Historical sites designated

Fire lookout, 2 other buildings recognized for 'value'

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— The old concrete fire lookout located on top of "Old Baldy" or Hahn's Peak has been designated as a historical site along with two other Routt County buildings.

The Board of County Commissioners approved the designations Monday.

The fire lookout, a basic looking tower, can't be exactly lauded for its stunning architectural design. But the tower is only one of two such structures in Colorado.

It also made it on the historical register because of its "character" and "value" it offered to the heritage of Routt County.

The fire lookout was built in 1912 by the U.S. Forest Service at an elevation of 10,839 feet.

"It's part of our earliest fire-suppression efforts," said Sue Struthers of the U.S. Forest Service.

"They had to haul the material up there by horseback."

She said an important figure in the Routt Forest's history supervised the construction.

Harvey Ratliff was Routt's first forest supervisor who was caught up in the middle of the sheep/cattle wars when the federal government decided to allow sheep grazing on forestland.

"He was even shot at," Struthers said.

"Everybody always asks what it is," said Diana Bolton, who serves as tour guide at nearby Steamboat Lake.

"It was closed because of the danger of lightning," Bolton said.

County Commissioner Doug Monger said one man died just two years ago when he was struck by lightning in the tower.

The tower is still standing and accessible to the public if you can make the climb.

The small ranching community of Toponas (population 40) has also received the county's historical designation for its community club located along Colorado 131.

The old wood-frame building, built in 1924, is the center of social activity for the community.

Seventy years ago that meant "home demonstration clubs" where the local ladies learned to become "better homemakers," said Mary Jean Perry, whose grandfather was an original homesteader.

Back then, Toponas was a thriving farming and ranching community, where lettuce and spinach were big-time cash crops.

Ranching is mostly all that's left now, but the community club is still the place where reunions, meetings and parties are held.

The final building put on Routt County's historical register is connected with the founder of Steamboat Springs and his wife.

The rustic log church that houses the Christian Science Society at Seventh and Oak streets was built in 1934, 26 years after after Mrs. James Crawford brought the religion to Steamboat in 1908. Her husband founded and named the town in 1873.

The building itself was noted for its "river-rock foundation, log construction and overall rustic nature."

The church has even kept its original pews, windows and light fixtures. And the church has maintained another unusual aspect: no bathroom.

In their application, members of the Christian Science Society recalled some of its history, including Robert Wither. Wither would deliver oil to the church from the 1940s to the 1980s, when it was still using an oil furnace. He would often provide this for free and remembers when the oil cost 8 cents a gallon.

Historical designations allow some tax benefits for repairs and construction costs for those buildings. In some cases, historical buildings are even eligible for grants.

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