Log cabin gets Routt County historic designation

Previous residents Charlotte Perry, Frank Light were a factor in decision

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The dark log walls, thick white mortar and the forest-green roof of the Bennett House in uptown Steamboat Springs suggest that the house has an interesting history.

But architectural style is not the main reason that Routt County commissioners gave the log cabin at 701 Princeton Ave. Routt County historic designation.

Rather, the house was awarded the designation because of the residents it has had over the years.

That list includes R. Wayne Light, the son of Frank Light of the F.M. Light & Sons store, as well as Charlotte Perry, who helped begin the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School in 1914.

"Their whole application wasn't based on the architecture," said Michael Olsen, chairman of the Routt County Historic Preservation Board. "It was based on the people who lived there."

The land the house sits on was part of Lt. James Harvey Crawford's original homestead.

Crawford was so enticed by the Yampa Valley during an 1874 hunting trip that he returned with his family and claimed the land in 1876, according to the Bennett House's application for historic designation.

When the city of Steamboat Springs incorporated in 1900, Crawford became its first mayor.

Five years later, the city attracted Frank M. Light, a farmer and schoolteacher in Ohio, Oklahoma and Missouri. Light moved by rail and stagecoach with his wife, seven children and dog and that year opened F.M. Light & Sons, which is now Steamboat's oldest business under the same management.

R. Wayne Light turned to breeding Great Danes and foxes, and along with a small herd of dairy cattle, the Light property in what is now uptown Steamboat was a true "city farm."

In 1938, ownership of the parcel transferred from Frank to Wayne Light. About that time, a two-story log home was built for the man helping Wayne Light with his fox and mink farm.

In 1945, Wayne Light became Steamboat's official weather observer, a job that brought him $5 a month and that he held for 40 years. He also worked as a water commissioner and a bus driver.

In 1950, Light sold the property to a family that, three years later, sold it to Charlotte Perry. Perry purchased the property for her summer home and made changes to it. She doubled the size of the original cabin, turned the attached garage into another bedroom, and built a large music room near the back of the house.

In 1983, Kevin Bennett bought the home, and Bennett now owns it with Jane Bennett. Kevin Bennett served on the Steamboat Springs City Council for three and a half terms in the 1990s, and Jane Bennett worked as secretary of the Friends of Perry-Mansfield for four years.

The house reflects the community character of Steamboat's early history and its "unique characteristics of life," according to the application for historic designation.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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