No legal protection for historic cabins | SummitDaily.com

No legal protection for historic cabins

On Oct. 22, 1947 Bill Thomas Jr. wrote about a snowy day that kept him inside for most of the day.

Fast forward to Oct. 22, 2016 and the people attending the walking tour of Bill's Ranch couldn't have asked for sunnier weather.

The Frisco Historic Museum and Park organizes tours of the land granted to the Thomas family in 1910, where the family began to operate a dairy ranch.

A NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY

In 1930, the town of Frisco only had 18 people and the Thomas family created a plan to bring people to the town by offering free land: The first 10 people to respond to an open call for residents could take some of the 147.5 acres given to Bill's mother, Jane Thomas, in a Deed of Trust.

The process was slow, but eventually people began to respond and build cabins — some of the cabins still stand today and are part of the walking tour.

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But many of the historic cabins that were built were taken down. Some of the structures were moved to the historic park in Frisco, others were repurposed or used in construction by the new property owners.

Jana Miller, the tour's guide and coordinator for the museum, said that the organization largely depends on community members to preserve the cabins.

"You are really dependent upon the good faith of the people who live here and own the places," she said.

She added that the cabins are not legally considered historic landmarks. The town has to work with the county to get that designation and the rules surrounding which buildings can be protected makes the issue very complicated.

Miller owns the Maddy Cabin, which was the first stop on the tour. For her, the purchase meant saving a piece of history, something that gave her a leg up with the cabin's previous owners.

Other stops on the tour have similar stories. The Fiester property was bought by a couple that wanted to preserve it. The cabin was referred to as "Look-up Lodge" because of the mountain views behind it.

When Jane Thomas and her husband Bill first came to Frisco in the late 1800s they purchased the Leyner House Hotel. Bill Thomas Sr. died in 1900, but Jane Thomas continued to run the hotel until 1931. The structure was later dismantled and moved to the ranch site, where Ben Little, who plays Bill Thomas for a brief section of the tour, helped reconstruct the building. His brother Jim Little and sister-in-law Marcia Little, bought the Leyner House Hotel with a group of friends in 1974. In 1996 they had a ground breaking on the restoration, which was completed three years later. Ben and his brother, Jim Little, have been working to help save other historic cabins that were part of the ranch, including the Olson Cabin, which is also on his property.

Miller said that one of the biggest problems in preserving the cabins is that there is no way to track when they go for sale. While some property owners — including some owners from the families that originally built the cabins — have kept the original structures in good condition, new owners may not do the same.

Miller said that one family has been working with the museum to move the cabin off their property before they sell the land it's on. The cabin will move to the park in Frisco along with the original ranch house and the Niemoth Cabin, which were previously moved to the park — the ranch house was moved in the '80s and the Niemoth Cabin was moved in 1995.

"If we move the buildings there, they're at least protected," Miller said.

One of the last stops on the tour is the Posey Cabin. Margaret Posey's father bought the land from Bill Thomas in the late '40s. Because the community knows Posey cares about the ranch's history, she has inherited various pieces such as cattle brands, a water wheel, Bill Thomas Sr.'s mother's Bible and even Bill Thomas Jr.'s diary. She has kept the wood-burning stove originally put in the cabin and still cooks on it.

Future programming

The Frisco Historic Park and Museum is expanding their lecture series to include winter programming. On Oct. 28 they are hosting a cemetery crawl and Nightmare at the Museum where people can take a tour by lantern light.

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