Tales from the Tread: ‘Lost Steamboat’ but not forgotten
“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” — Winston Churchill
The “Lost Steamboat” exhibit now is open to the public at the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The display features historical photographs of significant buildings that are no longer standing. Whether lost through fire, demolition or remodel, the buildings were an important part of the fabric of our community.
The exhibit is a partnership between the Tread of Pioneers Museum, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Historic Routt County, the city of Steamboat Springs, Kelly&Stone Architects and Photographics.art.
“The idea for Lost Steamboat was generated while brainstorming an event for Colorado Architecture Month in April that would promote architecture through free events for the community,” said Adam Wright, of Kelly&Stone Architects.
The exhibit first opened at the Chief Theater for a Historic Routt County fundraiser April 10.
“One of the most exciting aspects of the project was the collaboration between all of us,” Wright said. “Arianthé Stettner deserves a lion share of the credit for all her research and commitment to getting this done despite a busy schedule, but all of us made it a priority. … It was great to see.
“Lost Steamboat holds great significance for our community. Rarely do we take pause to evaluate the history of our architecture. In a small way, this exhibit allows us to do so,” Wright said.
Stettner, a local historic preservation professional and a member of the Lost Steamboat committee, selected the images from the Tread of Pioneers Museum photo archives for the exhibit and researched the history for captions for each of the buildings in the exhibit. She shared the following:
“Fire caused the loss of many of the town’s earliest structures. Wooden buildings such as the Cabin Hotel, the first Union School, and the Congregational Church were among its victims. Even the stone and cast iron Wither Mercantile and the brick Good News Building succumbed to the ravages of fire and were destroyed. Some buildings were lost due to changing times and customer demographics. The Crosswhite Livery stable, the river cobble Texaco gas station and A-Frame Warming hut no longer met contemporary expectations. And finally, as property owners changed and property values increased, buildings were demolished to make way for larger structures and a variety of new uses.
“The buildings in this exhibit demonstrate a wide variety of styles and materials, many of them unique to Steamboat Springs. Those constructed before the arrival of the railroad used local materials: lumber milled from nearby trees, stone from the quarry on Emerald Mountain, bricks fired at the Trogler brickyard on the outskirts of town, and river cobbles from the Yampa River. When the transportation of materials became more convenient and less expensive, construction options expanded. Today’s projects rarely use local materials.”
“It is important to recognize that Steamboat has a very diverse and eclectic legacy of architecture representing contributions ranging from skilled architects to inventive local craftsman,” said Tyler Gibbs, director of planning and community development for the city of Steamboat Springs.
“This authentic diversity represents Steamboat’s history and our population very well. Our buildings are one of the few contributions we make to our community that will likely outlive us.
“No matter who the designer or builder was, these structures express the pride of the owner and the aspirations of the community well beyond the immediate functional needs of the moment,” Gibbs said.
Make your way to the Tread of Pioneers Museum this spring and discover this rare glimpse of our lost architectural past. The museum is always free to Routt County residents.
Candice Bannister is the executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
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Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.