NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KUNC is a member of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.

Grants Preserve Historic Treasures Around Colorado, Including A Barn Turned Model T Dealership

Courtesy Sawyer D'Argonne/Sky-Hi News
The 4 Bar 4 Ranch, located in an innocuous spot along County Road 5 near Fraser, stands humbly quiet yet its lengthy history and the mission to save it are significant and persistent.

The 4 Bar 4 Ranch near Fraser in Grand County was a welcoming site for travelers who had endured the bumpy stagecoach ride over Berthoud Pass in the late 1800s. As they made their journey west, many would stay at the cozy Stagecoach Hotel. It was known for its good food and rooms with a view.

"Anywhere you look, great views. Continental divide. Mountains. Everything," History Colorado preservation specialist Anne McCleave says.

But when the stage stop was made obsolete by trains and automobiles in the early 1900s, the owners decided they needed something else to get people to stop in.

"What surprised us all was finding out it was used as a Ford dealership," McCleave says. "It was just a log barn."

She says the owners would drive Model Ts up the wooden ramps in the barn. When the dealership closed, locals held square dances in the old building. But in recent years, the historic site was starting to fade away.

"It was sinking about two feet into the ground, and the doors - you couldn't open the doors, because they were into the ground," McCleave says. "The roof collapsed. It was best we all agreed to dismantle the hotel and the logs, preserve them to then put it back together."

And that's where the History Colorado State Historical Fund is going to help. McCleave says a $35,000 grant will help build a new foundation for the old barn this summer. And soon, residents will be able to see that slice of Colorado history once again.

"We've got to remember our history," she says. "I think now more than ever we have to remember our history. What has happened? What went wrong? What went right?"

History Colorado is distributing more than $600,000 this spring to help preserve buildings and other historic landmarks in more than a dozen counties around the state.

In southern Colorado, Alamosa residents are trying to preserve an old department store that is an example of Coloradans finding a way to thrive in challenging economic times.

Joe Bain and his family opened the Bain's Department Store in the late 1930s near the end of the Great Depression.

Credit Courtesy/History Colorado
Bain's Department Store in Alamosa

"It's sort of like a living time capsule if you will," preservation specialist Michael Owen says. "There's all sorts of different eras represented in this building."

To start a business during a depression, the Bains had to be thrifty - and creative.

"Its significance is actually related to the hodgepodge nature or the variety of materials that were used to build it," Owen says. "It also sort of captures a time when the building was being built. … A lot of materials were salvaged so it is a very unique building."

But Joe Bain's success didn't last very long. In the 1940s, historians say he was convicted of selling stolen cattle meat. He killed himself the day he was going to be sentenced. Historians say the charges were fabricated.

But Bain's legacy lives on because his old department store is helping Alamosa's most vulnerable residents.

"There's a great public good in what's happening in these stores with low income housing, food banks, services for the homeless," Owen says.

Owen says a $33,000 grant will help restore some of the building's exterior.

Over in Custer County, efforts are underway to raise the profile of an old ranch that was created as a haven for people with asthma and other health problems.

"The lodge was originally called Aspenholm and was constructed in 1898 as the private residence of an Irish settler who sought the dry climate of Colorado for health conditions," preservation specialist Jenny Deichman says.

Deichman says the resort became the Pines Lodge near Westcliffe. She says the property's high-end architecture and stellar views of the Sangre De Cristo mountains attracted visitors from around the world.

Credit Courtesy/History Colorado
The historic Pines Lodge.

"It seems like they came in mass seeking the dry climate and the hot springs and the mountains especially," she says. "I think that's a big historical trend in our state."

Deichman says the grant funding will be used to get the lodge on the National Historic Register.

Learn more about the other projects getting grant funding here.

Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.
Related Content