Home renovations can yield surprises.

But few are as big as the one Kevin Kemp and Jennifer Alexander discovered.

The couple were planning to raze a home they bought recently on Riverside Drive in Dublin. They intend to build a new house on the property.

Kemp and a friend, Larry Daniels, decided to remove paneling for reuse.

"We pulled off one of the pieces of paneling and I said, 'Larry, that's a log,'" Kemp recalled. "We pulled off another and I said, 'My god, this is a log cabin.'"

Behind the knotty-pine paneling and drywall were walnut and beech logs, some more than 16 inches wide and 30 feet long. More demolition revealed the prize: a perfectly preserved two-story log cabin, probably built between 1820 and 1840.

Experts say it's one of the largest and best-preserved log cabins discovered in central Ohio.

The remarkable find prompted Kemp and Alexander to halt their planned demolition and contact the city of Dublin.

"I think history is really important," said Kemp, a chiropractor who now lives in Gahanna. "This doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the city."

Dublin saw an opportunity to preserve a piece of its past.

"I was just amazed when I walked in and saw the cabin," said Michelle Crandall, a Dublin assistant city manager. "I knew when I walked in we had to find a way to salvage it."

The city hired a Columbus company, Structural Erectors, to dismantle the cabin, at a cost of about $27,000, with the hope of rebuilding it elsewhere.

Structural Erectors plans to start pulling the logs apart with a crane Thursday. Joe Orr, a company vice president, said the logs will be tagged as they are removed and stored in a city barn until the cabin can be reconstructed.

No site has been selected, but Tom Holton, president of the Dublin Historical Society, would like to see the cabin rebuilt in Coffman Park on Emerald Parkway.

Holton described the cabin as a "once-in-a-lifetime" find.

"It was startling and was just kind of wonderment to see history just peeled away, to see history revealed right before your eyes," he said.

Holton said he has found no evidence of the cabin's origin, but he estimates it was built between 1820 and 1840.

The property originally was part of the 500 acres Congress granted to Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish colonel who served with the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

The earliest record of a building on the site is on an 1856 map that shows a home belonging to A. Maties, said Columbus historian Doreen Uhas Sauer, who agreed the cabin is likely older than that.

Several cabins from the early 19th century can be found in central Ohio, but most have been moved and rebuilt.

Kemp and Alexander's is rare because it's on the original site and was preserved "in a time capsule," Uhas Sauer said.

"These are remnants of American history that seemingly have disappeared or, like this house, remain silent and buried under siding and permastone," she said. "When they suddenly reappear like this house, how wonderful – like a little Brigadoon."

In addition to being perfectly preserved, the 25-by-30-foot cabin is much larger than most others in the area, including those rebuilt at Dublin's Indian Run Falls Park and in the Red Trabue Nature Preserve.

"The significance here is the completeness of the cabin and the size and condition," Holton said. "It will be one of the largest ones that has been discovered and recovered in the area."

The cabin's discovery has set back Kemp and Alexander's plan to eventually build their dream home on the site. But they say that's OK.

"We love adventures," said Alexander, who works in the human-resources department at American Electric Power. "This might delay us a few months, but it's cool."

jweiker@dispatch.com

@JimWeiker