Bordner Cabin

The Armar Bordner Cabin is on Old State Road/Bear Hole Trail along Aycrigg’s Falls on Rattling Run in Swatara State Park. Armar admired Frank Lloyd Wright, and copied his technique with the porch by using a cantilever system to slightly extend the porch over Rattling Run. Using Rustic Style Architecture, the only architecture created by a bureaucracy–the National Park Service, Armar used stone and oak trees found on the site to make the building blend into nature–an original sustainable building.  The stones are masterfully cut.  Each log is concave on the bottom to nestle snugly on the log beneath it, and original horse-hair chinking remains between the logs to keep the air from penetrating the Cabin.  However, the doors and windows were already removed when the Swatara Watershed Association stepped up to the plate to  save the Cabin from demolition.  Don’t worry.  There’s an ample overhang to keep out the elements.

Hike, bike or horseback ride to the Armar Bordner Cabin.  Commune with nature in this outdoor setting.  See the view that Armar woke up to each morning.  Utilize one of the picnic tables inside.  Carry in and carry out your lunch and trash.   Take pictures.  Paint.  Sit and listen to the water running.  


Armar’s home was taken by eminent domain for the Park, but he won the right to live in the home until he died at age 90 in 1994. He passed away in a bed as he looked up at Aycrigg’s Falls from the picture window in his living room.  Armar also has a connection to the Coleman’s and Brocks, ironmaster millionaires who lived in what is now known as Coleman Park. More specifically, Stella Darkes, Armar’s mother, was Mrs. Deborah Norris Coleman Brock’s personal cook. His father was an alcoholic, and Stella sought employment to support herself and the children. At first, Armar lived in Lickdale with his grandparents, and rode the Lebanon to Tremont (L&T) Railroad to the 8th Street train station where Mrs. Brock had the children picked up by her driver in her Pierce Arrow. At age 6, Armar and Myrtle, his sister, moved into the Brock mansion where they lived until Armar went off to college. Armar enjoyed working in Mrs. Brock’s 1.5 acre garden under Master Gardner Bill Jenson. When he learned to drive, Armar drove to the post office to retrieve the mail.  He no doubt picked up many of his mason and woodworking skills studying the craftsmen brought back to America by the Coleman’s and Brocks.  

24 Oral History Interviews

The only deviation we can determine from the original blueprints is a lowered floor in what was Armar’s drafting room over the garage.  From the outside, you can see where a window was filled in with logs.  Within the room, you can see where logs were cut off about 2′ up the side walls.  Also, the rafters are notched slightly to raise the height of the ceiling in this room.

In the drafting room, there’s a trap door where, during nasty weather, he could hand groceries or firewood up to Peg, his wife. 

The master bedroom was along Rattling Run, and Linda, Armar’s daughter, used the middle room.  Guests stayed in the balcony room.  Look on the floor, and you’ll see lines were built-in cupboards ran the length of each side. 

Saving the building from condemnation and dismantling, on June 12, 2006, Swatara Watershed Association signed and returned their first lease to DCNR, which was returned fully executed in August 2006.  Repairs to Labor and Industry standards were completed in December 2015.  A second 10-year lease was executed through December 31, 2025.  Please consider a donation to help with ongoing maintenance, supplies and/or volunteer to adopt the cabin for a month.

History of Armar Bordner and his cabin


WhereBordner Cabin—Take Route 72 north from the City of Lebanon.  Continue north through the Lickdale intersection past Swift Trucking. 

  1. At the next intersection, turn right onto Monroe Valley Road (towards the golf course), then left onto Old State Road to Swatara State Park, under the Route 81 bridges to the Appalachian Trail/Waterville bridge ( a total of 2.7 miles).  Park, and hike, bike, ski, or horseback ride another 2.6 miles north past the Appalachian Trail Bridge toward Schuylkill County.  The cabin lane is on your right just past  Rattling  Run, which is the second creek; the first creek is alongside the Sand Siding crossing on the new “C” bridge. 
  2. From Swopes Valley Road, hike on the Rail Trail (Old State Road/Bear Hole Trail) about 2.5 miles toward Lebanon.  After the electricity lines stop, the lane to the Bordner Cabin is on your left.  Look for large stones just past the driveway, and Rattling Run, which passes through culverts under the road.
  3. The shortest route, (1.6 miles) to hike in is from the Sand Siding Trailhead.  The parking lot is about one-half mile down a dirt road that enters the Swatara State Park from Route 72 just south of Twin Grove Park, 1445 Suedburg Rd., Pine Grove PA  17963.  Hike the Rail Trail towards Lebanon to a Park Bench.  Turn left, and cross the new footbridge across the Swatara Creek.  Continue walking to a “T” in the road, which is Old State Road/Bear Hole Trail.  Turn Left.  Walk about .6 miles crossing two streams to the Bordner Cabin on your right.  The second stream is Rattling Run, which runs from Aycriggs Falls alongside the Bordner Cabin.

Future Projects

Wish List of Cabin projects:  You have an opportunity to sponsor a project with a bequest, donation, and/or your gift of time and talent to help us take the Bordner Cabin to a condition that will last another 7 decades so that future generations will be able to learn, explore, and appreciate real workmanship with a passion.  To volunteer, contact Jo Ellen Litz 

So what would we like done?  

 Build a bench for the porch.
 Repair the chimney.
 Install two Amish solar lights inside the entrance to brighten the cabin and stairs on overcast days.
 “Armar” crafted from grapevines for the porch end bannister 
  Shotcrete under porch and restore streambed