Community Agriculture Alliance: Moving history in Routt County
August 23, 2018
Moving buildings is a Routt County tradition. A close look into Routt County's architectural history reveals a surprising number of structures that have been relocated in the past. They range from agricultural buildings and school houses to homes. You might be surprised to learn that you live or work in a building that was moved from another location. Buildings are moved for a variety of reasons, but prevailing themes include practicality, necessity and resource conservation. Historic preservationist Arianthé Stettner explains it simply: In the past, "if a building didn't work where it was, you moved it."
A number of local ranch properties have a history of moving buildings. The Semotan Ranch in North Routt County, for example, is composed of seven buildings and structures that have been moved there from neighboring properties. According to the Routt County Register of Historic Properties, the Long Gulch Schoolhouse, built from 1911 to 1913, was moved in 1948 to its current site on the Semotan Ranch to be used for hay and grain storage.
The Hitchens Ranch near Milner has a similar story. In 1929, Albert Hitchens moved all the buildings from his original homestead closer to the newly constructed U.S. Highway 40. He split his two-room house in half to become two separate buildings: a chicken coop and a bunkhouse. Nothing went to waste. Buildings on the Daughenbaugh family's Rocking C Bar Ranch near Elk Mountain were moved even farther. In fact, Rocking C Bar is the home of several buildings from the historic Mount Harris coal mining community.
Pieces of Mount Harris are spread far and wide across the region. From 1914 to 1958, Mount Harris was a bustling community and prosperous company town located at the mouth of Bear River Canyon, east of Hayden. At its peak, the town's 1,295 residents frequented a general store, post office, drug store, barbershop and pool hall — when they were not working in the underground mine.
The Colorado-Utah mine closed in spring 1958. According to Judy Seligson's research and interviews, despite the efforts of residents to buy and maintain the town, it was dismantled and auctioned off May 20, 1958. Piece by piece, Mount Harris was deconstructed and carried away. Structures were rebuilt using the Mount Harris materials for homes throughout Routt County and as far as Baggs, Wyoming. The Mount Harris church was cut in two and moved in halves to Hayden, to house the American Legion.
In the past, structures were rolled on logs and pulled by a team of horses. Thankfully, moving technology has become more sophisticated over the years, to ensure a building is protected during relocation. Yet, no matter how simple a lift or move, house moving is a delicate, remarkable operation.
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This fall, we will have the opportunity to witness another big move. Soon, the historic Arnold Barn will be relocated about 1,000 feet from its current location at the edge of the Meadows Parking Lot, to the intersection of Mount Werner Road and Mount Werner Circle. Before the move, lifting and stabilizing the barn for the move will take many days, as will constructing a foundation for the barn at the new site. The actual move should be completed over the course of a day. After the barn is relocated, it will be preserved in its new home, to stand for years to come as a welcoming, accessible landmark of Steamboat Springs. Stay tuned for news on the big move in the coming weeks.
Emily Katzman is the executive director for Historic Routt County.