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In 1939 the Appalachian Trail Conference issued guidelines to its member clubs regarding the construction of shelters (then called lean-tos) along the Appalachian Trail. The goal, as stated in this document, was to place shelters approximately 10 miles apart:
Such spacing avoids undue exertion for travelers carrying heavy packs and yet permits "skipping" a lean-to by more strenuously inclined traveler's for their day's journey.
The design of the lean-tos was to follow the general design of the Adirondack shelter: three-walled, with a steeply sloping roof, and a stone fireplace at the front that would radiate heat into the structure.
Corbin, the builder of the home and its only resident, came to visit the work crew while they were there to describe his life in upper Nicholson Hollow and to provide some history of the cabin. He was 65 years old at the time.
The work on the cabin was made easier by the crew's ability to drive a jeep down what is now the Nicholson Hollow Trail to bring supplies to the work site. That trail is now impassable to vehicles. In the summer of 2017, a National Park Service historic preservation crew replaced the roof on the cabin and had to fly the roofing materials in by helicopter.
Structure Completion Dates
Lewis Spring Lean-to: May 1936
Rock Spring Shelter: June 1937
Doyle River Shelter: March 1937
Pocosin Shelter: June 1937
Big Run Lean-to: February 1939
Rip Rap Lean-to: February 1939
Old Rag Lean-to: September 1939
High Top Lean-to: October 1939
Pass Mountain Lean-to: October 1939
Meadow Springs Shelter: September 1939
Hawksbill Gap Lean-to: May 1940
Bearfence Lean-to:June 1940
Shaver Hollow Lean-to:July 1940
South River Lean-to:July 1940
Pinefield Lean-to: August 1940
Big Flat Lean-to: December 1940
Gravel Springs Lean-to: January 1941
Indian Run Lean-to: March 1941
Black Rock Lean-to: June 1941
Sawmill Run Lean-to: June 1941
Elkwallow Lean-to: December 1941
According to the Bulletin of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (July 1939), the Manassas Gap Shelter (then called a Lean-to) repesented the first project "accomplished as a result of the ruling of Director Fechner of the Civilian Conservation Corps that, subject to certain conditions, the CCC could build lean-tos on privately owned lands."
At the time of the shelter's construction, it was accessible by car via the Linden-Ashby Gap fire road, which would take visitors to within 250 feet of the structure.