Community Ag Alliance: Hayden museum expansion a project in adaptive reuse

Laurel Watson/For Steamboat Today

The Hayden Heritage Center in Hayden has been working on its museum expansion since the early 2000s, when its board of directors realized the museum would need more space to remain viable.

With a large list of needs, the board originally looked at building a new structure that would have a historical feel and complement the museum’s main building, the nearly 100-year-old Moffat Railroad Depot, which is listed on the National Register.

While looking at the cost of new construction, the museum was presented with the generous donation by The Holderness Family of an old, wooden granary that was sitting vacant five miles south of town. Using old buildings and repurposing them from their original intended use, a process called adaptive reuse, is nothing new to museums in Routt County, as each now resides in a building that once served completely different roles in their communities. However, using an old agricultural structure not designed for people, moving it and repurposing its interior for public use with exhibits and programming space while preserving its historical exterior integrity, is something of a daunting challenge.

The idea of using a locally significant historical agricultural structure to house the museum’s collection was too intriguing to pass up.

The Holderness Granary, a 28-by-75-by 22-foot structure, was built of large, square logs by Jack Holderness on his homestead southwest of Hayden between 1928 and 1940. Originally intended to store more than 10,000 bushels of grain, the structure fell into disuse as grain farming gave way to hay production. Standing forlorn and empty in rolling fields just south of town, it is a testament to our local agricultural heritage, just waiting to succumb to the passage of time.

One of the biggest challenges involved in this project is moving the structure, which, because of its log construction and size, makes the building unsuitable for moving in whole or even in large sections.

Deconstruction — a word that makes most preservationists cringe — was looked at as the only option for moving the building. The museum was fortunate to find partners for this phase in the National Center of Craftsmanship, a nonprofit vocational entity out of Ft. Collins. The NCC group is dedicated to the preservation, enhancement and sustainability of craftsmanship skills. It trains youths, women, minorities and at risk populations, teaching them how old craftsmanship worked and how old buildings were constructed through their DeConstruct program. This phase of the project would be impossible if not for the support of the Babson Carpenter Foundation in Hayden.

Once the structure is carefully taken apart, the materials will be moved to the museum property, where it will be reconstructed in a manner that preserves as much of the original look and feel of the granary exterior. Inside, it will be adapted to the museums needs, including the addition of display and programming space.

The ultimate hope is that this project will not only meet the museums expansion needs, but also show people the relevance of saving and repurposing old structures, even old agricultural structures. For more information regarding this project call the Hayden Heritage Center at 970-276-4380, email or visit the museum’s website:

To learn more about adaptive reuse and its advantages, stop by the Bud Werner Memorial Library at 5:30 p.m. Sept 29, where Yampa Valley Sustainability and Historic Routt County are hosting a “Talking Green” event with Jim Lindberg, from the Seattle based Preservation Green Lab organization.

Laurel Watson is curator of the Hayden Heritage Center.

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