lake cabin fever

June 18th 2013 Comments: 8 Topics: , , , ,

Summer has begun and many set their sails and steer to the nearest body of water.  Our closest shoreline is Lake Martin, Alabama.
photoSituated across three counties, Lake Martin is one of the largest man-made lakes in the country, boasting 750 miles of wooded shoreline. It’s been a home to recreational water bugs since its creation in the 1920s.

Our history with this lake goes back a few decades.  In the mid-eighties, Bobby McAlpine spent his birthday week at a friend’s lake cabin relaxing, working on the odd furniture designs and just generally reflecting on his previous year.  As Bobby jokingly put it, “I knew it was good day if I didn’t have to wear pants”.  After a few years of these week-long sabbaticals hosted by his friend, he decided he was going to build his dream: his first from-the-ground-up house at the Lake.  Being the decisive, ever-impatient soul, the timeline went something like this:

Day 1:  Decides to build a lake house

Day 2:  Drives to the lake. Stops at the first real estate trailer he comes to and inquires about available property. Is given loose directions to a property by a chain smoking secretary. Drives to said property. Makes immediate offer. Offer is accepted. Drives back to town.

Day 3:  Designs house.

Day 4:  Enlists office mates to help draw the plans.

Day 5:  Finds builder, gives plans to builder for pricing.

Day 6:  Builder comes back apologetically with a whopping price tag of $ 46,000.

Day 7:  Construction begins.

Days 8 – 98: Fevered construction.

Day 99:  Move in.

As ridiculous as this sounds, it literally happened that quickly. Mind you, this little treehouse of a cabin had no air conditioning, a single band of stock double hung windows (the lower sashes were walled over so the upper sashes seemingly lowered into the wall), an inexpensive cast iron stove from Lowes and a trap door entrance.  The whole assembly was painted (appropriately) Lincoln Log green.  His first personal house became our personal weekend playground.

Over the years, Bobby continued to tinker with his beloved creation.  He enclosed the underside parking area to create a larger living room and kitchen and added an honest-to-god fireplace.  An additional inventive window type was added: top-hinged, glass panels that were counterweighted by pulley-hung buckets of dense Alabama red clay.  These opened up the entire lower floor to create a screened cricket cage.  And over time, the wood-planked interior was dressed in many, many decorating schemes, lovingly becoming his weekend design laboratory in the woods.  Like all first loves, it finally came to an end and he eventually parted with it, handing it over to the next eager steward.  But also like first loves, its memories and lessons were never forgotten.  Over a decade-and-a-half later, revisitation was in order.  That, dear reader, is the story of next week’s post.



Greg Tankersley, for McAlpine Tankersley Architecture


  1. Susan Nelson says:

    Loved knowing the detailed history of Bobby’s first lake home and IMHO subsequent versions have been equally as humble and gracious in their form and function.

  2. Candi says:

    Brian told me a lot about that lake house…one of his very favorite things was to visit his Uncle Bobby there. When I first met Brian he referred to it as the “coolest batchelor pad” ever. I never got to see it so really enjoyed the pictures and the story. Bobby is truly a lovely and interesting spirit.

  3. Susan S says:

    Half-walled double hungs? In my next life, I’m coming back as Bobby McAlpine!

  4. Joni Webb says:

    seriously? you made this sound like it was such a nothing! and it’s stunning!!!!!!!! love this – can’t wait for next week.

  5. This is so beautiful. So inspiring. What a wonderfully talented man. I especially love the double-hung windows which recess down into the wall and also the beautiful dramatic colors of the walls. Thank you, Bobby McAlpine, for just ‘being’!

  6. boris reyt says:

    great stair details…

  7. lthoraldson says:

    What a lovely retreat!

  8. Audrey De Ridder says:

    If the new owners ever decide to sell, they have a buyer!

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