An important place in history: Portia Mansfield’s ‘Halfway House’ cabins added to Routt County register of historic places
Near where Amethyst Drive intersects with Strawberry Park Road north of Steamboat Springs are three old cabins with a long history.
One of the cabins has a small, one-of-a-kind, red rock slab amphitheater where students at the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp would perform in the summer. Another has two adobe stoves pointing through the roof.
For Tammie Delaney, the most memorable piece of the cabins built by Portia Mansfield, one of two founders of the renowned Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, was gone long ago.
“(Portia Mansfield) loved to gather the neighborhood kids around for root beer floats,” Delaney recalled. “She had these very fancy little root beer float spoons that are also straws. Those are the standouts in a 5-year-old’s mind.”
The three cabins — the only buildings in Routt County directly associated with Mansfield — were added to the Routt County Register of Historic Properties on Tuesday, Feb. 1.
Delaney, a member of the Bowes Family, who now owns the cabins, grew up nearby, has many fond memories of Mansfield and believes that she and other women living in the Yampa Valley have left a lasting legacy.
“She was just and amazing lady,” Delaney said. “But it wasn’t just here. It was this group of very visionary, modern women that, back in the 20s and 30s, were doing things and envisioned things that were so far beyond their time periods.”
The cabins are more than 70 years old and are believed to have been built by coal miners when they weren’t working in Oak Creek. There were no building codes in the county at the time, so the cabins are considered to be of a “cowboy construction.”
“It was practical,” said Arianthé Stettner, board member emeritus of Historic Routt County. “They’re modest, they’re unassuming, they’re part of the landscape, and that is what makes their charm.”
The three cabins are being added to the registry as a district encompassing the entire seven-acre property. Another notable historical district on the registry is the Perry-Mansfield campus itself.
The Mansfield cabins were referred to as the “Halfway House” because of their location roughly halfway between Perry-Mansfield and Steamboat Springs. Cabin No. 2 on the property was the first build in 1948 and was Mansfield’s primary summer residence.
Over the years, the cabins have housed several prominent residents, such as the filmmaker Len Aitken, Colorado arts advocate and philanthropist Carol Gossard and Robert Krear, a naturalist and professor at what would eventually become Colorado Mountain College.
Born in 1887, Mansfield and her friend Charlotte Perry moved their then-Rocky Mountain Dancing Camp to Strawberry Park in 1915, where it was renamed Perry-Mansfield and is still the longest continuously running performing arts camp in the nation.
In 1935, Mansfield was named to a list of “Who’s Who of Women in America,” and during World War II, the camp altered its curriculum to include war preparation leadership courses. They also taught about conservation and created a winter evacuation center with a wagon to transport people because fuel was often hard to come by.
Mansfield and Perry also initiated the country’s first Symposium of the Arts, from which some attendees later went on to create the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1964, the camp was donated to Stephens College in Missouri.
“I’m thrilled to see (the cabins) recognized as a historic place in our county,” Delaney said. “The more we grow in our county, the more important these places become.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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