Redmond Ranch a piece of history

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At the very end of Routt County Road 13, a dirt road in the far corner of the southern part of the county, sits Jack and Wanda Redmond's cattle ranch.

Tucked between two ridges at the base of the Flat Tops at an elevation of 8,100 feet, the ranch has been out of view from most of the world for more than a century.

But this summer, the remote ranch received state attention when representatives from the Colorado Historical Society visited it as part of a process to determine if it was worthy of listing on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.

Representatives toured the 100-year-old, two-story house, which they called a rare find among Colorado ranches. They looked at the log barn with its distinctive gambrel roof and the original 23-by-17-foot homestead cabin that has been converted to a blacksmith shop.

This fall, the Redmond Ranch, which technically is called the Boor Ranch for its first owners, was listed on the historic registry.

What makes the listing so significant, Wanda Redmond said, is that it is the first time the state has put a long-time, family-owned and still-operational ranch in Routt County on the registry.

Historic Preservation Specialist Laureen Schaffer, who helped nominate the site through Historic Routt County, said the Redmond Ranch kept the history of the place intact even as it changed through time.

"It is really hard to get a working ranch on the historic registry because they changed so much over time," Schaffer said. "The introductions of new buildings haven't detracted from the original features that are there."

Like other state-recognized historic sites in the county -- the Antler's Cafe, the Rock Creek Stage Stop, the Routt County National Bank -- the Redmond Ranch helps tell the story of Routt County's beginnings, as well as the pioneer history of Colorado and the United States.

The 387-acre Redmond Ranch is between Yampa and Phippsburg and just a few miles away from the Rio Blanco County line. In 1916, Jack Redmond's father, James Redmond, bought the ranch from the Boor family, who were the original homesteaders.

"The ranch has probably been held in the same family name the longest in South Routt," Wanda Redmond said.

James Redmond was born in Denver and moved here when civil engineer Charles Chatfield told him of the boom in Northwest Colorado created by the arrival of the railroad, cattle, grain and mining, Jack Redmond said.

"I think that is what brought people here," he said. "It was definitely a place with new adventure."

The Redmonds still work the ranch. They run cattle on federal grazing leases and private land in the higher grounds in the summer and bring them down to the hay meadows in the fall.

In her nomination letter to the Colorado Historical Society, Schaffer noted that the major factors that shaped agriculture in Routt County can be seen on the ranch: the homestead movement, water acquisition, hay, cattle and sheep, the influence of the railroad and the effect of changing and evolving technologies.

"The Redmond Ranch, more than any other community ranch, tells the story of agriculture in South Routt County and the varied range of activities that occurred on the site," the nomination form states.

The three buildings from the homestead era, all constructed by the Boor family, are the main house, the barn and the original homestead.

Since then, an outhouse, ice house, chicken coop, machine shed, granary, storage sheds and garage have been built by the Redmonds.

The homsteader-turned-blacksmith shop originally was located in a hay meadow. That location was too wet, so in the 1920s, James Redmond brought the cabin to higher ground and closer to the main house.

The hand-hewn log cabin has square-notched corners, stacked with 11 tiers and a single gabled roof with exposed rafters.

Across the road from the homestead cabin is the barn, a two-story building with a steeply pitched, flared side-gambrel roof.

"The barn always gets attention," Wanda Redmond said.

It, too, was located down in the hay meadows and was moved to a higher location by James Redmond in the 1920s.

To move the barn, Wanda Redmond said, they took the logs apart and reassembled them at the existing location. The original roof was gabled, but when the barn was moved, James Redmond, who had ties in the Midwest, thought the barn should have a gambrel roof, so it would "look as though a barn should look."

Like the rest of the ranch, the main house has evolved over time. The house was constructed for Emma Boor, the daughter of the first homesteaders. The main cabin was originally a two-story, hand-hewn log building that measured 28 feet by 20 feet. The cabin had a side-gable, wood-shingled roof with a centrally positioned brick chimney.

The Redmonds were able to date the construction of the house to the 1890s when they renovated the kitchen and found bits of Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post dated 1894 and 1895 that had been stuffed in the walls for insulation.

Throughout the years, Wanda Redmond said, many of the buildings retained their historic character because the ranch's income did not afford them the chance for major remodels or renovations. Instead, the money was used to put their three children through college or buy additional land.

"We recognized the fact that it would be nice to update and improve, but some of the other things were more important," she said.

The buildings are not the only part of the ranch that is a snapshot of how things use to be in Routt County. From the Redmonds' front porch, views of the wide valley and mountains stretch out, untouched by development. That unscathed view, nearly the same as what Jack Redmond's father saw, is a rarity and another piece of living history.

"You can walk out on the deck at night and not see a light," Wanda Redmond said.

The Redmonds also have a piece of Yampa history on their front lawn -- an old street lamp. Jack bought the post for less than $2 and later bought a glass globe to go on top.

Wanda Redmond said they did not seek out a state historic designation. The process kicked in after people surveying barns in Routt County looked at their ranch. From there, local historic groups encouraged the Redmonds to apply for the state historic recognition.

Besides a framed certificate, the state historic designation will give the Redmonds tax credits if they decide to do any renovation projects that keep preservation in mind.

Wanda Redmond said if the ranch is to continue to be an example or Routt County history in the next 50 to 100 years, renovation is needed. As for the continued ownership, the couple hopes the ranch will pass on to one of their children.

"Hopefully, it will still be operational as an agricultural ranch," Wanda Redmond said. "We hope one member of our family, at least, or all three of them, will be involved in the ongoing operation of the land that we own in the area."

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