Former slave cabin attracts the curious

If you've driven to Frank Liske Park by Roberta Road in the past few years, you probably have seen the little old cabin that sits close to the road's edge.

Nestled perfectly between two tall trees, it looks as though it could have always been there.

But locals know the relic didn't show up until about five years ago. Since then, a steady flow of the curious have stopped in to ask Roger Newton, its owner, for the story.

"It was an old slave shack," Newton, 49, said on the day I stopped in to join the ranks of the curious. "It was on South Union Street."

I found Newton sitting with his son, Roger Lee, inside his garage, watching the downpour of rain a few feet away.

With no work to do on account of the weather - Newton owns a concrete business - he offered a chair and told me how he came to own the old shanty.

Although originally built in the historic district on Union Street South, the house was moved 25 years ago when the contractor bought it, then sold it to an elderly woman a few miles down the road from Newton's home.

Five years ago, he offered her $1,000 to buy it back. That's not what he paid.

"She was real old, but her mind was perfect," he said of the former owner. "She said, 'I can get a lot of my medicine for $2,000.' "

Today, the house sits on Newton's property, the modern world springing up all around it. To its left stands the family home. To its right, construction trucks park nearby. An in-ground swimming pool with a light-blue slide teases from its front yard.

But inside, the smell of damp, aged wood musters up the feel of a long-ago era.

The original mortar and thick logs keep the small, windowless room consistently 20 degrees cooler than outside, something Newton enjoys.

"Me and my dog will come here in the summertime. We'll sit here on the couch and be plum knocked out," he said. "We take ourselves a nap for a couple of hours."

Newton said he didn't do much to the old cabin. He rebuilt the rock chimney, repaired the roof and put in a new porch after the old one crumbled away. Other than that, it just didn't need any work.

"It was put together really good," he said. "If I was going to build myself another house tomorrow, I would build me an old log cabin."

Newton can't explain why he likes old things. Outside his garage stand old parking meters and a gas pump. Inside, a 1963 Ford Falcon and a 1966 Chevrolet Nova are parked.

"I've collected a lot of stuff. I just like old stuff," he said. "It's just built a lot better."

The curious have never stopped coming to take a peek at his oldest relic. He's accustomed to people asking for permission to take their picture outside it.

Come spring, neatly dressed teenagers in tuxedos and prom dresses will rap on his door, asking for a photo. In the summer, he expects a wedding party or two will stop by.

He's happy to share the old building.

"I say, go out and do what you want to do."