Outhouse could get historic designation

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Visitors to Seedhouse Campground north of Steamboat Springs sometimes have to search for a bathroom. They will walk around the campground, often overlooking a log structure that looks more like a cabin than a place for a toilet.

But the "cabin" is in fact a working outhouse.

Many say the outhouse has an important place in the county's history; it is the last standing structure in the Routt National Forest built by the Civilian Conservation Corp.

Now the Routt County Historic Preservation Board is asking county commissioners to give the outhouse the county's historic designation.

"We've done a sign, now we're doing an outhouse," said Michael Olsen, chairman of the Historic Preservation Board. Olsen was referring to the designation the Rabbit Ear's Motel sign received last summer.

"It's all in the effort of preserving fragments of our history. ... You've got to try to preserve a little bit of the whole area, the whole spectrum."

The 4-Hole Log Outhouse was built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corp., which was organized to employ Americans who had suffered through the Great Depression and played an important role in the evolution of the nation's parks and forests.

The Corp. built 153 log latrines in one year, and the Seedhouse Campground outhouse is the last of such outhouses in the Routt-Medicine Bow National Forest, said Angie KenCairn, Routt National Forest heritage specialist.

The Corp. built the Mad Creek Trail, as well as dams and other items in the area, KenCairn said. But those improvements are harder to see than a building.

"That's why I think the outhouse is so precious," KenCairn said. "It represents that legacy in a way people can really see."

The State Historic Preservation Office found 117 eligible outhouses in Colorado built between 1930 and 1940, but the Seedhouse Campground structure was the only built by the Civilian Conservation Corp., KenCairn said.

It is a unique building, which likely was put together from a kit. It has a hip-on-gable roof with open eaves, with a cupola for ventilation. The logs are painted brown, and the windows have their original frosted glass with a snowflake pattern, according to the application for historic designation, which KenCairn said was put together by camp host Lavonne Hydie.

The building has been well maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, although historic designation would make it possible to apply for grants to preserve the building and keep it operating. A similar outhouse at Fish Creek Falls was torn down, KenCairn said.

In addition to its unique architecture and connection to the Civilian Conservation Corp., the outhouse is a symbol of the beginning of the recreation era that plays an important part in Routt County's economy today.

"I catch a lot of grief by putting so much energy and effort into protecting an outhouse, but it really is so much more than that," KenCairn said. "It really is a symbol on the landscape."

Routt County commissioners will consider giving the outhouse historic designation at 10:35 a.m. Tuesday.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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