Passport in Time projects on the forest that aimed at making some much needed repairs to the structure.

“It was really rough at that point,” Williams remembered. “It has some very real structural issues with the foundation.”

At that point, portions of the foundation under the lake side of cabin and its extensive deck was sitting atop old stumps or large blocks of wood. In the early years of the Forest Service’s ownership of the cabin, Williams said there was a real worry that a wedding party enjoying the view from the deck might be enough to cave it all in.

The cabin has become a very popular addition to the agency’s cabin rental program. Originally, the cabin was rented during the summer season.

Three years ago, the Forest Service decided to offer visitors a much different experience by opening the cabin for rent between Nov. 22 to March 16.

“People love to come here in the winter time,” said Darby District’s recreation officer, Erika Strayer. “It can be a wonderful setting in the winter months. It’s much quieter and there are a lot of winter recreational opportunities nearby.”

Keeping the cabin open in the winter has also helped with maintenance and security.

“Having the cabin rented through the winter helps keep rodent activity down,” Strayer said. “Having a presence here has also reduced vandalism.”

The cabin can sleep 12.

“It’s a beautiful setting,” Williams said. “People really do seem to enjoy their time spent here.”

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

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Associate Editor

Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.