Downtown Historical Walking Tour
Tread of Pioneers Museum ( 800 Oak St.)
1 1/2 Hours (Tuesdays 9am)
Weekly guided tours offered in the summer. Starts at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St. This easy walking tour highlights the historic buildings and development of downtown Steamboat Springs and unveils the stories of the town's founding and early settlers. Participants travel past and learn about the original town square, power plant, newspaper building, courthouse, and more.
Co-sponsored by Historic Routt County
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DOWNTOWN STEAMBOAT SPRINGS
Tread of Pioneers Museum:
The wood frame house dates from the 1900’s and takes its name from Whittier’s line “I hear the tread of pioneers, nations yet to be, the first low wash of waves, where soon shall roll a human sea.” Established in 1959, it is supported by donations, and staffed by volunteers. Exhibits include Routt County household, ranch, and mining effects and an extensive display of handmade skis. The stagecoach on the grounds was the one used in 1909 on the last run from Steamboat Springs to Wolcott on the Whipple Line. It was named the Pilot, after one of the local newspapers.
The building has been known as the Campbell Building since Ernest Campbell built it in 1904 as the Albany Hotel. From 1914 to 1921 it was the Steamboat Sanitarium. Over the years the building has housed a post of ce, variety and grocery store, second hand shop, ceramic studio, barbershop, an electrical sales and service store, pool hall, library, movie house, private home, Odd Fellows Hall, dance hall, and the current restaurant and bar.
The Milner Bank & Trust Company:
The local quarry provided stone for the town’s first bank at the corner of Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue. F.E. Milner, a former general store owner, built the bank in 1888 and managed it until 1920. Milner was one of the ve original members of the Steamboat Town Company Board. ***
F. M. light & Sons:
The western clothing store was founded in 1905 by Frank M. Light, a Missouri farmer and teacher who came to Steamboat Springs with his wife, dog and seven children on the recommendation of a traveling salesman from Washington. Management of the store, which has been expanded three times, remains in the Light family. It is the oldest retail establishment in Steamboat Springs. However, bib overalls no longer cost $2.25 a pair as advertised in 1927.
Grosbeck and Metcalf opened Steamboat Springs’ first drugstore in 1888. After changing hands several times, it became the Chamberlain-Gray Drug Company in 1908. Chuck Lyon purchased the store in 1941. Lyon Drug is the longest continuously operating drugstore in Steamboat Springs.
J. W. Hugus & Company:
The company, organized in 1870 and incorporated in 1891, was one of the nation’s first chain stores. The well-stocked general store at Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue opened in 1897 next to the first courthouse. It was part of a chain extending from Rawlins and Dixon, Wyoming to Colorado stores in Hayden, Craig, Meeker, Ri e, and DeBeque. The company liquidated in 1926.
Site of the courthouse for 10 years. When county of ces moved to Steamboat Springs in 1912, they occupied a two-story brick building at 928 Lincoln Avenue owned by J. W. Hugus & Company. The courtroom occupied the upper floor and the clerk, treasurer and jail shared the ground floor. The building, currently leased for of ces, was purchased by the county in 1915 for $7,000 and used until the present courthouse was completed in 1922.
Harwig’s Saddlery and Western Wear:
The business is in one of the oldest wood frame buildings in Steamboat Springs, dating from the early 1890’s. It was a drug store, then meat market before it became the Armstrong and Kemmer Saddlery and Harness Shop in 1908. The shop has been in continuous operation by the Harwig family since 1916 when Charles Harwig, whose father Gus had owned and operated a harness shop since 1902, purchased the shop; Atwood Harwig assumed ownership in 1936. The original cash register, purchased by Armstrong and Kemmer from the National Cash Register Company in 1908, remained in use until 1976. ***
The Steamboat Pilot:
James Hoyle of Boulder founded the paper in 1885 with a press from the of ce of The Boulder News, some second-hand equipment, and a lot on the west end of town donated by The Steamboat Springs Town Company. Of ces still stand on that site, reconstructed after a major re in 1909. The first issue of the paper dated July 31, 1885 contained a description of Ulysses S. Grant’s death. In 1889 Charles H. Leckenby, a 16-year-old printer from Nebraska, went to work for The Pilot and a year later formed a partnership with Hoyle. In 1896 he purchased The Yampa Valley Democrat (formerly The Inter-Mountain), then bought The Pilot and consolidated the two. In 1927, Leckenby acquired The Routt County Sentinel which John Weiskopf had founded in Steamboat Springs in 1901. The Sentinel and The Pilot were merged and continued to be published by Leckenby’s son, Maurice, from 1946-60 and his grandson, Charles, from 1960 to the present. ***
The Bud Werner Memorial library:
Built in 1967 to honor Wallace “Buddy” Werner (1936-64) a three-time Olympic skier, the library houses trophies and scrapbooks from his career. The first library in Steamboat Springs – in the Union Church at Eighth and Oak Streets – opened in 1887 in memory of William Denison, a Harvard medical student who came here hoping to recover from tuberculosis. ***
Steamboat Springs Depot:
Denver stonemasons built the railroad station at the west end of town with rock from the Emerald Mountain quarry. Building costs were paid by donations from Steamboat Springs’ 1,200 residents who raised $15,000 to guarantee that the Moffat Road would arrive in 1909. Before the depot was built, the town turned out to see the first passenger train pull in with David Moffat’s private coach, which now houses the Craig Chamber of Commerce. The schedule to Denver was 12 hours; but some trips were as long as three days in winter. The Steamboat Stage Company provided taxi service to any place in town for 25 cents. Railroad passenger service was abandoned in 1968 and the depot was donated to the City of Steamboat Springs. In 1972, the Steamboat Springs Council of Arts and Humanities leased and rehabilitated the building to use as a community arts center. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Situated on the south side of the Yampa River directly across from town, the hill was first used for jumping in 1915; slalom and downhill courses were not added until the late 1930’s. The first tow, built in 1934, was a “boat tow,” two sleds pulled by a cable powered by a car motor and transmission. It served until 1970. The lift to the top of Emerald Mountain built in 1947 was one of the longest in the United States. During the 1950’s a 90-meter jump was built and named for Douglas Graham, a local businessman who contributed both time and money to the hill. The Graham Jump attracted many Olympic training camps and was the site of several noteworthy jumps, probably the most spectacular of which was Asten Samuelson’s 316 foot jump in 1951 which set a record that stood until 1960. The Graham Jump burned in 1972 and fund-raising efforts for a jumping complex were launched the next year. Construction on Olympic-style 90, 70, 60 and 30 meter jumps began in 1976 and was completed in 1978.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1913) and the Christian Science Church (1934) are still using original buildings. The Holy Name Church (1911) and Methodist Church (1902) occupy newer buildings on their original sites. The Congregational Church built in 1893, moved to a new location after the original church was destroyed by fire.
In the summer of 1876 Jeannie Bennett opened the town’s first school in the Crawford family living room for Lulie and Logan Crawford. The Steamboat Springs School District, organized on August 25,1883, built a one-room log cabin on Soda Creek next to the Crawford house. Lulie Crawford was its first teacher. The first school contracted with public funds was a two-story building called the Union School which stood on Pine Street just south of the present Junior High School. It housed all grades from 1890 to 1897, when high school classes were added to the system. To provide room for the high school students, the first grade moved to a log cabin at Sixth and Pine Streets (currently used as a Chamber of Commerce information center at the east edge of town); the second grade moved to the Denison Library just west of the Union School; and the third grade went to the stone house still standing on Sixth Street.
The Union School, which burned in 1910, was replaced in 1911 by a threestory brick building facing Pine Street which housed all students until a high school was built in 1918 directly behind it facing Seventh Street. In 1951 the high school bought an adjacent building which had housed the hospital for 30 years for use as a band room. The Soda Creek Elementary School was built in 1956, leaving junior high students in the Pine Street building and high school students in the Seventh Street building. In 1965 the present high school was built on Wither Hill, with classes starting in the fall. Junior high students moved into the Seventh Street building. The Pine Street building was torn down in 1967. Population increases forced additions to the high school in 1972 and the elementary school in 1960 and 1974. ***
The Routt County Memorial Hospital was built in 1952 and expanded in 1978. The first hospital in Steamboat Springs was the product of the efforts of Dr. F. E. Willett (1883-1970). In May 1914 he helped organize the Steamboat Sanitarium Association and opened a hospital in the Campbell Building, which still stands on the corner of Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue. When the hospital ran into nancial dif culty, he used his own funds to convert the Colorado Apartment Building into a hospital that served the community until the Routt County Memorial Hospital was built.***
The Post Office:
The Crawfords first provided postal services out of their log cabin in the summer of 1878. Mail arrived weekly by snowshoe until 1892 when the stage began to come daily. In 1888 the post of ce moved to Charlie Baer’s sport shop next door to Harwig’s, and in 1908 it moved to the Maxwell Building at Ninth Street and Lincoln Avenue where it remained for 54 years. The post of ce moved into a new building at the west end of town in 1962. ***
The Crawford House:
Built at 1184 Crawford Avenue in 1893 of stone from a local quarry, the house served as the Crawford family home until Mrs. Crawford’s death in 1939. The first family is buried in the Steamboat Springs Cemetery.
Pine Street School:
The small log cabin at Sixth and Pine Street was moved to Casey’s Pond on the east edge of town where it has been used as the Chamber of Commerce Information Center since 1978. It was built on Pine Street in 1897 to house first grade classes after the Union School became overcrowded.***
Tread of Pioneers Museum Creates Interactive Walking Tour in Google Maps
The Tread of Pioneers Museum staff has taken the self-guided Downtown Historical Walking Tour of Steamboat Springs into the digital world. Previously, the self-guided tour map, compiled by the museum with the help of Historic Routt County and historian James L. Crawford, the new Google Map tour showcases the stories and significance of 22 of Steamboat’s most noteworthy downtown historical buildings and an extended tour of ten other historical sites within the city limits. Photos of the buildings and historical information with historic register listing status are included in the tour. Many of the buildings featured on the tour have large, bronze plaques with additional historical information. The tour takes one to two hours.
“We wanted to make the Downtown Historical Walking Tour of Steamboat Springs more accessible and sustainable,” said Candice Bannister, Executive Director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. “We want to lead more people to the incredible historical resources and stories that can be found in our downtown corridor and National Historic District, and bringing the tour into interactive digital format achieves that. Previously you could be looking the stonework of Norwegian ski jumper Carl Howelsen, or stone from the Emerald Mountain Quarry, and not know it. Now, you have all the information you need to appreciate our town even more, in the palm of your hand.”
The new Google Map tour can be found here
In addition to this self-guided tour, the museum, in partnership with Historic Routt County, also presents free weekly guided historical walking tours of the downtown area, with storytelling, from late June through early September.