Much can happen in a span of 123 years. There was the turn of the 19th century, the introduction of the automobile industry, two world wars, and a new millennium, yet the Ford Barn in Fraser stood through it all.
The barn, located on the historic 4 Bar 4 Ranch in Fraser, has lived many lives. First, it was built in 1895 by Richard and Jessie McQueary on their cattle farm as a stagecoach stop on the Georgetown Stage Line, which ran from Idaho Springs through Hot Sulphur Springs and over Berthoud Pass. Then, in 1913, the barn was transformed into the first Ford dealership in Grand County by its new owner, Fred Feltch. Finally, it was returned to its original use as a barn on a cattle ranch in 1917.
Unfortunately, the barn has been vacant since the 1980s and slowly sinking into the ground ever since as neglect and harsh weather wore down the log structure. But because of its rich history, the local nonprofit Historic Fraser, Inc. couldn’t let the barn deteriorate.
“As (the barn and hotel) deteriorated, some of the people who lived close by here thought it was crazy and we should try to save them,” said Kent Wehmeyer, a board member of Historic Fraser, Inc.
Historic Fraser has received a $200,000 grant from History Colorado, the largest such grant the state offers, and another $18,500 from local charities. They have also received donations of materials and services from local businesses. Thanks to those funds and materials, restoration on the barn has begun. Wehmeyer said the new foundation will be poured this week.
“Everybody thinks that it’s overdue, it’s a great project and they can’t wait for it to be done,” Wehmeyer said.
Because the building is a designated historic site, the restoration process has to follow the guidelines laid out by the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior, which include using period construction techniques and requirements to preserve as much original material as possible.
Empire Carpentry is handling the construction of the barn.
“A lot of stuff you do everyday gets old, and trying to match all of the things that the people did is a different way to think,” Kevin Murray of Empire Carpentry said. “When we’re redoing it, we have to do the exact same thing because otherwise it’s a false history. So if they did something terrible then you have to do it terrible, but you make sure it lasts.”
Reconstruction will also include replacing the building’s roof, repairing parts of the structure that has degraded and restoring features like the windows and doors. As per the historical preservation guidelines, there will be no major structural changes or feature alterations.
Wehmeyer said construction is scheduled to finish in the late fall. Ultimately, Historic Fraser, Inc. wants the barn restored to its original glory with new paths around the property and educational signage for visitors. The inside of the barn will not be open to the public.
“What we want is a place for people to come and see and touch a part of what was our history, right here in Grand County,” Wehmeyer said. “It’s one thing to read about it, it’s another to stand next to the building, push on it, stare up at it.”
Historic Fraser also hopes to rebuild the former hotel on the 4 Bar 4 Ranch property, which had to be completely town down to preserve materials. The restoration of the hotel could possibly begin next year, if funds can be secured.
“We want to keep rolling,” Wehmeyer said. “When it’s done, it’s going to look like it did (in 1895).”