Detailed Steamboat history now available online thanks to amateur historian

A photo of the Crawford family taken in 1915 in celebration of Margaret and John Crawford's 50th wedding anniversary. James and Margaret Pictured in the front are Margaret and James Crawford and pictured in the back, from left, are John Daniel, Lulie Margie, Mary Beulah and Logan Bourn.
Photo courtesy of Tread of Pioneers Museum

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The area’s first Black resident helps Steamboat Springs’ founding family escape a famous Native American conflict.

A gold seeker looking for the site of a fabled strike actually discovers a coal field.

A Steamboat sawyer jailed for cutting federal timber fights a Denver newspaper for publishing a “dirty lie” about corruption in Steamboat.

A popular bachelor whose name is currently found on a prestigious Steamboat development suddenly disappears after falling for a hoax.

These are just a few of the interesting personalities discovered on Jim Crawford’s new website dedicated to Steamboat and Routt County history, which can be accessed at

The great-grandson of Steamboat founder James H. Crawford has released new research on the pioneers who helped settle the town along with descriptions and pictures of most of the buildings in Old Town.

“You hear about the important people, leaders, the people who ended up rich, but Steamboat was made by a lot of ordinary people,” said Crawford from his current home in Massachusetts. “There were pioneers looking for something to do or who had a hard time back East and wanted to start over again. I wanted to recognize these people.”

Crawford was researching his grandfather’s old home in downtown Steamboat when his studies led him on a historical quest of his own to find out about the people and buildings of Steamboat. Along the way, he managed to correct some inaccuracies by scrutinizing old photographs and skimming through thousands of pages of old newspapers that are now digitized.

In several books and writings, the current Harwigs building has often been cited as the oldest building on Lincoln Avenue, but old photographs show the building was misidentified as the old Springs Drug Store. In fact, the Springs Drug Store was torn down to make way for a parking lot. 

Crawford also said the Lorenz building on the corner of 10th Street and Lincoln Avenue has often been cited as the oldest brick building on Lincoln, but the 1893 date listed on the historic plaque applies to an old wood building that once stood there.

Crawford said the Veterans of Foreign War building next to the Lorenz building is older, having been built in 1900, and the old Steamboat Smokehouse restaurant next door is the oldest stone building on Lincoln, built in 1899.

He also said there’s an older building hidden under the façade of the Colorado Group Realty at 509 Lincoln Ave., which was actually built in 1891.

“But since you can’t see it, it has an asterisk,” Crawford said.

Crawford wants his latest research to serve as an easy reference guide for people interested in historical research, news articles, community surveys, exhibits and historic preservation and planning documents.

Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, said Crawford’s detailed work is priceless.

“Not only does he have these new publications, but he’s continued to be one of the town and county’s premier historians. … Not only in terms of his knowledge and research but also in terms of his access to historical records from the founding Crawford family,” Bannister said.

The website — — features Crawford’s newest historic work including:

  • All Who Came: Biographies of the 426 pioneers who came to Steamboat Springs by 1894, plus many more who came after that date or who settled in other parts of Routt County.
  • Pioneer Buildings: All 99 buildings that were constructed in Steamboat by 1894.
  • Building IDs in Early Steamboat Springs Panoramic Photographs: Panoramic photographs of Steamboat from 1886 to 1909 with all buildings identified.
  • Brick by Brick: All of 846 of the buildings constructed in Steamboat between 1874 and 2018 in the Original, First, Springs, North Highlands and Norvell additions to Steamboat.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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