Outbuildings of Lake City

Year Listed: 2010
County: Hinsdale County
Construction Date: Various
Threat When Listed: Deterioration

Founded in 1874 as a supply and service center for hard rock mining, Lake City is now a community with a year-round population of less than 400 and a tourism-based economy. Key to Lake City’s heritage tourism efforts are their beautifully preserved commercial district and residential neighborhoods, which feature many spectacular examples of Victorian and Italianate architecture. The Lake City Historic District is one of the largest, oldest and best preserved historic districts in Colorado. Interestingly, 37% of the contributing structures to the historic district are ones that are often overlooked and forgotten: the outbuildings and accessory structures of the brightly painted high style buildings that line the streets. The outbuildings include a wide array of structures, including outhouses, mule barns, carriage houses, coal sheds, root cellars, chicken coops, and sheds. Though modest in size and style, these buildings help tell the story of a frontier town and how Lake City residents lived in the late 19th century. Many of the outbuildings are obsolete in terms of their original use. As a result they are not being maintained and have reached a critical point of deterioration. Local preservation ordinances disallow the active demolition of historically significant buildings that contribute to the district, but to date, measures to prevent demolition by neglect haven’t been exercised. Town officials and historic preservation advocates are concerned that if this trend continues the Lake City Historic District will be at risk of being delisted from the National Register of Historic Places. Lake City has a proportionately large percentage of significant accessory structures, but a number of communities across the state share this issue of threatened outbuildings. The story of early life in these towns will be incomplete if only the high style buildings are preserved.

Lake City officials are proposing to work with Colorado Preservation, Inc. and willing property owners on an innovative program that would provide funding and technical expertise so that the outbuildings can be stabilized and rehabilitated according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

HistoriCorps partnered with Colorado Preservation Inc’s Endangered Places Program and the Town of Lake City in 2010 to successfully rehabilitate four historic outbuildings (the Bent Mule Barn, Culver Outhouse, McGehee Outhouse, and Rock Outhouse).  The rehabilitation projects combined the efforts of Lake City locals with HistoriCorps volunteers from across the state.  During the three day workshop, the deteriorated framing of the Bent Mule barn was stabilized and a new roof deck and corrugated roofing were installed.  The Culver Outhouse was reroofed with cedar shingles, a new foundation was installed on the McGehee Outhouse, and the shingles on the front facade were replaced.  The Rock Outhouse roof was also repaired.

In 2012, Colorado Preservation, Inc. drafted a prioritized ranking for the existing outbuildings the town could use in order to focus their efforts on restoration. The preservation of these buildings will not only protect Lake City’s Historic Landmark District status, but also serve as a model to other Colorado communities facing similar challenges. CPI helped the town secure a CLG grant to update the historic survey and prioritize outbuildings. Work will continue to determine incentives for the outbuildings as it relates to the grant. 

Outbuilding Stabilization Project