The Village of Grand Lake, (GL) was a pretty difficult place to live after the three silver mines that spurred its existence failed in the early 1880s. Those who stayed to tough out the harsh winter weather eventually found themselves living in an early summer tourist destination. When the first train arrived in Granby in 1905 from Denver, the three-day trek from Denver to Grand Lake turned in to one long day. What a boost for the GL area. Then, once the road was improved over Berthoud Pass and automobiles grew stronger, even more tourists started arriving. So much so that P.H. Smith and his son-in-law Clyde Eslick built the first motel. Now referred to as the Cottage Court.
To accommodate the additional interest in GL, individual small log cabins were starting to appear. They were pretty basic. Mostly, they were equipped with a small pot bellied stove, a bed or two, table, chair and when water came to town they were developed into summer water only cabins. Their plumbing consisted of a sink with one cold water line in and the wastewater running out on the ground outside. If there was a group of cabins located together there usually was a shared wooden privy somewhere near.
The story I’m going to recount is about one of those old summer rental cabins located at 829 Park Ave., just one block north of Grand Ave.
I had been interested in the old full log cabin for years. It was unique because it had a green and white metal roof on one side, with all five windows and two doors screwed and nailed shut. As fate would have it, on a June 2019 day the owner/developer called me wondering if I might like to have the building, for free. I drove over and found the rear door open so I took a look inside. It was chuck-full of old building materials and junk. I realized right away it was too large for my little house in town at 721 Lake Ave. but decided I probably knew a person who would love to have it and could even, with a little help, move it himself.
I called Travis at his Winding River Ranch and told him the situation. Travis and I got together later in the week and I gave him a look. He agreed it would be perfect for his dude ranch and would move it. The owner had told me it needed to be gone by the first of August that summer. Travis agreed to the timetable. Well kind of, you have to remember it is mountain time and very few things in GL happen on time.
I spent my spare time during July hauling out anything I thought might have value and putting it in front of the cabin. Eventually, much of the stuff disappeared except for the 12 used bathroom sinks. During the first week of August I conscripted some of my family to help empty out the remaining junk and put it in a large trailer supplied by Travis. As a reward I took my family to the Jump Start Coffee and Tea Shop for sweets and drinks. Since it only took an hour of time I think it turned into a fun time for all.
On August 9th I posted on Facebook account some photos of the work detail loading the junk into the trailer and described what the family was doing. The next day, Don left a comment saying that Meredith had lived in that vacant cabin when she worked for the Grand Lake Restaurant in the late 60s. Well, I know Meredith, and her family has had a summer cottage on the south shore of GL since the early 1940s. Later that month, while driving down Jerico Rd., I noticed her car parked at their cabin. I stopped and found her and a couple other women in the gazebo making a quilt.
I told Meredith about Don’s comment and she said she had lived there during the summer of her 21st year, 1968. It appears that Phebe had been living in the cabin and when she moved out Meredith had moved in. Because the doors were nailed shut entry was through the front window. Also, the outhouse was down the block and used by other cabin renters. When I asked Meredith why she lived in town and not at their beautiful 1900 lake house, she replied. “The house rule was, if you worked in town you lived in town”. Meredith mentioned that there was no electrical power to the cabin. She thought it had a bed, maybe a table and chair, cold running water in the lean-to and no wood stove. Pretty basic living conditions. To see the complete Facebook page for the above photo click here.
At the end of August, there were a few damp days so, one morning, when he could not be cutting hay, Travis and three or four friends showed up with their heavy equipment and a couple of ladders. In four hours they taken off the metal roof, removed the large lean-to on the back of the cabin and had it all loaded on trailers ready to be driven to the ranch when there was less traffic at night
From owning one of these old summer water only rental cabins I knew how to identify them by where the one water line came in and one out plus the cover in the ceiling where the pot bellied stove pipe went into the attic.
This rental cabin had the galvanized water pipe still on top of the ground but hidden in the tall weeds. The sink and stove had long disappeared like they had in my old building.
A few other discoveries made the project fun for me. 1) My first treasure was finding an old kitchen table. When I turned the table on its side to get it through the door I noticed the name P.H. Smith stenciled on one of the boards. In the old days anything valuable transported into GL was put in a wooden crate with the name of the recipient stenciled in black ink. Another fact is that P. H. Smith and this son-in-law; Clyde Eslick built the Cottage Camp motel.
2) Written on one of the inside walls of the lean-to was, “I have slept in better cabins but I don’t know when, Paul Kernodle, Grandview MO, Write me! 1953 age 16.” I was able to find some facts about Paul from his 2008 obituary that is associated with “find a grave” website. Paul was born in September of 1937, he earned his private aircraft license when he was 16 and his instrument rating at age 18, graduated from U of MO in 1960 followed by three years in the US Army then flew for Ozark and TWA airlines. I had hoped to be able to communicate with Paul since he was only 9 years older than I, but it was not to be. He died in KC in 2008. Note: If Paul was there in a summer month and not late September, he was actually only 15. I can see him wanting to have it say he was older and able to drive.
3) There were two names I was able to track down. One had become a schoolteacher in Texas but like Paul was deceased. I was also able to find a third young lady but then the leads disappeared. 4) On a couple of the logs in the larger building, there were several more invitations, by what were probably young girls, leaving their names and the small towns they were from. Their young ages kept me from finding them using the US Censes. The latest censes data is from 1940 and the 1950 censes will not become public until April of 2022.
5) The last treasure was not uncovered until the morning that the rental cabin was moved. After the remaining usable lumber was removed, the front page of an old Denver newspaper seemed to magically appear on the wood floor. The only thing I remember about it were the large head shots of President Harry Truman and his running mate Alben Barkley making it a 1948 newspaper. It seemed strange that the old newspaper was the only thing stuck to the floor planks and survived all those years. My guess is that there had been rolled linoleum protecting it just like in so many old summer rental cabins I’ve come across in GL.
One of my joys, at this time in my life, is researching and writing about GL history. Unfortunately, this one now has a sad ending. It happened on October 21st, 2020. As the east troublesome fire roared east then north into RMNP, it completely consumed the Winding River Ranch and all the old building Travis had saved over the years.
Just knowing a few things about Paul Kernodle, like where he lived in 1953, I was able to locate the following information. 1) because he was born before 1940 I knew he would probably be in the 1940 US censes and he was. I used ancestry.com to locate his family along with his 1954 High School year book with photos. 2) Using Findagrave.com I found his headstone with his obituary.
The larger of the two parts of the building is a full log structure with milled ends while the lean-to was built with rough cut true dimension 2X4s and sided with slabs with the bark still in place. That style is referred tp as “Colorado Rustic”. I find this interesting. I’m guessing, but back when the lean-to was built, that was a by product from milling dimension lumber and the least expensive way to side structures like this one, privies sheds. My thought is that the lean-to was was hauled in and attached later. Because the two sections do not match in construction or width, it is my opinion that the lean-to was originally a stand alone structure. As to which came first, it will always remain a mystery.
The windows in the two parts are not the same. The one over head light fixture electrical wiring in the lean-to is of the earliest type. It’s call knob and tube. It consisted of a ceramic knob and two separate wires for the hot and cold wires. All the full log portion had was a single strand of romex wire with a surface mounted plug-in-box.
The photo below shows the two holes in the lean-to wood plank floor where the cold water line came into the sink and the other was for the sink waste water. It was town water and was only turned on during the warmer months. To have year round water the piped need to be eight feet below the surface so they don’t freeze during the winter months.
This final section contains a collection of photos taken the day the building was made ready to move to the Winding River Ranch.
A rather sad ending to a great effort to save a small piece of Grand Lake history. 5/21/2021