Hayden grain elevator gains local historic status | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden grain elevator gains local historic status

— When the Routt County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to place the old Hayden Cooperative Elevator Co. building on the local register of historic places, board members were acknowledging a form of agribusiness that helped the young communities of the Yampa Valley sink permanent roots in the early 20th century.

The harvesting of oats, barley and wheat represented an important cash crop that helped local communities make the transition from the era of open range cattle grazing and gold prospecting to a more stable economy.

The application for historic standing, prepared by local historian Arianthe Stettner, explains how the arrival of the railroad in Hayden in 1913 and the grain elevator in 1915 changed life in western Routt County.

The grain elevator on Lincoln Avenue had its own rail spur, and the ability to ship grain to distant markets from downtown Hayden relieved farmers from the difficult chore of hauling their crop by wagon first to Rawlins, Wyo., and later to Steamboat Springs, Stettner wrote.

Honoring the past

Small grain elevators have been disappearing from the American landscape for decades, but the elevator in Hayden is special because, though it's not being used to store grain any longer, the building still is operated as a business by Patrick and Tammie Delaney.

The Delaneys purchased the property, then known as Yampa Valley Feeds, three years ago and renamed the elevator complex the Hayden Granary.

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"Part of our goal in 2009 was to honor the community history the property represents," Patrick Delaney said. "The grain elevator is the tallest building in Hayden, and it's also a local gathering place. It represents a time and era when agriculture was much more prevalent."

County Commissioner Doug Monger recalled Monday visiting the elevator as a boy with his father, who trucked his grain there. In those days, it was operated by former county commissioner Sumner Hockett. Later as an adult, Monger kept the books for an operator of the elevator.

Monger recalled that grain in the 1970s was trucked to customers south to the Eagle River Valley and north to Wyoming.

"All those years, I fed my 4-H animals with feed that came out of that mill," Monger said.

Patrick Delaney said Tuesday that their original intent was to continue to operate a feed store for the local agricultural and equestrian community but that the business has evolved in the past few years to put a large emphasis on lawn and gardening supplies, tying it to its original purpose of supporting locally produced food.

"The lawn and garden business is real good, and the production of local food represents a thread that connects to the use of the elevator for almost 100 years," Patrick Delaney said.

The grain elevator still functions, and the Delaneys are researching the feasibility of taking in grain from farmers and grinding artisanal flour for people who want to bake fine breads.

The Hayden Granary has become such a community gathering place that the Delaneys have begun hosting monthly barn dances and special events.

Tammie Delaney said that the elevator also has been submitted to the National Register of Historic Places and that she has learned through the process of applying for historic status that during its peak, Yampa Valley wheat was known to have some of the highest protein content anywhere.

Grain sees peaks, valleys

Thanks to Stettner's detailed research, the community now has a record of the rise and decline of the local grain industry during the past century.

After the initial two years of operation by Charles Hesket, of the Hayden Elevator and Grain Co., 10 local farmers took control of the elevator and formed the Hayden Cooperative Elevator Co. By selling shares of stock and charging dues, the co-op was able to keep the vital grain elevator in the control of farmers, and the number of members grew to 100 by 1918, including 40 women, Stettner wrote.

The elevator was expanded by the co-op to a capacity of 11,000 bushels of grain, and a concrete potato warehouse was added.

Stettner cited the Routt County Republicans as the source for a number of statistics about early grain production. In November 1918, the co-op had six employees and had shipped 15 rail cars of grain during the harvest seasons. In 1921, 100 pounds of local wheat was selling for $2.33, about $1.40 per bushel.

Through the 1920s and '30s, Routt County's yields of dry-land grain led Colorado.

However, the Great Depression took a toll on local agriculture. Wheat prices dropped severely and did not recover until the demands of World War II reinvigorated prices. The co-op was in serious trouble in 1929, in part because some farmers were shipping wheat independently, and the operation closed until 1938, when Charles and Anna Deaver, a couple from Nebraska, purchased the elevator and renamed it Hayden Grain.

The Deavers' timing was good, and they prospered through the war and into the late 1950s.

The real blow to the grain elevator came in the 1980s, when the federal Conservation Reserve Program began paying farmers rent to take their land out of production in an effort to conserve topsoil.

Stettner's research shows that in 1954, the acres in Routt County devoted to grain and hay nearly were equal in the range of 42,000 acres. In 2007, grain production had dropped to a historic low with only 8,100 acres harvested.

The grain elevator operation finally ended in 1988.

Still, the structure of the grain elevator, with its steep roofs and towers, has stood up to all of the changes in agriculture.

"You couldn't duplicate this building today," Patrick Delaney said. "It survived fire, upgrades and the boom and bust of the wheat industry. It's been a gathering place for almost 100 years and still is."

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

Hayden Granary to host upcoming barn dances

Tammie Delaney said the Hayden Granary would host the 4-H Scholarship Foundation dinner with live music by Sundog on Friday. Dinner is served at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for youths ages 10 and younger, and all proceeds go toward the scholarship fund.

Looking ahead to July 6 and 7, a special barn dance will include a visit from Dorothy Wickenden, author of the best-selling book “Nothing Daunted,” a history of western Routt County based on two young women from upstate New York, including Wickenden’s grandmother, who came to Hayden to teach in the remote Elkhead School. The two-day event includes a visit to the school.