Full of history, Heritage Center opens for 2000 season


— The Hayden Heritage Center museum opened for the summer Friday, offering residents a place to experience the history of the Old West and the Yampa Valley, and long-time residents a place to explore their regional roots and family histories.

"One thing that really surprises me is the number of people who live here, and have always lived here, but haven't visited the museum at least not for a great many years. I think a lot of people don't know or forget that it's here. It's too bad because there's so much to offer," Museum Board President Susan Altavilla said.

Those whose ancestors were pioneers, miners and ranchers are likely to find stories and pictures of their kin at the former Denver & Rio Grande Western Depot, where the museum was established in 1970.

Residents who are new to the valley may be surprised by the rich history of a town as seemingly quiet and isolated as Hayden.

"Hayden used to be the county seat that's why the fairgrounds are here and it is also why we have, at the museum, the first printing press ever brought to the valley, and issues of the Routt County Republican dating back to 1903," Altavilla said.

An impressive collection of pioneer clothing, furniture, appliances, and farming equipment also is on display at the museum. The museum's collection of old saddles is also the source of some phenomenal cowboy stories based in the Hayden of history.

Photographs of Hayden's first settlements in the 19th century, of U.S. 40 as a narrow dirt road, and of Rabbit Ears Pass construction initiated by a couple of men and a couple of horses are also likely to impress museum visitors.

It is also possible to find out which houses were moved from Mount Harris to Hayden after the fatal explosion at Wadge Mine in 1942.

"I think it's so important to know the history of the area, what Hayden is and was what it might become. It's important to know how vital the coal companies and agriculture were to the area, and who the people were that made the town and contributed to its history," tour guide Donna Hellyer said.

Hellyer and Janet Ozbun will be museum tour guides for the summer. Hellyer has lived in the valley for 40-plus years, and Ozbun was born and raised in the area.

"The tour guides are as much as source of fascinating information as anything at the Heritage Center," Altavilla said.

The Heritage Center does not have any special summer events planned yet, but it will be hosting another mother-daughter tea in September, and the all-familiar tree festival fund-raiser in December.

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net


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