Here is a riddle. What is both old and new? What was built in the 1800s and by me?
The answer is that our home, which was old, became “new” through an unusual process and sequence of events.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which allowed settlers to claim 160 acres of land and eventually own it after meeting the requirements of the law by staying on the land a requisite number of years.
Pursuant to the Homestead Act, a log cabin was built on an original homestead in the area of what is now Estes Park, Colorado. Later the homesteaders built a larger log house. I did not build the cabin or the house, nor did I claim the homestead. Someone else did all that before I was born.
What I did was rescue those buildings when a developer purchased the last eight acres of what had been a 160 acre homestead. Over the years, the homestead was cut up into parcels that became valuable parts of the Village of Estes Park. The last eight acres were across from a golf course and up the street from the high school and the fairgrounds. It became a desirable spot for building condos across from the golf course, or so the developer thought.
The Village of Estes Park interfered with his plans when the board refused to approve a demolition permit for the log structures on the old homestead site, which was probably unconstitutional since the homestead had not been designated an historic landmark. The developer offered to donate the buildings to the town if it would move them off his land. “Put them in a park if you like them so much,” he told the board.
Around that time, I came along. As self-proclaimed King of the Wild Frontier, I offered to move the buildings to my land, which is in the same county as Estes Park, on the condition that the Larimer County building inspectors would look at the buildings as they stood in Estes and pre-approve me for moving them to our ranch. I knew we needed a new foundation and new plumbing and electric and new roof and new windows, and I knew we could not move the 30 foot high stone fireplace and chimney, but I wanted the structure of the logs approved. I did not want to be told after moving them that the beams were not engineered correctly or according to current codes.
Well, the building inspectors did approve my proposal and the developer was glad to get me to do the removal, which turned out to be a complicated project. That is when I became a contractor.
I took a friend of mine to see the buildings before I made the deal, to ask if he thought it was worth doing. He had moved a cabin out of the mountains himself, which he used as the core of a house he built. An old cowboy, Ray offered, “Me and Brian could move them for you.”
Brian had just graduated from high school. A rodeo bullrider, he was a big help as an acrobat tearing down the steeply peaked roof. Ray and Brian and another guy lived in the original cabin while they took apart the larger one log by log. I rented a crane for the job. They numbered the logs. for each wall in order to put the walls back together in the same order. It took from November 1992 until February 1993 to take it apart and get it off the Estes property.
The small cabin was not disassembled. It was jacked up and moved intact, then placed on a new foundation. The big house was moved by log trucks. It was too wide and tall and heavy to be moved in one piece.
Then the fun began of putting them back together. I will write about the rest of the process in serial style.