Honoring History

DeLaney family plans to restore historical buildings on ranch north of Hayden

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The black and white photograph that hangs in Pat and Tammie DeLaney's dining room powerfully illustrates how time can never touch some things in life.

The DeLaneys estimate the picture, which offers a sweeping view of their ranch, dates back to the 1930s.

But a walk through the cluster of buildings that comprise their ranch today would reveal a place that varies only slightly from the ranch in the old photograph.

From the brass latches on the chicken coop behind the garage to the stone pillars that greet visitors at the front of the narrow driveway, the ranching tradition begun decades ago by a once penniless Russian immigrant still exists.

The ranch, which overlooks the Yampa River just north of Hayden, has changed little since Isadore Bolten, for whom the ranch is named, first acquired the property about 75 years ago.

A strong deference to the past recently earned the property a spot on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

The state register denotes cultural resources in Colorado that merit preservation, said national and state register historian Holly Wilson.

The Bolten Ranch deserves recognition not only for its historical significance but its authenticity, she said.

People who tour the house, barn and outbuildings today will see what Bolten saw when he ranched sheep and cattle on the property.

Unlike ranching and mining properties in the state that hold historical significance but change over time to keep up with technology, Wilson said, the ranch maintains its original appearance.

"Many properties hold wonderful histories," she said. "But it's difficult for people to look at them today and see the same things people saw years ago."

The first thing Tammie DeLaney noticed when she first looked at the property was a towering white structure behind the house.

"The thing that made us fall in love with this place was the barn," she said. "It was the first thing we saw."

The five-story wooden barn with green trim and original gambrel roof still amazes builders, Pat DeLaney said.

"It's like a cathedral."

The couple purchased the Bolten Ranch in 1994.

After Pat DeLaney saw the property advertised for sale in the newspaper, he immediately drove to Hayden to see it for himself.

Despite four or five other offers from eager buyers, the owner accepted the DeLaneys' bid.

"Somehow we got it," Tammie DeLaney said. "It was basically a thing of the heart."

They intend to restore buildings on their property over a 20-year period.

The lengthy process of removing old paint and applying fresh paint to the house and barn took a professional paint company almost three weeks.

Replacing the barn's rooftops the couple's "to do" list, but as with most of the restoration projects on the ground, money and time are demanded.

"Everywhere we look is a project to be done," she said. "We just go slowly but surely."

The first year at the ranch introduced them to the joys of home ownership.

They learned to deal with water lines, sewer lines and roofs gone awry.

"It was one disaster after another," Tammie DeLaney said.

She briefly considered putting the property back on the market, she said, until she realized what she might be giving up a chance to share history with her children, Liam, 6, and Millie, 4.

Their commitment of time and resources to the Bolten Ranch is merely what is due a place with such tradition and historical significance, she said.

"It's a way to honor the property," she said. "With a place like this, you've got to honor its history."

Previous owners, such as Donna Hellyer, and nearby neighbors act like ranch historians who provide valuable stories about the property.

The photo that hangs in the dining room was a gift from Hellyer, who lived on the ranch in the 1960s and 1970s.

The ranch, which stands on an elevated parcel of land, was once called "Hellyer Hill."

"It needs a family who loves it," she said.

Hellyer remodeled the kitchen while she lived there, but the rest of the house and surrounding buildings remain the same, she said.

The projects have not changed, either.

While Pat and Tammie were moving their refrigerator, they discovered one of Hellyer's "to do" lists with notes to mow the lawn, repair the fence and paint the buildings.

"Most of the stuff still needs to be done," Pat DeLaney said.

Unlike the typical modest log construction of ranchsteads, the design of the Bolten Ranch features some unusual flair.

The uniformity of design and materials found at the ranch set it apart from most ranches in Routt County, said Laureen Schaffer, a site preservation specialist with Historic Routt County.

"The architecture is more stylized and more formal than what we usually see here," Schaffer said. "This one is built to make a statement."

The Craftsman-inspired house was typical of the period in which it was built, Pat DeLaney said. Its many mirrors, emphasis on light and room divider speak of the era in which it was constructed, he added.

Despite a few renovations within the house, much of the original interior remains the same.

"Whoever built this house built it really well," he said. "We're really fortunate that not a lot was done in this area of the house during remodeling," he said.

Although he works as the general manager of Steamboat Resorts and she works as the project coordinator for the Orton Family Foundation, both husband and wife manage to raise horses and yaks on their property.

They have no television. The family spends its time caring for the animals.

"That's what we do for entertainment," Tammie DeLaney said. "We work for entertainment."

Liam and Millie DeLaney don't seem to mind. They climb hay bales in the barn, run up the snowy hillside and visit with their horses.

Friends ask why they would choose to live on a ranch, Tammie DeLaney said. She and her family wouldn't want to live anywhere else, she said.

Their commitment to the historical ranch bodes well for historians, who say they would like to see more ranches like the DeLaneys recognized for their enduring qualities and placed on the state register.

"Our ranching resources are going by the wayside," Wilson said. "It's about time we start recognizing what is left and start acknowledging the significant role ranching and agriculture played in this state."

Schaffer, who researched the Bolten Ranch, said the state designation helps to honor the state's heritage by preserving an important piece of history in northwestern Colorado.

"It's a recognition that this is really what Routt County is."

To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4208

or e-mail dharrelson@steamboat.com

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