W. Ben Hunt Cabin
5885 South 116th Street, Hales Corners, Milwaukee County
Date of construction: 1924
Architect: W. Ben Hunt
Graphic artist W. Ben Hunt built this Arts and Crafts-influenced Rustic Style cabin in the backyard of his house in Hales Corners in 1924. This project was the beginning and focus of his "second" career as a craftsman, writer, and researcher of authentic American and Native American craft items. Throughout the mid- to late twentieth century, Hunt was well known across the country as a master craftsman and crafts educator, whose many books and hundreds of magazine articles spread his knowledge around the world.
Hunt began this cabin as a way to pay homage to his grandmother's pioneer-era cabin where he spent a lot of time during his formative years. But, Hunt was also an artist who studied and worked during the height of the Arts and Crafts movement. His cabin turned out to be no pioneer log cabin in the woods, but an example of the Rustic Style, a style that grew out of the Arts and Crafts movement and was popular for buildings at resorts and national parks. The hand-made arts and crafts details he used on the cabin also reflected his interest in this national movement.
More importantly, Hunt used this cabin as a base for his work in American and Native American crafts. He meticulously researched all of the items he crafted, then wrote about. He worked with American rustic furniture and whittling and spent many years on "vacation" with Native American tribes learning their craft traditions and life ways. He used this information to write how-to books that were nationally popular and internationally translated. He had a long-time relationship with the Boy Scouts and the information he provided about Native American crafts and life ways was extensively used for their Indian Lore curriculum. For many years, his how-to articles on both Native American crafts and lore and wood-carving appeared in the national Boy Scout magazine, Boys' Life.
Throughout his career as a craftsman and educator, Hunt used this cabin to work on his crafts, books, and articles. Especially after 1940, when two additions were made to the original cabin, Hunt spent almost all his free time here either crafting or writing. The cabin was moved to its current location to preserve it for the public as a local museum. Its current location is not unlike its original site, a short distance away, and it allows the Hales Corners Historical Society to interpret it for the public.
Please contact the Hales Corners Historical Society to arrange cabin visits or reservations.