Newest addition to Steamboat’s historic register is former home of pioneer Doc Willett |

Newest addition to Steamboat’s historic register is former home of pioneer Doc Willett

Doc Willett used horse-drawn sleigh on house calls

Celebrating the addition of the original home of Steamboat's pioneer physician, Frederick E. Willett, known as Doc Willett, to the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places, are Sheila Henderson, executive director of Integrated Community, and Kate Nowak, executive director of Routt County United Way, whose nonprofits share ownership of the building. Also attending are City of Steamboat Springs Historic Preservation Commissioners Katie Adams, Sally TeStrake and Amy Pollard, with the city's historic preservation consultant, Erica Swissler Hewitt.
Courtesy photo

The home of Steamboat’s country doctor Frederick E. Willett, who arrived in what was still a frontier town in 1912, was added to the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places Aug. 23, during a gathering attended by representatives of two community organizations that now make Doc Willett’s longtime home at 443 Oak St. their downtown headquarters.

The modest, mustard yellow home at the corner of Fifth and Oak streets is believed to have been constructed in 1906 shortly before railroad service began in Steamboat in 1909. The wood frame home has been modified, including the addition of roof gables that were not original and were not deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. However, the prominence of its original occupant makes it a Steamboat landmark.

Willett might find it rewarding that today the building is co-owned by two nonprofit organizations, Integrated Community and Routt County United Way. It’s official name is the 443 Oak Nonprofit Center.

Willett was the kind of physician who didn’t send his patients bills for their treatment but accepted payment when it was offered. He delivered hundreds of babies and remained in practice long enough to deliver the children of babies he had delivered.

Doc Willet’s home put to good use

Integrated Community Executive Director Sheila Henderson said that the building was built by Archie and Charlie Wither, and the two nonprofits that occupy it today are pursuing some historical renovations.

The State Historical Fund granted monies to conduct an assessment of the building, and as a result, there are plans to re-point and strengthen the building foundation of native sandstone. While the building is otherwise structurally sound, it will also need a new metal roof in the next two to three years, Henderson said.

Willett might be remembered best for establishing Steamboat’s first hospital. For more than 25 years, he operated the Steamboat Hospital, originally located in the building now occupied by the Old Town Pub and later in a former boarding house that was converted into a hospital.

Somehow, Willett found time to serve as Steamboat’s mayor from 1920 to 1926. 

The man, who suffered from sickness himself, lived to be 87 and died in December 1970, knowing that with the help of his many donations and his estate, Steamboat Springs had a new, modern hospital on the hill at Park Street.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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