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Paulette Bullinger looks around the former community hall in Huff and sees the past. 

Here's where she and her brother sang in a talent show when they were kids. 

There's an old church raffle ticket stapled to the wall. 

"I learned to polka in here," she said, standing in the chilly hall after unlocking and prying open the door against the deep snow outside.

Paulette and Bob Bullinger are planning to restore the old log community hall for use as a family day cabin — an "escape place," Paulette said. 

They plan to install a steel, copper-colored roof and will likely remove the small, sagging front entryway, which isn't original to the structure. 

The National Youth Administration, a division of the Works Progress Administration, built the vertical log-style hall in the 1930s in Huff, a town of about 20 people near the Missouri River south of Mandan. 

Paulette Bullinger said the wood floor appears to be sound, though the bottoms of the exterior logs are rotting.

She recently removed the old pasteboard ceiling. The Bullingers have no plans to modernize the building. 

"Want to keep it the same way," Bob Bullinger said. 

Paulette Bullinger bought the hall last fall from her brother. Their father acquired it from St. Martin's Catholic Church in Huff. He used it for storage and furniture handiwork. 

"I could see it starting to crumble and realized that it's either now or never if we want to restore it," Paulette Bullinger said. "We just thought it would be fun for our grandkids to have a place to hang out and for Grandma the photographer to hang out." 

She said she's consulted Preservation North Dakota, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving prairie architecture, who she said may tour the hall this summer. 

The vertical log-style construction may be the only one of its kind in North Dakota, according to Susan Quinnell, Preservation North Dakota treasurer. 

"It's associated with where you would have a small sawmill, so I would guess at some point someone knew someone with a small sawmill and got a load and made it up," she said. 

If the Bullingers can keep water out of the structure, that will help its restoration, Quinnell added. 

Other people around North Dakota have taken on similar projects, she said, including a Grand Forks couple who restored their 1926 Tudor Revival style home, featuring a stucco exterior and false thatch roof. 

Paulette Bullinger said her project in Huff will likely be ongoing. She's semi-retired and also enjoys writing, photography and leading Bismarck history tours.

She also likes the hall's significance to local history. She grew up in the Huff grocery store, and both she and her husband have roots in the Huff and Flasher areas. 

"It's just kinda home," Paulette Bullinger said. 

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-223-8482 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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Capitol Reporter