Yampa residents breathe new life into 108-year-old landmark
Group aims to restore, revive century-old building in downtown Yampa
June 18, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Yampa resident and historian Rita Herold remembers walking into Crossan's M&A Market as a young girl growing up in Yampa. Her mother used to trade eggs from their chickens for groceries, and she remembered picking canned vegetables off the teal-trimmed shelves.
On Friday, as light from the front door splayed shimmering columns of dust into the darkened store, Herold stood on the sloping wood floors admiring what was left of the place she remembered from five decades before.
"I would like to see it come back," she said. "To me, I see it as a center, as a core for Yampa to build on."
Although it has served as a storage unit since it closed in 1964, Crossan's Market, a 108-year-old freestanding building on Main Street, has been given new life by a group of Yampa residents who have made its restoration their passion project.
Friends of Crossan's began as an informal group that helped patch the aging roof and performed minor repairs since the town of Yampa bought the building in 2006.
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Since 2006, Friends of Crossan's President Jeff Drust and a team of locals have put more than 500 hours of volunteer work into the project, but they're just getting started.
With a recent grant for a structural assessment and a large cleanup effort last month, Drust said they are on their way to converting the landmark into a visitor and cultural heritage center, a town hall and an extension of the Yampa Historical Museum.
"We've converted a couple of people who recommended gasoline and a match," Drust joked.
But he knows the market means a lot to locals.
"Anyone who comes through Yampa, they can see it," he said. "They dream … they want to get a hold of it and restore it."
Walking into the market today is like stepping into a world frozen in time, but it's hard to figure out exactly which decade it's frozen in, as its lengthy history shows through in the artifacts left behind, from old socks that had never been sold to store records from a multitude of decades.
Crossan's started off as Bell & Canant, a merchant store built in 1903 by Sam and Ed Bell from Cripple Creek during a building boom just before the railroad came through town in 1908. Yampa Historical Museum Curator Wendy Moreau said almost 40 buildings were erected in that period but few remain.
Since that time, many of the original Main Street buildings have been torn down, saloons have turned into salons and much of the town's history has been lost.
"This is one of those last remaining buildings," Moreau said. "It's so important to preserve what we have."
The building went through several incarnations as a store, including Bell, Canant & Castello, Buck & Son and later Montgomery & Allen, when it was bought by Joe Montgomery and Howard Allen in 1935.
When Robert Crossan bought out half the store and Allen ended up selling his share, the building continued as Crossan's M&A Market.
In 1964, Montgomery repurchased the lot, and the Montgomery family used it as a storage space until the town bought it in 2006 for $45,000.
But the Montgomerys generally left things untouched: the counters, old liquor bottles, the 1950s and 1960s advertisements for soda and bread — even the soap in the soap dish.
At one point during this month's surge in cleanup efforts, Moreau crawled through a cabinet space in the front of the store and found an old ledger from the 1930s recording cartons of milk and bottles of soda sold.
On July 3, during Yampa's Fourth of July celebrations, Friends of Crossan's plans to have the door open and the building on display for the historical tour.
"That's what we hope people say when they step inside here: 'Wow, it's like going back in time,'" Moreau said.
On Friday, Drust and Moreau walked around the building excitedly pointing out its attributes and affectionately acknowledging its many blemishes.
The open door on Main Street was tempting for local residents walking by, who were used to seeing the building boarded and locked up.
In addition to Herold, longtime Yampa resident Hildred Fogg also wandered the building, filling up on memories.
Arlene Porteus, a former Yampa resident and Yampa Town Board member the year the town bought the building, said the place looked "just wonderful."
"We've all been dreaming about it," Porteus said.
But the building still needs a lot of tender loving care. Although the center floor beam is holding strong and sturdy, the wood floor is beginning to slope away from the middle, and the building lists slightly to the right.
Drust said the group hopes to be able to raise the funds to eventually lift or move the building to give it a foundation.
It needs a new roof and a new set of stairs so volunteers no longer have to climb in through a window to get to the second floor.
Last fall, Yampa resident Noreen Moore applied for a grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund to use for a structural assessment of the building. On March 1, the town was awarded almost $10,000 for an engineer from Thira to take a look at the building.
"It definitely looks better on the inside than the outside," Drust said, adding that the engineers deemed the project entirely feasible.
From here on out, Friends of Crossan's is looking to raise funds and awareness for the project to continue to surge ahead in the restoration.
Town Clerk Janet Ray, also part of the restoration project, said she's proud the town is taking the opportunity to save one of the area's early buildings.
"Basically for us and the town of Yampa, we don't have a lot of those older structures left where people can go in and see what life used to be like here," she said. "I think one of the biggest things this can teach is that you can take an older building and bring it back to life: You can make it useful."
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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