Sunday, September 18, 2005
Architect Ekaterini Vlahos worries that important history and lessons are lost when farms and ranches disappear.
A professor of architecture at the University of Colorado at Denver, Vlahos has been exploring ways to document agricultural properties, capturing not only building styles and structures, but also the landscapes and culture that make properties unique.
"I'm extremely concerned about a way of life that is not always understood and seems to be diminishing quickly," she said.
Vlahos has focused part of her work in Routt County, where every year she brings graduate students from her class, "Home on the Range" to document an agricultural property.
On Saturday, Vlahos and 12 students brought their tape measures, cameras and pencils to the Hereford Haven ranch just west of Hayden, where they will start to develop a Historical Architecture Building Survey.
The ranch was named for the award-winning Prince Domino line of bulls that used to occupy the golden pastures and large white barns. The ranch includes several homes, built between the late 1880s and 1950s, as well as giant culvert used to transport cattle under the U.S. Highway 40.
Vlahos and her students will use information they gathered Saturday to create a set of refined drawings of structures and landscapes, a process that takes about six weeks.
Her classes still are exploring how to incorporate culture into the survey, perhaps with written histories, videos and writings about the people and their everyday lives, Vlahos said.
The HABS will be sent to the Library of Congress. If accepted, the documents will become public record, available to anyone researching agriculture, Vlahos said.
Even if the documents don't make it into the library, they will be an important source of information about times and places in agriculture history.
Understanding why people built certain structures in certain places and climates can help communities plan better, more unique, developments.
"As our economy and way of life changes, it's important to document what went on before us," said Patrick Delaney, president of Historic Routt County, which helps match Vlahos with property owners.
Vlahos and her students have documented many Routt County ranches, including the Redmond, Stanko and Semotan properties. Some documented properties now are gone, she said.
Vlahos traces her interest in agricultural architecture and heritage to Moffat County, where she grew up on a ranch. Her family still operates the ranch.
"It's kind of one of those things that's in your blood," she said.
Ultimately, Vlahos hopes her work will help ranchers who hope to hold on to their way of life. In that sense, it's important that the preservation process still allows change, she said.
"We're documenting this moment in time, but the goal is for ranchers interested in preservation to be able to keep doing what they are doing," Vlahos said.
Anybody interested in having his or her farm or ranch documented should call Historic Routt County at 875-1305.