After decades of debate over how to preserve it, Steamboat Springs’ historic Arnold Barn is on the move.
The barn is moving 1,000 feet from the base of Steamboat Ski Resort to the knoll above the intersection of Mount Werner Road and Mount Werner Circle.
Preservationists say the move was the only way to save the 1928 structure. The barn had begun to sink into the wetland where it sits near what is now the ski resort’s parking lot. It was a sad sight, said Arianthé Stettner with the group Save Arnold Barn.
“Every skier who drives up Mount Werner road could see this historic structure languishing, a memento - a sad memento - of our early agricultural days,” Stettner said.
In its new location, the restored barn will serve as a landmark for visitors, as well as a way to “properly” honor Steamboat’s agricultural history, she said.
The 160-acre property was a dairy farm owned by Walter Arnold until 1961, when he sold it and the accompanying buildings to the new Storm Mountain Ski Corporation’s fledgling resort.
The land became a parking lot, Stettner said. Over time the henhouse, corrals, sheds, ranch and bunkhouses were all demolished. Only the barn remained, relegated to storage for the resort.
The property changed hands several times over the years, with differing plans for the barn -- none of which came to fruition. Meanwhile, Mount Werner Road was built on one side and an access road was built above it. The construction led to drainage issues for the property and the barn.
“It was starting to sink into a man-made wetland,” Stettner said.
The Mountain merchants began working in conjunction with the city of Steamboat Springs to develop an urban renewal authority to address the area. In 2006 the URA listed the barn as a blighted site that needed to be addressed.
But once again the project stalled.
In 2016, local citizens formed the group Save Arnold Barn.
“We just started doing research on the history, on the family, on the possibilities for saving the barn,” Stettner said.
Initially the goal was to restore the barn in keeping with the principles of historic preservation by keeping the barn on the property to provide proper context, she said. But surrounded by roads and condos, the context had changed so much that it no longer made sense.
The group hired Colorado architect Dennis Humphries, who also worked on the project to restore the Capitol dome. Humphries told the organization that if they left the barn where it was, it would sink into the wetlands and be lost. The best option, he said, was to move it.
The new location was chosen because of its accessibility. Surrounded by open fields and located at the intersection of two of the most commonly traveled roads, “it will serve as a welcoming, wayfinding landmark,” Stettner said.
The move is the first phase of the project. In the second phase - estimated to begin in 2019 - will include signage and opportunities for education. Because of zoning regulations, the barn cannot house anything, but Stettner said it will be used as an educational site.
While the process has been a long one, Stettner said it’s also one that celebrates Routt County’s agricultural and ski heritage.
“It really speaks to the willingness of local citizens and preservationists (...) saying that this is an irreplaceable piece of our history,” Stettner said, “and working together we can save it for future generations.”