The Historic Preservation Effort in the Hunter Creek Valley Receives Two Major Boosts
A group interested in preserving an important part of Aspen’s history in the Hunter Creek valley had a problem from the start.
The Hunter Creek Historical Foundation felt it needed to act as soon as possible to preserve the remaining structures and rotting log foundations of the W.E. Koch farm established in the Hunter Creek valley in 1893.
But the group doesn’t want to attract more attention than already exists in the working-class neighborhood northeast of Aspen. The area is affectionately known as Aspen’s backyard and in the summer its trail system is overrun on weekends and other peak times with mountain bikers, dog walkers, hikers, trail runners and an occasional rider.
Ultimately, the group decided to continue preservation work while avoiding promotion of the area in the way the mining-era ghost towns of Ashcroft and Independence are wired as tourist attractions.
“We want to stabilize these (buildings) for the long term,” said Graeme Means, co-chair of the foundation with Howie Mallory. Other board members of the foundation are Tim McFlynn, George Newman and Dale Will.
“We want to save it for future generations,” Means continued.
They move forward on the plan. The foundation recently received a $75,000 pledge from the Trust for Public Land’s John W. Baird Access Fund. That pushes donations up to $130,000. The targeted work is estimated at $350,000.
The US Forest Service’s Aspen District Sopris Ranger approved the stabilization plan on April 15, Means said. It was a crucial step because the old farm is on a national forest. The 60-acre farm site has been identified by the Forest Service as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Properties, according to the foundation.
The site is on the north side of Hunter Creek, just east of the boundary between private land and the national forest.
“The historic Koch Homestead played an important role in the early settlement and development of Aspen and is in immediate danger of collapse due to lack of care,” Newman said.
A Morrison, Colorado-based organization called HistoriCorps was hired by the foundation to stabilize and preserve the few remaining buildings at the farm and what was known as the Adelaide Ranch. The foundation is clear on its mission: it does not want to recreate or rebuild the remaining structures. He wants to prevent them from deteriorating further.
“We try to keep them from falling,” Means said.
A large old barn collapsed decades ago and its boards and other materials lay in a crumpled ruin. Means compared it to a “whale skeleton over there on the beach”.
The foundation wants to preserve the barn to some degree, even if it just keeps the pile from disintegrating.
“If it disappeared, it would diminish the site,” Means said.
The first works will concern the buildings still standing. The first phase of the preservation plan will focus on an old shop that has run out of steam. The metal roofing material is gone, but the wooden rafters are still in place. Wooden panels stand out against the walls. The rusting corrugated iron roof will be replaced so that the structure will survive for several more decades. This work should start in September.
The second phase will focus on what foundation members call the Roadhouse, a two-story structure right next to a popular trail.
Other buildings in various states of disrepair include an outbuilding and an old shack with logs crumbling into the earth. The log cabin will simply be stabilized so that it does not completely disappear.
“We could rebuild it, but we’re not trying to build Disneyland there,” Means said.
Once stabilization is complete, access to the interior of the structures will be restricted as required by the Forest Service.
An equally important part of the preservation project will be an in-depth written history of the Adelaide Ranch. The foundation commissioned Aspen history student and writer Tim Cooney to dig into the details of the site and write a full story.
The foundation’s website already gives a glimpse of the story: “Starting in the 1890s, these farms provided the first dairy farm, a production farm, a sawmill for timber, and a reliable source of fresh water and of hydroelectric power for pioneer miners and their families in the nearby town. of Aspen.
The Hunter Creek Historical Foundation has just stepped up its fundraising efforts. People who love the valley and wish to preserve its history can learn more and donate at http://www.huntercreekhistoricalfoundation.org.