A large part of downtown Steamboat Springs has been designated as a national historic district. Old Town Pub, pictured, historically was the Ernest Campbell Building that was constructed in 1904. It is one of the buildings in the district.

Photo by Scott Franz

A large part of downtown Steamboat Springs has been designated as a national historic district. Old Town Pub, pictured, historically was the Ernest Campbell Building that was constructed in 1904. It is one of the buildings in the district.

Downtown Steamboat Springs is designated as a national historic district


— When Arianthe Stettner takes people on historic walking tours downtown, she enjoys taking them way back to a time when glass windows arrived by wagon and horses were way more abundant than cars.

These tours are so popular here, it isn't uncommon to see 30 people tag along on these trips back in time, even in the rain.

"One of the things I remind people of that so many of us take for granted is that until the end of 1908 (when the railroad arrived), everything that came to Steamboat Springs came local," Stettner said. "It's local Emerald Mountain quarry stone. It's local river rock from the Yampa. It's locally made brick. The wood in places like Harwig's came from local trees that was locally milled."

And if you needed a plate glass window for your storefront?

Stettner said it came by wagon up from Wolcott or down from Baggs, Wyoming.

"These are things we take for granted every day," Stettner said. "We don't realize what an effort it was to build these buildings."

In the early 2000s, Stettner, then a city council member, and other community members started pursuing a historic designation that would bring this history to light for more people.

After years of hard work, surveys and public meetings, a large part of downtown Steamboat has been designated as a national historic district.

The community members and city officials who worked hard for many years to get the designation say it will boost heritage tourism in Steamboat, allow contributing property owners in the district to have access to tax credits and grants for renovations and also bring more awareness to local historic preservation efforts.

The designation is honorary, meaning it won't place any new rules or regulations on what property owners can do to property in the district.

"I just think it's really exciting, not only for the people involved in the process but for the entire community," local historic preservation consultant Alexis Eiland said. "It's such an honor to have a national registered historic district. Now Steamboat is part of a prestigious group."

Eiland and the city of Steamboat Springs' Planning Department, Steamboat Springs City Council and the Historic Preservation Commission worked with other community members during a span of many years to get the historic district in place.

The city first started pursuing it in the early 2000s.

The new Steamboat Springs Downtown Historic District encompasses 35 buildings and 51 historic resources in an approximately six-block area that runs mostly along Lincoln Avenue from Fifth to 11th streets.

It also includes a block of Yampa Street where the Yampa Valley Electric building is.

"My reaction was it's about time," Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said about the approval of the district. "Early in the Mainstreet days, we were wanting to pursue it with the idea we could use the national district as a marketing tool, because heritage travelers will look for historic districts and historic buildings. We thought it would also help preserve the character of the town."

She said the designation will raise awareness locally about historic preservation.

"Most people dismiss historic preservation, and they are looking for shiny and new as opposed to old and fixed up," Barnett said. "But there's a growing concern that we need to preserve the character of the community we got from the generations that have gone before us, and that's what this will do."

The application for Steamboat's national historic district was submitted in October 2012.

It had to be approved by a state board and then the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places before it became official July 11.

There are about 75 other national historic districts in the state of Colorado, including places like the Larimer Street Historic District in Denver, the Georgetown-Silver Plume Historic District and the Crested Butte Historic District.

"We're always comparing ourselves to the other ski towns in Colorado, but our heritage is totally different," Eiland said. "We didn't have the booms and busts of the gold mines. We were the eclectic northwest, and we had ranching and agriculture and that's what set us apart from all the different ski towns."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Steamboat Springs Downtown National Historic District

Steamboat Springs Downtown National Historic District


Eric Morris 2 years, 7 months ago

I can't seem to find anything in the US(eless) constitution talking about national register of historic places. Maybe I am not smart enough to read into its penumbras and emanations.


Jim Kelley 2 years, 7 months ago

Give that noise a rest Eric! It doesn't address it directly. It doesn't deny it either. Same with obeying traffic signals or serving liquor to a minor.....No matter how you want to narrowly paint it, the constitution itself allows for laws and amendments via several methods (article V). It allows states to make their own laws beyond the constitution (10th and 14th amendments). Of course, the Constitution is more than the bill of rights, regardless of whether you like it or not (Preamble and articles I through VII!---all of it Eric). You do not get to pick and choose the parts you like and don't regardless of your narrow ideas. Quit your whining, i.e."the US(eless) constitution". The Constitution is not supposed to be some singular divine document that only binds us to just one moment in time (1787!). It has always been organic and changing which allows us to add or change as necessary (13th amendment, abolition of slavery, 19th amendment, women's suffrage come to mind!). It's the essential document defining our freedoms and our governance AND it can be added to! It is arrogant of you to imply that our country should be locked into just one moment in history and that only the Bill of Rights apply while all others laws don't.... Do all other points in history since 1787 not matter and new laws can't be made because they weren't written by James Madison in 1787?!.... Even James Madison, a favorite founder among modern tea baggers, knew this as he acknowledged in Federalist paper 43 stating that "either general or state governments can add amendments..." If you don't like something (Historic Designation), then get active and convince us otherwise. (On merit please, not tea--babble)


Scott Wedel 2 years, 7 months ago

Downtown Steamboat just does not feel like a historic district to me. There is just too much newer construction in a modern style for me to be able to stand at any point and gets a sense of the history.

Some historic districts such as Georgetown's is obvious and clear.

I see this as being like Bike Town USA, where the reality of the marketing slogan is underwhelming. Where there are no shortage of places that didn't spend the money, effort and time for the official designation, but are instantly obviously more worthy of the title.


Eric Morris 2 years, 7 months ago

Jim, most traffic and liquor laws are state laws. You are correct that amending the document is the supposed way to change the USG's powers. The Congress or the states should propose an amendment allowing the naming of national historic places if that's what it wants the federal government doing. At least that's less destructive than bombing and droning people around the world.


John St Pierre 2 years, 7 months ago

well the upside.... gonna be very difficult to do any urban renewal under the TIF or any kind of special tax district.... but then everything will now go to a whole other level for any kind of construction, remodel and painting a building within its boundries....


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