The trains stopped coming to the Steamboat Springs Depot in 1969, and it didn't take long for the old building to fall into disrepair and eventually be condemned.
It was a group of local activists who worked to preserve the Depot, which is now a cultural center for the city.
It's the work of local activists and groups that continues -- two decades later -- to fuel the historic preservation movement across Routt County.
"I think (the Depot Art Center) was the very first visible historical preservation project," said Arianthe Stettner, president of Historic Routt County!, a group whose mission is to preserve the character of historic Routt County communities and rural areas. "It always takes that first one."
Through the efforts of Historic Routt County! and other like-minded groups, the list of historic sites in the county continues to grow each year, as does the sentiment that area history must be preserved, Stettner said Sunday.
"I think we're close to having the critical mass of people who recognize the importance of historic preservation," she said.
A core group of that critical mass gathered Saturday at the Delaney Ranch outside of Hayden for the 10th annual Historic Routt County! meeting and awards ceremony. The Delaney Ranch is a property that has received designation on the local and state historic registers and grants for renovation in large part through the work of Historic Routt County!
Patrick and Tammie Delaney were the recipients of the 2004 Preservation Award.
"They have been wonderful property owners to work with," Stettner said. "They've gone above and beyond what it takes to maintain their property."
Kevin Bennett was given special recognition for "his vision, tenacity and leadership in preserving the historic character of Steamboat Springs," Stettner said.
Other awards included special bronze plaques commemorating the historic nature of five area properties and landmarks: the Bennett House, the Rabbit Ears Motel neon sign, the Mountain Architecture Building owned by the Kaminski family, a Seedhouse Campground outhouse and the Walker Homestead Cabin outside of Hayden.
Historic Routt County! hopes a community desire for historic preservation will prevent local history from vanishing one structure at a time.
"One by one, you start to see the buildings evaporate and crumble to the ground," Stettner said. "That's a sad thing when you see that history disappear."
A more stable revenue source could help the preservation efforts.
Last fall, voters approved a mill levy increase to help fund historical organizations and museums across the county. Historic Routt County! is one of the beneficiaries of that tax.
"The mill levy is a real safety net for us," Stettner said. "It gives us basic funding so we know we'll be able to sustain our work at a baseline level. We know we can keep the doors open, pay the phone bill, make copies and guide people with just our basic resources."
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