Backcountry huts restored to warm Nordic skiers
Breckenridge Nordic Center owners Gene and Teresa Dayton say restoring two historic cabins along the cross-country trails was nothing short of a labor of love.
The cabins welcome and warm cross country skiers who need a break from the elements or just want to sip some hot chocolate inside a cozy cabin.
The “Hallelujah Hut” is a 105-year-old cabin that was saved from a likely demise on the Revett property in Breckenridge’s Swan Valley.
Located in the New World area at the Nordic center ” a 22-mile loop at the base of Peak 7 ” the cabin provides shelter in an area that can seem a long way from the main lodge.
With propane heat and a south-facing deck, the hut is “a nice little destination place for people to ski to,” Terese Dayton said.
The Hallelujah Hut restoration project started nearly two years ago, when the owner of the Revett property “gave” the cabin to the Daytons for $1.
Tony Harris, the general contractor on the job, decided to take the cabin apart, sand the logs and move them piecemeal to the new site, where the logs, “like a jigsaw puzzle,” were put back together, Harris said.
Once the logs were in place on a new foundation, a new roof and propane stove were installed, plus a front deck. Most of the original windows were preserved, but a new door had to be fashioned to meet the town’s code.
Harris is an expert at saving what he calls “the old stuff” but, like Dayton, has an affinity for turning the area’s dilapidated mining structures into useful shelters.
“If you don’t repair them, they just disappear,” Harris said. “Everybody saves a little piece,” and then they’re gone.
Instead, a restoration will ensure cabins like the Hallelujah Hut ” formerly known as the Retort House ” will be around for generations to come.
The Retort House was built by dredge boat king Ben Stanley Revett, who arrived in Summit County in 1893. A stout Englishman who was, according to local history writer Mary Ellen Gilliland, “as wide as he was tall,” Revett was the man responsible for the rock piles seen from Highway 9 driving into Breckenridge.
In an on-again, off-again attempt to extract gold from the area’s stream beds, Revett brought the first dredge boats to the area. They were monster wooden vessels designed to float on the river and dig deep into bedrock, where gold nuggets lay nestled in the gravel.
After a few false starts, the gold dredge king realized success with a steam powered vessel named “The Reliance.” At a cost of $90,000, the Reliance was Colorado’s first successful dredge boat.
Revett married Mary Griffin in 1898, then designed and had built an elegant estate for her he named Swan’s Nest that still stands today.
Less than 30 feet from the manor stood the Retort House, where Revett’s workers brought gold from the dredge boats, melted it in a furnace and created gold bars to be shipped to the city.
A second cabin that underwent restoration at the Breckenridge Nordic Center is Josie’s cabin, located at the toe of Cucumber Gulch on the Blue Loop.
Harris supervised the work on Josie’s, which included installing a new roof and replacing the bottom four logs on all sides that were rotting or, in Harris’ words, “turning to dust.”
The cabin was owned by Cy Colburn, who owned the surrounding mining claim that ran all the way down the valley to what is now the site of Claimjumper condominiums.
Sharon Jefferson, who is Colburn’s niece, lived in the cabin in 1976 and visited frequently with family over the years.
“I remember viewing stars through the holes in the roof,” Jefferson said. “It was either freezing in that cabin or 180 degrees, up in the loft.”
Jefferson’s two brothers, John and Russell Ford, tended a herd of goats on the property while living in the cabin in 1965. During hunting season, the brothers went out for a hike, came back to the cabin and their small herd of goats had been shot.
“They decided to leave the area after that and went to live in a cabin in Georgetown,” Jefferson said.
Bob Ford, a third brother and a teacher at Colorado Mountain College who liked to play music at the cabin, lived there for a half-dozen years in the mid-1970s.
Because he didn’t mine the property, Colburn lost the mining claim to the government, “probably after a fiery Irish fight,” Jefferson said.
Now it’s owned by the town.
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