Community Ag Alliance: Planning in motion for Hahns Peak restoration project

Community Ag Alliance: Planning in motion for Hahns Peak restoration project

Fire lookout towers allowed early Forest Service rangers to accurately identify the location of fires in the newly created national forests. Today, the Hahns Peak Lookout near Clark stands silently as a testament to that early history.  

Using horses and mules to pack in tools and construction materials, the Lookout was constructed between 1908 and 1912 by early Forest Service Rangers at 10,893 feet on the remains of the Hahns Peak Gold Mine. It was one of the first officially funded fire lookouts in Colorado, and it is one of the last remaining of its kind today. 

When first constructed, the Lookout appeared different than it does now. The original structure did not have the observation cab seen today, a component that was added during World War II. Instead, the lookout was simply a single-story, one-room stone and concrete observation cabin. The stone walls and the deck for Rangers to view the expansive distance were exposed to the harsh elements above treeline, resulting in much of the damage seen today. 

As the United States entered WWII, the lookout received a facelift. The Civilian Conservation Corps covered the exposed stone with a layer of concrete and added the observation cab.  

With the new look came a new mission. Throughout WWII, the purpose of the lookout was enhanced. Since so much timber was needed to support the war, it was still important to identify forest fires early. In addition to watching for fires, those manning the Lookout stood vigil for aerial enemy invasion. 

The lookout was manned until approximately 1947. After the 1950s, the emphasis for identifying fires shifted from manned lookouts to identification from the air.

No longer in use, Hahns Peak Lookout slowly fell into disrepair. In the past 10 years, there has been significant vandalism at the site. The interior has been defaced and picked apart, and the exterior concrete has broken apart. A fire was set inside, threatening the entire structure. Emergency stabilization was completed in 2013 to stabilize the structure by bracing the cab and reinforcing the floor and deck where it had burned.  

In 2014, the Hahns Peak Lookout was voted onto the prestigious Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List. The Most Endangered Places List is a program of Colorado Preservation Inc. and recognizes historically significant places in danger of being lost forever.  

In order to save the site, members of the community are invited to participate in the restoration of this iconic building during the summer of 2015. The extensive project will take six weeks and starts Aug. 16 and will continue through Sept. 25. Volunteers will learn many historic preservation skills, such as how to replace roofing material, rehabilitate flooring and wall framing, lay tongue and groove flooring, frame windows and doors and reconstruct stairs and rails. Extensive masonry repairs are needed at the site as well.

Local volunteers are encouraged and welcome. This is a great opportunity to volunteer in a location where the view can’t be beat. Interested people should contact Rebecca Curry, volunteer coordinator at HistoriCorps at for complete details.

This project is made possible only through partnerships. The Forest Service has partnered with Historic Routt County to manage the project. HistoriCorps has been hired as the general contractor, and Jan Kaminski of Mountain Architecture Design Group is the architect.

Funding also has been secured to hire the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps’ Historic Preservation Corps for two weeks, where local youths ages 17 to 21 will learn historic preservation skills. Also engaged will be volunteers from the Passport in Time program and the Forest Fire Lookout Association. The Hahns Peak Area Historical Society will be involved as well.

Significant funding for the project graciously has been provided by the Colorado State Historical Fund, United State Forest Service, Museum and Heritage Fund Advisory Board of the Routt County Commissioners, National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Peter Grant Fund and local donations. Donations are still being accepted and are very much appreciated. Interested persons should contact Historic Routt County at

Bridget Roth is president of the board of directors of Historic Routt County, a local nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization that connects yesterday’s places with tomorrow.

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