Preserving history: Historic Routt opens endowment fund to maintain, protect local landmarks

Vandalism of local historic building brings need to forefront

Historic Routt County has opened an endowment fund with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation to preserve and maintain historic landmarks in the area. One of the projects that spurred the need for more preservation funds is the historic Hahn's Peak fire lookout, which was vandalized in the summer of 2018.
Historic Routt County/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After 20 years of preserving historic places in the area and educating people about local heritage, Historic Routt County has opened an endowment fund with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. 

Members of the nonprofit envision the fund as a way to expand their preservation initiatives, in particular implementing a stewardship program to maintain historic buildings in disrepair.

According to Emily Katzman, executive director of Historic Routt, maintenance has been among the primary initiatives her organization wants to improve. Since its inception in 1999, Historic Routt has documented hundreds of places of historical importance in the area, including more than 100 historic ranches, according to an August news release. 

“Just because we make in investment in one place doesn’t mean we can forget about it,” she said. 

As Katzman explained, many structures designated as historically significant have deteriorated over the years, but a lack of resources has made it difficult to make the necessary fixes.

One landmark in particular brought the need of stewardship to the forefront, according to Katzman.

In 2017, Historic Routt teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to repair the Hahn’s Peak fire lookout in North Routt. Built at the top of the peak in 1912, the lookout was one of the first fire management projects funded by the Forest Service in Colorado. 

In 2014, Colorado Preservation Inc. listed the building as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places, largely due to exposure and vandalism. The listing helped to spur the 2017 repairs, but just a year later vandals attacked the lookout again. 

Damages included 13 broken windows, a busted door and a destroyed piece of the lookout’s cab, which fire watchers used to get directional bearings on a fire.

“There was no money to fix it,” said Arianthé Stettner, board member and co-founder of Historic Routt. “With an endowment, we could have an emergency fund to make repairs.”

Stettner also sees the fund as a way to give the board more autonomy to pursue to preservation work.

One of the nonprofit’s recent projects she is most proud of is Crossan’s M&A Market in Yampa. Originally a general store built in 1903, her nonprofit worked with town officials and the Friends of Crossan’s group to renovate the building and adapt its function so residents could continue to use it. 

It now serves as Yampa’s visitor center and town hall.

The entire project cost around $2 million to complete, according to Stettner, which required years of fundraising. As the value of the endowment grows, she hopes Historic Routt can have the money to contribute more to such efforts.

“There will only be more buildings to save,” Stettner said. “There will only be more stories to tell.”

Historic Routt County opened its endowment fund as part of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s endowment building incentive program, according to Helen Beall, the foundation’s community impact manager. 

Over the last two years, her organization has helped 10 local nonprofits open such funds, with the goal of enabling them to have a long-term presence and impact in the Yampa Valley. Other organizations that have opened endowments include the Tread of Pioneers Museum, Friends of Wilderness and the Steamboat Art Museum.

The foundation set aside $100,000 to award to nonprofits through the program, according to Beall. An organization can open an endowment with an initial deposit of $10,000, she explained. A donation-matching challenge helps to grow the nonprofits fund over time. 

For every dollar a nonprofit raises, the foundation donates 25 cents, up to $10,000, according to Beall.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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