Photo by Matt Stensland
A community house built in 1921 is the newest addition to the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places. The hut is located in Little Toots Park.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs was a nice place to visit in 1919, but guest accommodations were deemed somewhat lacking.
An unfavorable review by the Automobile Blue Book Publishing Co., and its mention in the Aug. 22, 1919, edition of the Routt County Sentinel, provided impetus for the construction of the Community House. On Aug. 6, 2009, the modest log structure became the newest addition to the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places.
"Constructed by Ernest Campbell, the building is one of the best surviving examples of his early work in the rustic style," city historic preservation coordinator Lauren Schaffer wrote in a report on the building. "True to the rustic style, the builder utilized local materials and decorative elements to create an indigenous building in harmony with its small-town mountain setting."
It's understandable if Steamboat residents don't recognize the Community House as the nondescript building in Little Toots Park. No longer is it known by its original name, and it has been relegated to storing equipment for the city Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department. But there was a day when the building boasted handcrafted architectural details and played a role in some of the earliest vestiges of tourism in the Yampa Valley. More recently, it has served as a serving line for community picnics and pancake breakfasts.
After the automobile company dissed Steamboat's guest accommodations, the Steamboat Town Company - the entity that eventually founded Steamboat Springs - gifted an island in the Yampa River just downstream from the current West Lincoln Park to the Steamboat Commercial Club, for development as a free camping grounds.
The Commercial Club in turn appointed Mrs. F.A. Metcalf, Mrs. W.O. Wright, Mrs. L.L. Brown, Mrs. C.H. Leckenby and Mrs. B.G. Bradley to make a plan for a community building on the site. It is believed that it was moved to its present location in the late 1930s, Schaffer said.
The Sentinel had this to report about the original intentions for the building: "The proposed community house will be open to the public, and at times of storms during the summer, when many campers are now inconvenienced, the building will provide a welcome shelter," for meal preparation.
In the winter, Community House served as a meeting place for the Ski Club and the Ladies Mountain Club.
The budget for the structure was $500. Campbell was a master builder who was capable in several styles, including the original Italianate style of the building at Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue now recognized as The Old Town Pub, and the Queen Anne style home that now houses the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The Christian Science Church on Oak Street exemplifies Campbell's approach to the rustic style and exhibits some of the details that once adorned Community House. Those details formerly included a notched ridgeline, decorative porch posts and a stone chimney. One of the signature details, which can be seen on the front of the Christian Science Church, is a saw-toothed bargeboard made of small logs.
Ultimately, the building was moved at an uncertain date to its present location in Little Toots Park, close to Soda Creek.
"The long-range plan is to start restoring the building and possibly return it to a different use more appropriate to the park," Schaffer said.