New year, new life for iconic Crossan’s Market building in Yampa | SteamboatToday.com

New year, new life for iconic Crossan’s Market building in Yampa

Kari Harden For Steamboat Today

YAMPA — The iconic Crossan's Market building on Main Street in Yampa has been resurrected with new life and purpose after sitting empty for more than half a century.

In one of the front windows sprawls a miniature Christmas village, complete with a pond and twirling ice skaters.

In the other window, a small tree sparkles, adorned entirely in Western-themed ornaments.

Just like the renovation process to restore Crossan's and give Yampa a new visitor center and town hall, decorating and filling the space continues as a community effort and labor of love.

Nora Phillips contributed the Christmas Village, a recent purchase from the weekly secondhand sale in neighboring Phippsburg.

Phillips, Yampa's deputy clerk and assistant treasurer, has been stationed at the visitor's center since it reopened last summer.

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"I love it," she said of her new office space. "It's bright and sunny. It's a happy building."

Phillips has closely observed the traffic in and out of her doors over the past several months.

She's chatted with Germans who came in thinking the place was a bakery, a couple from Holland with great enthusiasm for the town's history, and quite a few people wandering through and happy to discover an extensive selection of maps and brochures.

Phillips also interacts with residents, who come by to pay their water bill or conduct other town business.

And the space is being utilized in other ways — from weekly yoga and Pilates classes to a meeting space for clubs and civic groups.

In 2006, the Town of Yampa purchased the structure, which was at risk of falling down, with the goal of restoring it "to its former dignity and usefulness."

Constructed in 1903, the two-story building served the community as a general mercantile under various owners until 1964, when Robert Crossan retired and sold the store.

When renovations began a few years ago, the interior was frozen in 1964, with a calendar on the wall and a scattering of merchandise still on the shelves. Phillips said everything left behind has been carefully stored and inventoried.

The second floor, which will hold the town hall offices and meeting room, is targeted for completion early next summer. The building still requires the construction of an external stairwell and elevator. Yampa's current town hall shares space with the fire department in a low brick building about a block away.

The building's restoration is in its third phase, said Noreen Moore, chief catalyst for Friends of Crossan's M&A Market, a group founded in 2011 with the aim of raising funds to preserve the building's heritage and return it to being a community asset.

Moore acknowledges the early skepticism about spending significant money on the 114-year-old building. Moore estimated the total cost of the restoration at about $1.3 million.

Due to rising costs of material and labors, Moore said the board is facing a current overage — but they have a plan to cover the unanticipated additional expenses.

And now that it is in (partial) operation, Moore said the response has been very positive. She said people enter and become emotional upon seeing the building returned to its former regality.

"I'm stunned we got it done," she said of the group effort and years spent piecing together grants and holding fundraisers. Moore emphasizes she is just one board member serving alongside nine others who have generously committed their time and skills to the project.

And through the process of applying for funds and working with historical preservationists, "We've developed strong allies across the state," Moore said. She also praised local officials for their support.

For the past two years, the Friends of Crossan's hosted an auction and concert with Todd Park Mohr (of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and who has ties to the area) at the nearby Antlers Cafe & Bar.

"We are so lucky and blessed to have such a good time raising money," Moore said. Each sold-out concert brought in close to $35,000, and the amount was boosted this past year by a $39,000 gift from an anonymous donor.

Now that construction is entering its final phase, the community effort is evolving into building the space into a dynamic historical visitor center, valuable public resource and hub of activity.

The original shelves of Crossan's Market line the walls of the large and airy room that still smells of fresh paint. On one side, historical photographs and artifacts fill the shelves, along with a small library of donated literary collections.

On the other wall, the shelves are lined with maps and brochures about the area and Yampa's close proximately to incredible wilderness as the "Gateway to the Flat Tops."

Wendy Moreau, curator at the Yampa-Egeria Museum, set up the "interpretive center" in the front corner of the building's main room. "I don't think people realize how deep the history of Yampa is," Moreau said.

The first display tells the story of the town's lettuce boom in the 1920s and 1930s. The second exhibit is titled, "Home on the range: a woman's life."

"It's amazing how important women were in the West," said Moreau, rattling off a long list of their daily duties, from building barns and hunting to raising children and performing housework without any modern conveniences.

The additional space at Crossan's allows for an expansion of Moreau's small and overcrowded museum across the street. In addition, it gives people more access, as the museum's hours are dependent on volunteers.

A bookshelf near Phillips' desk holds a collection of binders donated by Hildred Fogg, who recently turned 90 and Phillips describes as the "unofficial Yampa historian."

An avid quilter, stamp collector, and Broncos fan, Phillips said Fogg always envisioned her comprehensive historical archives — collected over a lifetime — placed where people could enjoy it. There just wasn't room in the museum.

Filled with photographs, newspaper clippings and other documents and scraps of history, Fogg's binders are meticulously organized, each covering a topic as it relates to Yampa's founding and evolution: lettuce, mines, railroad, schools, neighboring towns, businesses, reservoirs and family ancestry.

There's also a complete collection of "Three Wire Winters," stacks of old school annuals, a "Rare Routt County Book Collection," and tied brown paper bundles of Women's Club scrapbooks.

The growing library makes for a valuable and unique resource center, Phillips noted, one of the goals for the space and in particular for Yampa-Egeria Historical Society.

At the end of the book shelves, Phillips shows off another of her favorite features: the meat locker, which is accessible from the main room and has been left essentially identical as to when it was last used for holding huge blocks of ice and hanging entire animals from the ceiling on hooks.

It is Moore's goal for this new incarnation of Crossan's Market to be part of bringing economic opportunities and investment back to the town.

In 1907, four years after Crossan's was constructed, Yampa was incorporated and things were booming. There were about a dozen sawmills, numerous stores, restaurants, and saloons, a newspaper, a bank, and a hospital. When the railroad came in 1908, the boom continued, adding luxury hotels and the beginning of a tourism industry.

Lettuce, spinach, ice, coal, and lumber followed, in addition to the always-present ranching.

These days, some major industries are in decline, and there are only a handful of businesses operating in town.

But the quiet dirt-road ranching town is resistant to change. And for good reason. There aren't many places like it — peaceful, rugged, a true vestige of the Old West.

Moore wants to see careful growth that doesn't detract from Yampa's authenticity.

And her vision for Crossan's is just that — to create a community center and meeting place that will spur entrepreneurism and civic engagement into the future, while at the same time preserving the culture and heritage of the past.