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Collection Spotlight - Throwback Thursday - The Little Red Caboose


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"The Little Red Caboose"
Essay and research by James L. Crawford


In 1906, the Steamboat Springs Town Board decided it was time to build a town jail. The seting for the jail took a bit of negotiation. The first proposal was to place it on an empty lot next to Jim Stees residence.


After Stees complained, and hired a lawyer to back him up, the Board chose to build it in the street next to Butcherknife Creek. John Walters was given the contract to build it, and had started on the foundation when F.A. Metcalf registered his complaint, saying that would interfere with the traffic going to the neighbors. More likely, his complaint was just a form of entrepreneurship. Metcalf proposed placing it on his lot (lot 2 in block 30) next to the new First National Bank (the current Steamboat Art Museum building), and that he would offer the site rent-free for six months.


This offer was accepted, and Walters built a 12x14 feet building along the alley at the back of lot 2 at a cost to the city of $164.65. The building was finished in May, and painted red on the exterior.


The first inhabitant, in the middle of July, was F. J. Hunt of Snake River, who was under bonds to appear at District Court over some trouble he had with the county about a road. It appeared like Hunt was fleeing the county, so Deputy Sheriff Guy Newlove went to Yampa to apprehend him to take to the county jail at Hahns Peak. En route, Hunt was held overnight in the new jail, called the "little red calaboose" by the Pilot. Hunt claimed that he was just heading to Denver to finalize a patent arrangement he had made with George Tritch of Denver. Hunt had invented a new type of gate for which Tritch was offering him a royalty arrangement. The Routt County Sentinel stated that Hunt was a "bright fellow and is a genius of no mean ability. Whiskey is the cause of most of his trouble."


In January of the following year, 1907, a stove was added to make the jail useable in the winter. In 1915 the jail was moved to the rear of the Courthouse, the current Lorenz building.
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