Feb 3, 2015

Historic Grand Teton Park cabin vandalized

Spray-painted graffiti that marred an important cultural site in Grand Teton National Park last summer was recently removed through an extensive cleanup effort.

Sometime in September of 2014, an unknown person or group of people defaced the Luther Taylor homestead cabin, located along the Gros Ventre Road between Kelly Warm Springs and the eastern boundary of the park.

Historic preservationists from both Grand Teton and the Western Center for Historic Preservation painstakingly removed the graffiti in mid-December, though evidence of the damage remains.

Anyone with knowledge about this act of vandalism is encouraged to call the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307-739-3301. Callers can remain anonymous.

This graffiti was discovered on the wall of the Luther Taylor homesteader cabin in September. Law enforcement officials don't know who did it or what the image means. Photo courtesy Grand Teton National Park
A black and blue spray-painted depiction of a devilish creature wearing a crown was discovered by a park visitor on the inside wall of the homestead cabin on Sept. 20 and reported to park law enforcement rangers. The subsequent investigation yielded no suspects and provided inconclusive answers as to the possible source or meaning of the graffiti. Though it is thought to be unrelated, a fencepost at the historic Bar BC Ranch was also vandalized with spray paint in October 2014.

Restoration efforts began when six historic preservationists from the park and Western Center for Historic Preservation — a National Park Service Intermountain Region program based at Grand Teton — spent considerable time cleaning the cabin wall. They repeatedly applied a mixture of eco-friendly products previously tested on wood, gently scrubbed the logs with brushes, and rinsed them with warm water to remove the paint.

Their efforts were largely successful at removing the graffiti, though some paint remained in the cracks and crevices of the wood. Unfortunately, the cleaning process also removed the 100-year-old gray patina from the logs.

To remedy this problem and return the cabin wall to its historic appearance, park cultural resource specialists plan to use a wood product that will help accelerate the aging process along with exposure to sunlight and moisture.

"While vandalism is always a crime, this graffiti attack on such a treasured historic cabin is especially troubling," said Grand Teton Superintendent David Vela.

The Luther Taylor historic site was originally homesteaded in 1916 by John Erwin and purchased by Luther Taylor in 1923, who built a cabin and outbuildings. The culturally significant site is now famous for its appearance in the 1953 western film Shane, starring Alan Ladd. In fact, the site is commonly recognized as the "Shane cabin."

Though currently in a state of decay, this site is eligible for—and soon to be listed on—the National Register of Historic Places.

"Cultural resources like the Luther Taylor cabin are part of the historic fabric of Grand Teton National Park. This cabin and other historic structures convey the stories of early settlers and provide evidence of their pioneer life in Jackson Hole, prompting visitors to learn about the past," said Superintendent David Vela in a news release. "While vandalism is always a crime, this graffiti attack on such a treasured historic cabin is especially troubling. We take vandalism of this sort very seriously, and appreciate those who keep watch over the park's special places and call whenever something is amiss."

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