Hayden Tammie DeLaney said her heart fell first and then she had to figure out how her mind could follow. The ranch, just north of Hayden, was run down when she and her husband, Patrick, first walked onto the property.
The paint was chipped down to bare wood on most of the outbuildings. All the windows on the barn had been shot out. And the house itself looked like the unfortunate result of a paint sale.
"People called it the hot dog house," DeLaney said. "It was covered in bright mustard paint with red shutters."
What might have seemed an eyesore to some looked like potential to the DeLaneys.
Since they bought the Bolten Ranch in 1994, the DeLaneys' place has kept them busy with a daunting "to do" list.
After replacing the septic system, roofing the house and painting the house and barn, the family is finally ready for the biggest project yet -- putting a new roof on the five-story cathedral of a barn.
"This is the last project before we can start work on the inside," DeLaney said. "It's also the most intimidating. It needs to be professionally done, because we want it done right."
Last month, the DeLaney family received the help they need to make the project a reality. The family became the first private ranch owners to receive a grant from the State Historical Fund. The grant will pay for half of the roofing costs with the stipulation that the roof is done with historically correct wood shingles.
The grant represents a turning point for the DeLaneys but also a significant landmark for the historical preservation movement in the United States.
Historic Routt County, through its program called Barns Etc., was the first group to pursue funding for a private ranch, arguing that historical ranch properties are just as important to the public as an aging courthouse or other city building.
The benefit is something as intangible as a feeling, said Laureen Schaffer, historical preservation specialist for Historic Routt County.
"When you are driving to Hayden and see open space and this old, beautiful barn on the hill, it contributes to your sense of place, your enjoyment and pride in your community," Schaffer said.
Schaffer hopes the DeLaney grant will set a precedent for the funding of other private, historical ranches.
The application process began three years ago for the DeLaneys. When Schaffer took the job at Historic Routt County, three years ago, Tammie DeLaney was already at the door interested in getting her ranch on the county and state historical registries.
That's the first step to get any sort of grant funding, Schaffer said.
Historic Routt County nominated the Bolten Ranch, and by 2001, the Bolten Ranch was on the Routt County Registry of Historic Places and on the Colorado Historical Registry.
"Many ranchers don't want their places on the registry because they think it will involve a lot of regulations," Schaffer said. "But there aren't. Routt County is very unique in that aspect. It is only honorific. Ranches are still able to evolve without going through a long process."
The Bolten Ranch holds such a history that it was an easy fit for both the historical registries and funding from the State Historical Fund.
The Bolten Ranch was originally home to Isadore Bolten, who purchased the property more than 75 years ago.
Bolten, a poor Russian immigrant, moved to Routt County in the days that the U.S. government was opening land to homesteaders.
Bolten became one of the largest landholders in northern Colorado. He was based on the Elkhead Ranch but purchased the Bolten Ranch as a summer home and a kind of showplace.
Tammie DeLaney has been collecting articles as she finds them, but Bolten is not as easy to research as other well-known area ranchers, such as Ferry Carpenter, who wrote his own book, she said.
Bolten never had children, but a few longtime locals have shared their stories with the DeLaneys.
"The more I learn about Bolten," Tammie DeLaney said, "the more I want to learn."
The idea of giving state funds to preserve private properties such as the Bolten Ranch started in Routt County, Schaffer said, but other states are also realizing that now is the time to preserve their agricultural heritage -- before it is gone forever.
The advantage that Colorado has over other states, she said, is the availability of funds. The State Historical Fund comes from the proceeds of low-stakes gambling. The fund gives out millions of dollars every year.
The money usually goes to publicly owned projects. Centennial Hall in Steamboat Springs, Rock Creek Stage Stop in Toponas and the Mad Creek Barn were helped with State Historical Fund grants.
Now that the private property precedent has been broken, other ranches can follow suit. But Schaffer warns, "It's a lengthy process and not every ranch will qualify. It's not because we don't see it as historic, but the competition is on a state level."
To qualify for funds to renovate, ranches must be historically and architecturally significant. Ranchers must be sponsored through the grant process by a government agency or a nonprofit.
"We understand that having an historic property can be expensive," Schaffer said. "The DeLaneys could have bought a $5,000 metal roof for their barn, but they chose to keep it the way it was and we want to support that."
The Bolten Ranch buildings were intricately designed and worth saving.
"Everything was built with expense," Schaffer said. "Like the doors, everything was done with style and extra architectural detail."
The endless work of repairing the Bolten property takes most of the DeLaneys' free time, but they don't seem to mind.
"One of my husband's high school buddies asked us why in the world we do it," Tammie DeLaney said. "All I can say is this is what we love to do. It connects us with the spirit of this area and the history. Living in this place gives us a sense of belonging.
"But," she said, "you have to love it to do it. You have to have a passion for doing this. We give up a lot of other things -- like our free time."