The Columbine Cabins, which now are on the market for $1.6 million, were built to withstand the deep snow of North Routt.

Photo by Tom Ross

The Columbine Cabins, which now are on the market for $1.6 million, were built to withstand the deep snow of North Routt.

Gold-rush camp Columbine on the market for $1.6 million

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The Columbine General Store started serving cattlemen, gold miners and drivers of horse-drawn freight wagons from Wyoming in the 1890s.

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Skiers enjoy a traditional cross-country race on wooden skis.

— There aren’t many places where an investor can purchase the entirety of a 19th-century Colorado gold-mining camp, but the historic hamlet of Columbine four miles north of Steamboat Lake is the real deal.

Realtor Glenna Clark-Olmsted has listed the property at $1.6 million, down from the opening asking price of $1.95 million, on behalf of longtime friends Jan Dierks and her husband, Lyman Fancher. Clark-Olmsted is the broker owner of her own real estate company.

For that price, a buyer can obtain 35 acres of aspen forest, 14 furnished guest cabins, an active general store, barn, commercial kitchen, sauna building and a new bathhouse about 29 miles and 120 years from Steamboat Springs.

“This might be a better time to list Columbine Cabins for sale than at the peak of the market when we would have priced it much higher,” Clark-Olmsted said.

Each of the log cabins has its own distinct personality, from the tiny Honeymoon cabin to Burton, with its own bathroom and freestanding tub.

For people who want to escape the 21st century with its smartphones and all-knowing tablets, Columbine is well-suited to make the world go away.

Families come in summer to wander 11 acres of aspen groves and wildflowers bordering more of the same in Routt National Forest. Hunters filter in during autumn, and Nordic skiers and the snowshoeing crowd check in during winter to find snow banks stacked to the roofline.

Although Columbine cabins are rented year-round, Clark-Olmsted said she does not present the real estate listing as a business — the balance sheet just doesn’t support it. It makes more sense to draw a comparison to a vacation condominium at Steamboat Ski Area, which flows cash from nightly rentals that don’t pay the mortgage but defray the cost.

Columbine Cabins and the general store have a special-use permit from Routt County for the commercial activity. County Planner Chris Brookshire said the permit is transferable to a new owner provided he or she formally agrees to abide by the conditions on the permit and satisfy insurance and bonding requirements. Additional uses of the property could require amending the permit. It is available for review in the Routt County Courthouse.

The Columbine Mining Camp was under way by 1890, but it was in 1897 that a man named James R. Caron laid out an 11-acre townsite and made it official. In that era, gold prospectors at the Minnie D. and the Master Key mines searched mostly in vain for the lode of high-grade gold ore that the old volcanic vent towering above them seemed to promise.

However, Columbine served a greater function than provisioning gold miners. Loggers and freight drivers working between Wyoming and Colorado came through for a meal and a night in a cabin. So did cattlemen and sheep ranchers. At its peak, the population reached 68 and rebounded again to 59 in 1930, according to www.historycolorado.org. There was a saloon, a post office and a blacksmith. Later, there was a gas station.

All of that history has been acknowledged with a place for Columbine on the Routt County and national registers of historic places, Dierks said.

Heavy logged timbers from the gold mining days still are evident in the rustic cabins. All are tightly chinked against the weather, have new roofs and varnished wood floors. They’re just rustic enough to foster fantasies of being snowed in for the winter.

Most of the 14 cabins do not have bathrooms, but that fact is made up for by the large community building that houses men’s and women’s bath houses much nicer than one would expect to find in a commercial campground.

Dierks said the diversity among the buildings at Columbine is attributable to the fact they were built at different points in history.

“The log cabins are more than 100 years old,” she said. Honeymoon was built in the 1920s, and the wood frame buildings date back to the 1950s. Her sister purchased Columbine in 1980, and she and her husband purchased it in 1994.

They lived at Columbine for five years in the Merchant’s and Bear cabins.

Fancher said other historic buildings have been relocated to Columbine throughout the years. The sauna building was purchased elsewhere in Routt County by friends and moved to Columbine, and a beautiful old building that is not inhabitable was the barn at the Forest Service guard station at Summit Creek.

Hopefully, Fancher said, new buyers would feel a strong personal attraction to the historic sight.

“It’s been rewarding to provide a getaway for people and to host Poulter Camps every summer, which allows children to backpack and play in the woods,” Dierks said.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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