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Steamboat Magazine

A Bridge to Happiness

05/15/2023 09:38AM ● By Suzi Mitchell
(Julie and Carl Warnke, their three children Addison, Otto and Whitney, and Coco the dog sit on the bridge that crosses over Butcherknife Creek to access their front entryway. Photo by Elisa Maines Photography.)

From Steamboat Magazine Home Edition 2023 

Steamboat Springs Middle School Spanish teacher, Julie Warnke, loves summer for more than the long sunny days. The mother of three treasures her eight-week break from work and likes nothing more than spending time in her house on Spruce Street. 

(The former Mount Harris home was bought in an auction and relocated to Steamboat in 1958, when the mining community outside Hayden was disbanded. Photo by Elisa Maines Photography.)

“Summer is when I get to be a stay-at-home mom for my own kids, instead of spending my days with 160 middle schoolers,” she says. Julie and her husband, Carl, bought their home in 2002 and got straight to work on their first renovation. “We basically tore the house in half within the first week of buying it,” says Carl, an engineer with Engineering Designworks. “The garage came down like matchsticks and for a moment, it was like watching your investment get split in two.”

The property was a former Mount Harris home, like several of the properties in the neighborhood. It is estimated that 68 properties from Mount Harris, a previous coal mining town east of Hayden, were auctioned off and relocated in 1958. The Warnkes’ house had already been through several additions when they bought it, but the original one-room living space remained intact. 

(The brightly colored kitchen is the hub of the home, with a side door that opens onto an elevated deck and rock garden. Photo by Elisa Maines Photography.)

“When we had Whitney, our first child, we would creep around trying not to make the floorboards creak so we didn’t wake her up,” Julie says laughing. “We got to know which ones were the creakiest.” The couple was committed to preserving the history of their home but did replace the original oak floor. “The floor was made from scrap pieces of wood and patched together, so it was all funky,” Carl says. 

Julie insisted on keeping one of the crooked doorways and an interior wall for posterity. “It kills Carl to look at that, given his profession, but keeping some of the original structure was very important to me,” she says with a smile. As the Warnke family expanded, so did the house. The two-story house now boasts four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a playroom and an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room. “The house is as big as it can be,” Carl says. 

(Addison, Whitney and Otto have their own space on the second floor to chill out, read and play. Photo by Elisa Maines Photography.)

Doors off the kitchen open onto a deck and side-yard, which is a magnet for friends and cousins in the summer and also doubles as extra living space. “We love being able to sit out there, have meals, drink coffee and listen to the creek,” Julie says. “It’s great for the kids, and we have Butcherknife on the doorstep as an added playground.” 

(Excess tile from the kitchen and primary bath remodels frames the wood fireplace in the living room. Photo by Elisa Maines Photography.)

A wooden bridge connects the front entryway to the street. “It’s the third rendition of the bridge and another thing the kids love about our home,” Julie says. “Living on a creek feels very peaceful and healing, and it’s unusual to have one going by your front door.”  The property further benefits from its location at the end of the street, with very little traffic. 

(A clawfoot tub in the primary bath is a heavenly retreat after a day of adventure in and around town. Photo by Elisa Maines Photography.)

Before the final remodel in 2021-22, the Warnkes contemplated moving for more space, but in the end, they realized something was keeping them there. “The house not only holds history of the area, it has a special meaning for our family,” Julie says. “All of our children have lived in this house, so our hearts and our spirits will always be here.”