Historic HiWay Bar restored | SteamboatToday.com

Historic HiWay Bar restored

Brandon Gee

— The HiWay Bar soon will have a new, old look.

In an effort to restore the property to its historical state – and take care of some much-needed maintenance – owner Fawna Odom is undertaking massive renovations.

“It just needed to be restored and brought back to its historical condition,” Odom said.

Odom submitted an application to the Routt County Historic Preservation Board last month in hopes of getting the bar added to the Routt County Register of Historic Properties. The board has recommended approving Odom’s application, but the decision still awaits approval from Routt County commissioners.

“At one point or another, it has meant a lot of things to a lot of people,” Odom said of the HiWay Bar.

The building was the homestead of William Walker and was built in 1888. J.L. Norvell, who turned it into a multi-purpose dry goods store, purchased it a few years later. In the years since, the building has served as a liquor store, a gambling hall, a general store and a bank, among other things. Odom said a warehouse in the back of the building once served as Hayden’s jail because it was the only building in the town that had a lock.

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“It’s probably the oldest continuous business in Northwest Colorado,” said Pat Holderness, a Hayden resident and historian and a member of the Routt County Historic Preservation Board. “I don’t think it has ever been closed down that I know of.”

Holderness said many interesting stories surround the property and recalled one about Norvell deciding to become a “cowboy preacher.”

“The story is, when he became a cowboy preacher and got religion, he took his liquor out and poured it in the street and cowboys wept,” Holderness said. “I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s the story.”

Odom collected several historical documents and pictures for her presentation to the historic preservation board.

Among them is a picture of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid standing outside Norvell’s dry goods store. Odom said she learned a lot about the property, which she has owned since 1990.

“It has been so fun to research,” Odom said.

Fun doesn’t mean cheap, though. The kitchen has been closed for about a month because of the renovations. She hopes to have the kitchen open by August. She said her customers have understood.

“They’re mad at me because I can’t feed them,” Odom joked. “But they’ve been awesome and so loyal and great. I can’t wait to get everyone back together again.”

Although Odom thought she would be able to restore the HiWay Bar for less than $100,000, “surprises” along the way have pushed the cost into the six figures, Odom said. There have been good surprises, though. While pulling up old linoleum in the building, workers found copies of the Denver Post from the 1930s.

Some changes already are noticeable at the bar, including the replacement of floors that weren’t level. Odom said it had been so long since her pool tables sat on level ground that people “don’t know how to walk around” them. On the front of the building, the HiWay Bar’s previous names, such as “Candy’s Place,” can be seen printed beneath the brown wood siding that was added in the 1970s and is being removed in favor of the clapboard siding underneath.

Karolynn Lestrud, also a member of the historic preservation board, applauded Odom’s renovations, especially the rectifying of “very unfortunate modernizations.”

“It’s very exciting that an owner is that interested in a building that they want to restore it,” Lestrud said.

Both Holderness and Lestrud said Odom’s decision to restore the bar to its historical state were positive factors in the preservation board’s decision to recommend that it be added to the Routt County Register of Historic Properties. If approved, Odom may see some financial relief – historical designation can mean state and federal tax credits for preservation in addition plaques and certificates.