|NW Quadrant, East of Rock Creek, Architecturally Significant, Civil War Era, Journalists, Lawyers, Also of Interest|
Joaquin Miller Cabin, Rock Creek Park,
Miller, the "Poet of the Sierras," built his modest log cabin atop Meridian Hill in the late 1860s, now the site of Malcolm X Park. The Park Service later moved it to this location in Rock Creek Park.
Miller was the pen name of Cincinnatus Heine Miller. He was a colorful character who published essays and over twenty books of poems, including Specimens (1869), Songs of the Sierras (1871), Songs of the Soul (1896), and 49: The Gold Seekers of the Sierras (1910). He worked at various times as a mining-camp cook, lawyer, journalist, Pony Express rider, and was once jailed as a horse thief.
The only known example of a rustic-style log cabin in DC, this rare survivor of vernacular architecture is constructed of split logs and chinking with an L-shaped floor plan and central fireplace of fieldstone. Miller constructed the cabin and lived in it from 1883 to 1885, then gave it to a friend, who subsequently donated it to the Sierra Club. It was carefully disassembled in 1911 and moved to its current location on the east bank of Rock Creek, where it came under the control of the National Park Service. Dedicated on June 2, 1912, the Park Service initially used it as a shelter, then in 1931 through the mid-1950s, leased it to the poet’s niece, Pherne Miller, who used the cabin as a studio, conducted art classes and sold food and beverages to the public. From 1976 through 1983, the Word Works held a summer evening poetry series inside the cabin, but audiences outgrew the small space. The reading series was then moved outdoors adjacent to the cabin, and in the 1980s, the Park Service reinforced the walls with interior braces, making the structure more secure, but rendering the space inside the cabin no longer usable. In 2011, the Word Works moved their reading series to a different locationin the park, the Rock Creek Nature Center. Although badly in need of repair, the cabin remains.
Author photo courtesy of Library of Congress.