Steamboat Springs Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original version to correct who donated the More Barn Park parcel to the city. It was Bob Comes.
For years, the dilapidated Yock Homestead Cabin sat unnoticed near the iconic More Barn in Steamboat Springs.
It’s not difficult to understand why. The cabin — its roof resting on collapsed walls — barely was visible from Pine Grove Road near the barn that has been synonymous with Steamboat Ski Area since it appeared as part of a marketing campaign in the 1970s.
But Bryce Mayo noticed. The 18-year-old, a member of the Steamboat Springs High School Class of 2010, said Thursday afternoon that he’s noticed the cabin while riding by since his family moved to Steamboat when he was 8.
When the opportunity to help rehabilitate the cabin became available, Mayo said he didn’t hesitate. He’s a member of the Historic Preservation Crew, a collaboration between Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and Historic Routt County. The crew of four started working on the cabin in mid-June and will finish work this week.
Mayo, who wanted more than just a summer job before joining the U.S. Navy on Oct. 5, said he thought it would be interesting to help restore what could become another “icon of Steamboat.”
“We want to keep as many of the historic places for as long as we can,” Mayo said. “It’s part of our culture, as Ski Town USA.”
The cabin’s significance, however, may extend beyond Steamboat.
“What is really neat about it, I think it’s fair to say in 30 or 50 years, that may be one of the few homesteads restored or preserved in city limits anywhere in the Rocky Mountain West,” said Historic Routt County Executive Director Towny Anderson, who spearheaded the project and helped create the Historic Preservation Crew. “It’s going to be something I think this community is going to be really proud of as time moves on.”
When Lena Yock, the matriarch of the Yock family, bought 160 acres near Fish Creek in 1903, the cabin already was there, said Arianthé Stettner, an adviser to Historic Routt County and its former executive director. She said it is thought that the cabin was built around the turn of the century as a simple rectangle with a second room being added later.
Stettner said Lena and her husband, Louis, had two sons and three daughters. By the 1930s, only Lena and her son, Martin, who went by Chick, still were living on the property after members of the family died or moved away. She said Chick built the barn in the 1920s to shelter Holstein cattle for his dairy operation, a business that prospered until World War II.
Lena died in 1950, and Chick lived in the cabin alone until he sold the ranch to Jerry More in 1957, Stettner said. She said at the time of the sale, the county’s economy was depressed, and only after the ski area started to flourish did More begin to reap the rewards of the barn’s location.
In the 1970s, the barn began to appear in posters promoting the ski area. More sold the barn property to Bob Comes in about 2005, Stettner said. Comes donated the barn parcel to the city, creating what is More Barn Park.
Anderson said the cabin was slated for demolition as part of the city’s project to rehabilitate the More Barn. It was identified as the first Historic Preservation Crew project shortly after Anderson and YMYC’s Executive Director Gretchen Van De Carr talked about creating the program last February.
Andrew Lescht, the project’s crew leader for RMYC, said members of the Historic Preservation Crew — Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus students Jordan Schell, the education coordinator, and Skyler VanZandt — started working with contractor John Virgona, of Custom Crafted Log Homes, on June 15 after a weeklong orientation.
Before they could rebuild the cabin, they had to tear it down. But before they did, the crew labeled the beams so they could put the cabin back together — what Mayo described as putting a puzzle together.
“It’s really cool,” said Lescht, who student taught at Soda Creek Elementary School last year. “We saw it come down, and seeing it go back up one piece at a time is really rewarding.”
In between parts of the project, Lescht said the crew members participated in some type of education piece, whether it was a lesson about construction practices, instruction about safety or the value of historic preservation.
The crew was rebuilding the gable sections after putting the horizontal roof beams in place Thursday. Lescht said the crew estimated that it reclaimed 90 percent of the original materials in the cabin’s restoration.
The beams that couldn’t be reused were replaced with beetle-killed pine. Anderson said they
were provided by Rogue Resources and came from Emerald Mountain. He said other in-kind contributions were provided for
the project from Precision Excavating, Home ReSource, Mingle Wood Timbers, Alpine Masonry and Steamboat Stone Supply.
Anderson said funding for the project, which will cost $20,000 to $22,000 by the time it’s completed, was provided through contributions from the Routt County Museum and Heritage Fund, Yampa Valley Electric Association, Yampa Valley Community Foundation, Wells Fargo, anonymous donors and reserves from Historic Routt County.
Sheila Wright, RMYC’s public relations and recruitment manager, said the Historic Preservation Crew was modeled after its Conservation Corps, which engages youths in environmental and conservation projects while promoting education. She said the program targeted Routt County youths, who in addition to earning a weekly wage, would receive a $1,000 AmeriCorps education award for completing 300 hours of work.
“We targeted Routt County kids to work at a cool summer job,” Wright said. “Instead of making cappuccinos, they’re doing something we think is really important for Routt County.”
Anderson said the program paired youths with a master craftsman. He said in addition to learning a trade, the youths were taught the importance of historic preservation.
“This type of partnership combines bricks and mortar, historic preservation if you will, with education and youth services,” Anderson said. “We’re not aware of another partnership quite like this. What it means is we can approach cultural heritage and the icons of the cultural landscape, the buildings that tell us about our history, and approach them programmatically.
“Historic preservation, historically, no pun intended, has lurched from crisis to crisis, a building that’s falling down and about to be torn down.”
Anderson said that the intention of the program wasn’t necessarily the full restoration or preservation of a building, but to preserve that opportunity for the future. He said the Historic Preservation Crew is scheduled to finish the roof this week. Anderson said the Yock cabin would be closed and sheathed for the winter with insulation. Window and door work will be completed next summer.
Wright said Rocky Mountain Youth Corps hopes the partnership with Historic Routt County is just the beginning of a collaboration that lasts for years.
Anderson said the program would allow better planning for future restoration and rehabilitation projects.
Jordan Schell, 26, who is serving as the education coordinator for the Historic Preservation Crew said even if they don’t finish the roof this week, he’s not leaving. Schell said he was there the first, and he’ll be there the last.
“If you saw this thing before, it was basically an eyesore,” he said “By rebuilding it, using most of the original materials, I think it’s an important part of the heritage around here.”
Throughout their work on the project, Mayo said people stopped by and told the crew they didn’t know the cabin was even there. Without their work, it might not have been preserved.
Mayo said he can imagine returning to Steamboat long after he’s left to see the cabin still standing.
“It will be really cool to bring my grandchildren, my children, here and saying I helped preserve a part of Steamboat,” Mayo said.