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Steamboat Magazine

Historic Walking Tour

04/01/2011 01:00AM ● By Christina Freeman

Walking Tour Map

A downloadable, print-friendly version of the guide is available at the bottom of this article. Click "expand" and look for the printer icon.

The Steamboat Springs Downtown Historic District comprises 35 buildings and 51 historic resources within the center of the downtown business district. The National Register of Historic Places assigned this relatively rare designation last summer. 

A stroll through downtown reveals buildings dating back to the late 1800s and nine of the area's more than 150 mineral springs.  

 1. Tread of Pioneers Museum 800 Oak St.

Constructed by Ernest Campbell in 1908, this was home to the Zimmerman family from 1913 to 1956. In 1959, the Tread of Pioneers Museum opened in this building. The Queen Anne-style house was once located at Fifth and Oak streets, and was moved to this location in 1988. The adjoining Utterback House was moved to the site in 1997 from its original location at Fourth and Oak. The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

2. Giamboni House 646 Oak St.

Camillo Giamboni built this structure in 1889. Hidden under the siding is the original log building. This was home to Swiss brothers Henry and Camillo Giamboni, who were the first to make skis commercially  in Steamboat.

3. Christian Science Church Seventh & Oak

Margaret Crawford, Steamboat’s pioneer mother, was a charter member of the town’s Christian Science Society, organized in July 1908. The log building, which continues to house the Christian Science Church, was completed in November 1934.

4. Willett House 443 Oak St.

Doc Willett came to Steamboat from Laramie, Wyo., in 1912 and took ownership of this house following World War I. The well-known doctor made house calls in a bearskin coat. 

5. Routt County Courthouse 522 Lincoln Ave. 

The cornerstone for the Routt County Courthouse was laid on Sept. 9, 1922. Designed by noted Colorado architect Robert Fuller, the three-story building was completed in December 1923 at a cost of $122,000. 

6. The Old Town Pub 600 Lincoln Ave.

Built in 1904 by Ernest Campbell, this structure was originally the Albany Hotel. From 1914-1921, the building was a hospital run by Dr. F.E. Willett. After the hospital relocated, the second floor became the popular Odd Fellows dance hall. The first floor served as a grocery, post office, electric store and public library from 1924 to 1967. 

7. Pioneer Building 700 block of Lincoln Ave. 

The Pioneer Building was in continuous use as a hotel from 1923 until 1979. In its heyday, the upstairs rooms were run as a classic Western boarding house and the downstairs housed the colorful Pioneer Bar.

8. First National Bank/Rehder Building Eighth & Lincoln (Steamboat Art Museum) 

The First National Bank of Steamboat Springs, chartered in 1902, occupied a small frame structure on this site until the present building was constructed in 1905. Dakota sandstone from Emerald Mountain and handmade bricks from Trogler’s local brickyard were used in the construction. 

9. Chief Theater 813 Lincoln Ave.

The Chief Theater was the second motion picture theater to open in Steamboat. It was owned by Harry Gordon, a Miami Indian chief who came to Steamboat after making a fortune mining lead, zinc and silver in Oklahoma. The Chief was Steamboat’s first theater equipped for “talkies.” 

10. Howelsen Hill Seen from Ninth and Lincoln

Rising up steeply from the south side of the Yampa River, this section of Emerald Mountain is named for Norwegian ski jumper Carl Howelsen, the “Flying Norseman” of Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. Carl arrived in Steamboat in 1913 and introduced the townspeople to ski jumping and recreational skiing. By the 1930s, Howelsen Hill facilities included slalom and downhill courses and a “boat tow” consisting of two sleds pulled up the mountain by a cable powered by a Model T engine and transmission. In 1947, a combination chair/T-bar lift to the top of Emerald Mountain was installed and was one of the longest lifts in the U.S. at that time. A 90-meter jump was installed by 1950. Howelsen Hill is the only ski area in Colorado listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Places.

11. Harwig’s Saddlery 911 Lincoln Ave. (Harwig’s & L’Apogée)

Built in the 1890s, this was originally a drug store, then a meat market. In 1916 it became Harwig’s Saddlery and Western Wear, which was run by the Harwig family until 1984. The historic cowboy sign over the storefront was painted in the 1950s or 1960s by noted Western artist Merrill Mahaffey.

12. The Old Pilot Building1009 Lincoln Ave.

James Hoyle began Northwest Colorado’s first newspaper, The Steamboat Pilot, on July 31, 1885. This brick and stone building was constructed in fall 1909 for the newspaper printing office, which occupied the building until 1999.

13.  Steamboat Laundry Building 11th and Oak (Laundry & Creekside Café restaurants) 

Built over a 10-year period starting in 1910, this two-story brick and river rock structure was constructed for the Steamboat Laundry, Dry Cleaning and Pressing business. 

14. Carver Power Plant  Tenth Street between Lincoln and Oak (Centennial Hall)

In 1900, a coal-powered plant was devised to make Steamboat Springs the first town in Northwest Colorado to provide its residents with electricity. The steam, a by-product of the system used to create electricity, was used to heat nearby schools and residences. This building was rehabilitated to house city hall.

15. Lorenz Building 928 Lincoln Ave.

This building was completed in 1893 and was originally a general store. In 1912, it became the courthouse when the county seat relocated from Hahn’s Peak. After 1921, the courtroom occupied the second floor, while the clerk, treasurer and jail shared the ground floor. When the present-day courthouse was completed in 1923, the building became the site of a dance hall called the Social Benefit Association or SBA. 

16. Hugus Building/Thiesen Mall 912 Lincoln Ave. (Steamboat Smokehouse)

Built in 1890, this was the site of J.W. Hugus & Co., one of the nation’s first general store chains. It sold farm equipment, furniture, stoves, feed and gasoline in barrels, among other items, in a facility equipped with electric lights, cash carriers and other labor-saving devices. The store housed Steamboat’s first telephone.

17. Maxwell/Squire Building 840 Lincoln Ave. (Lyon Drug Store)

Once known as the Maxwell Building, this structure was built by J.D. Maxwell of local pressed brick from Trogler’s brickyard, stone trim and plate glass. A post office occupied a room on the ground floor from 1909 to 1962. In 1920, Chamberlain-Grey Drug Store was the first drug store to occupy this site. 

18. F.M. Light & Sons 830 Lincoln Ave.

The F.M. Light family moved from Hicksville, Ohio, to Steamboat in 1905. Soon after their arrival, they purchased the lot, erected the building and secured enough merchandise to open this clothing store. Light family members traveled throughout Northwest Colorado and southern Wyoming, displaying their merchandise and taking orders from ranchers for Western wear, hats, boots, saddles and equipment. The retail store is still owned by family members. 

19. The Furlong Building 810 Lincoln Ave. (Bushwacker’s)

This building was erected in the 1920s using stone from the Emerald Mountain quarry to frame the windows. Norwegian ski jumper Carl Howelsen completed the brickwork and masonry. 

20. The Routt County National Bank Building  - 802 Lincoln Ave. (Wild Horse Gallery)

Built in 1918 with stonework by Carl Howelsen, this building is a unique landmark of two different periods. The Lincoln Avenue façade shows the rehabilitated 1918 exterior, and the Eighth Street side displays the changes from the 1940s. 

Extended Tour

A.  and  B.  Crawford Houses  - 1238 and 1184 Crawford Ave.

The second and third houses built by the Crawfords are still standing. The second home, at 1238 Crawford Ave. (on 12th Street), was built in 1886 from native lumber from the Suttle Mill. The bay window was added later to accommodate their daughter’s wedding reception. The large stone house at 1184 Crawford Ave.  was built in 1894 of stone from the Emerald Mountain quarry. The family occupied this house until Mrs. Crawford’s death in 1939, and have recently moved in again.

C. Cabin Hotel/Bud Werner Memorial Library - 1289 Lincoln Ave.

The Cabin Hotel was built on this site in 1909 to serve passengers coming to Steamboat by train. It was one of the most luxurious hotels in the country and the largest in Northwest Colorado. In 1939, it burned to the ground in less than one hour, claiming two lives.

D. The Depot - 1001 13th St.

Designed by famous Denver architect Frank E. Edbrooke, the Depot was completed in 1909, shortly after the Moffat Line reached Steamboat in December 1908. During the early 1910s, Steamboat was the largest cattle-shipping center in the country. The train provided passenger service until 1968. The Depot now houses the Steamboat Springs Arts Council and the Eleanor Bliss Center for the Arts.

Other Walk-To Sites in Downtown Steamboat Springs Area

Since James Crawford staked his claim in 1874, the history of Steamboat has been intertwined with its 150-plus mineral springs and encased in historic buildings that line main street. Join us for a walking tour of Steamboat and its springs. 

Iron Spring - 12th Street and Lincoln Avenue. The Crawford family enjoyed this spring, which bubbled up near their cabin. In her classic book, The Cabin at Medicine Springs, Lulita Crawford Pritchett describes the delicious taste of "iron water lemonade." 

Sulphur Spring Sweetwater/Lake Spring - 13th Street and Lincoln Ave. The most fragrant of the springs is the Sulphur Spring, with its odiferous sulphur gas, regarded by the Utes as having curative powers. On several stones, you will find the rings used by early settlers to tether their horses. 

Steamboat Spring, Black Sulphur Spring, Narcissus/Terrace - 13th Street and Lincoln Ave. (across the river from the library). The once geyser-like Steamboat Spring used to make a sound that reminded early settlers of a steamboat. Black Sulphur Spring has turned inky as nature continuously reduced its hydrogen sulfide to sulphur. Just a few yards further up the river, you'll find the Narcissus and Terrace springs; mud from these springs is regarded as effective for skin disorders. 

Lithia Spring - Lithia Spring Road and Moffat Ave./13th St. (About 10 minutes' walk up 13th St. from Lincoln Ave.) The milky waters of this spring contain a high content of lithium, said to have many beneficial medicinal qualities. In the early 1930s, H. W. Gossard constructed the stone columns at the entrance and had plans to bottle the waters and call it "Miraquelle." 


Heart Spring - Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center, Third Street and Lincoln Ave. There is an admission charge to enter this facility. The Heart Spring served as a Yampatika Utes camp for several centuries before Crawford family arrived. The natural bicarbonates and lithium in its warn waters provides bathers with a stimulating experience. The hill behind the Heart Spring is reputed to be the site of the last great battle in Steamboat between the Arapahos and Utes. From here, return via Oak Street (and many more historical buildings) to the city parking lot. Important... Please be advised that Steamboat's springs are untreated. Drinking from them may cause illness or discomfort.