You may spot an old, rustic log cabin sitting at a high elevation in Hillcrest Park from a section of N Harbor Blvd. Originally built in 1931 but reconstructed in 1996, the south-facing Izaak Walton Cabin is centrally located within the park and, according to the city’s website, serves as the meeting site for the Fullerton Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA), one of the oldest conservation organizations in the United States.
Boy Scout Troop 292, the oldest continuously existing Boy Scout troop in Orange County, has also used the log cabin to hold meetings. In addition, it can be rented and reserved for special events through the City of Fullerton’s Parks and Recreation Department. Many residents I’ve talked to have wondered about the cabin’s history, so I looked deeper at the local library archives to find further details about the rustic wooden structure.
According to the National Register of Historic Places application filed by Fullerton Heritage for Hillcrest Park, the cabin is a reconstruction of a 1931 log building destroyed by fire on December 24, 1990. Back in the early 1930s, discarded utility poles were dropped near the old train depot off Harbor (then Spadra) Blvd, according to an April 1931 issue of the Fullerton News Tribune from the Fullerton Public Library’s Local History Room. Members of Fullerton, Chapter 15 of the Izaak Walton League, decided to use these wooden telegraph poles to construct a cabin in Hillcrest Park.
The IWLA was originally founded in 1922 “to conserve outdoor America.” According to their website, “the League’s 54 founders, who were avid anglers, named the organization after Izaak Walton, the 17th-century author of The Compleat Angler, a classic book about the art and spirit of fishing.”
City permission was granted, and the cabin was constructed by volunteer workers at the cost of $165, according to the National Historic Register application. John C. Gregory, President of the Fullerton chapter at the time, was responsible for the overall planning and construction of the building. The cabin was dedicated on October 4, 1931, and the league handed the keys to Fullerton city officials.
According to the October 6, 1935 issue of the Fullerton Daily News Tribune (FDNT), it was donated to the city as a community service project. Fullerton was to own the cabin, but league members could use it whenever they wanted, and other Orange County groups could also book the building. This arrangement is still in place today.
Soon after the cabin was constructed, it was featured in an article titled “From Telephone Pole to Walton Lodge” in Outdoor California, the official publication of the Izaak Walton League, according to a January 13, 1932 issue of the Fullerton Daily Tribune.
The Fullerton chapter soon began receiving requests for information from other chapters nationwide on constructing a similar type of building. Excluding the years that the fire displaced them, the Fullerton chapter has met continuously at the same cabin on the second (later the third) Wednesday of each month since 1931, according to the National Historic Register application and the organization’s website.
The Anne Newman Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, which had the distinction of being the first IWLA women’s chapter in America, also used the cabin as a meeting place on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 1937 until the early 1970s when the two groups merged.
According to a file titled “Anne Newsman Chapter of Izaak Walton League, Fullerton California Scrapbook,” from the Fullerton Public Library’s Local History Room, the Anne Newman Chapter was organized on August 27, 1927. John C. Gregory and Anne Newman were instrumental in establishing the women’s chapters.
Since 1946, the cabin has also been home to Boy Scout Troop 292. Over 5,000 boys have participated in the organization. According to their website, they are sponsored by the Fullerton Chapter of the IWLA, “To accommodate the Boy Scouts, who wanted a clubhouse of their own, the east side of the Cabin was extended over the hillside in 1947, and a small concrete building was constructed below,” which increased the size of the cabin by twelve feet, according to the National Historic Register Application.
Other additions have been made to the original cabin since it was first built in the 1930s. For example, according to a 1932 issue of the Fullerton Daily Tribune, the IWLA added a kitchen to host banquets inside. In 1938, WPA workers replaced the wooden entrance porch on the south side with a flagstone one and added the staircases and tower leading to the cabin. A restroom was added in 1956.
It took six years to rebuild the cabin after it was destroyed in a fire in 1990. Finally, in 1996, it was rebuilt by Sierra Log Homes at the cost of around $145,000. They used the 1931 plans for the building. Architect Gregory A. Peitz tried to match the original design and materials while following city building codes. The original cement floor, north wall, east room, and WPA-constructed porch survived the fire and were kept in the redesign of the building. However, the original telegraph poles were replaced by pine logs.
While the reconstructed cabin has a rustic quality, it doesn’t have the rough, handmade appearance of the original 1931 building. Today, visitors can access the cabin from the east side of Hillcrest Park via two flights of WPA-built stairs that lead to the building from Hillcrest Road. The building is also accessible by wheelchair via a smooth cement pathway on the cabin’s west side, which leads back to Hillcrest Road and a small turnout parking area.