Sunday, December 24, 2006
Steamboat Springs By the time this article prints, the fate of the More Barn may be known. For nearly two years, a developer has been pursuing his vision to create a residential infill parcel - the Steamboat Barn Village - on 40 acres of agricultural land along Fish Creek in Steamboat Springs.
The property includes the familiar More Barn, also known as the "Steamboat Barn," and various agricultural outbuildings, corrals and fences. The parcel with its famous barn is owned by Jerry More, a third-generation Routt County rancher. The developer intends to stabilize the barn and donate a 4-acre parcel with its historic structures to the city of Steamboat Springs if the project is approved and the property changes hands. The donated property would become a low-impact public park with appropriate interpretive signage. In addition, the developer will provide funds for the barn's future preservation.
What is the history of this familiar landmark? It is the story of land development in the West - the change from homestead and grazing land to subdivision. Jerry More's grandfather, William B. More, was a caretaker for agricultural ditches in Golden. He originally homesteaded in the Yampa Valley in 1885 at the site of what is now Lake Catamount. At that time, there were only five families ranching between the towns of Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs. It was a difficult life for the Mores, but they made a living and gradually increased their property holdings until the 1920s. Economic hard times came, and the family lost its original homestead. But the Mores persevered, and over time purchased acreages along the Yampa River south of Steamboat Springs and Fish Creek.
While the More family was ranching in the south valley, the Yock family was ranching near Steamboat Springs and the Cow Creek area. It is not known whether the Yocks actually homesteaded the parcel, but county records show that in December 1903, Lena R. Yock purchased the 160 acres that include the site of the More Barn.
The Yocks were successful dairy farmers and ranchers. According to local historian Vernon Summer, Lena's son Martin "Chick" Yock was known for his fine Holstein dairy cattle. Between 1926 and 1928, Chick built the oft-photographed barn to store hay and feed. The barn was built in the typical prairie style with a hayloft that could hold up to 15 tons of hay. When dairy cattle operations ceased to be profitable in the 1940s, the Yocks cross-bred their Holstein dairy stock with Angus cattle to produce a strain of beef cattle. In 1950, Cliff Curtis, who had married into the family, built a lean-to onto the barn to be used as a heifer barn. The Yocks sold the 160-acre parcel with the barn to William More's grandson, neighbors Willard O. "Jerry" More and his wife, Geneva, in 1957. They owned an adjacent parcel on Fish Creek.
Development of Storm Mountain, known today as Mount Werner, as a destination ski resort began in the late 1950s. By the time LTV Aerospace Corporation purchased the nascent ski area in 1969, economic pressures on the adjacent ranch operations were increasing significantly. Parcel by parcel, the More family and other ranchers sold their land as the ski area and Steamboat Springs grew, cattle prices dropped and property values (and taxes) increased. Interestingly, the More Barn, with its proximity to the base of Mount Werner, took on a new life as a symbol of the rustic charm of the Old West juxtaposed against the new Steamboat Ski Area.
Little could anyone imagine how famous the Steamboat marketing poster with its image of the two Western-clad horseback riders making their way through the deep snow with their skis across their saddles and the barn and Mount Werner in the background would become. Today, it is familiar throughout the world.
While agriculture will no longer be an option for this property, in the next chapter of the barn's story, the developer has taken measures to preserve the famous view corridor of the barn in front of Mount Werner, and to donate the historic barn to the community. Historic Routt County looks forward to facilitating the designation of this historic structure to the Routt County Register of Historic Properties, and if possible, to the State and National Registers, and in helping to preserve the historic More Barn and its story for future generations.