Historic cabins in Dillon give glimpse into Summit’s past
To learn more about tours, call the Summit Historical Society at (970) 468-2207.
Long before the days of electric fireplaces and radiant floor heating, people still eked a living out of places like Summit County. During the winters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the main focus wasn’t exactly “comfort” or “convenience” so much as “survival.” Early residents of the area had to get creative with their methods and materials to make sure that the harsh climate didn’t get the better of them. Thanks to efforts by the local Summit Historical Society, examples of cabins and homes during those times are still around today, and can be toured to give people an understanding of what it took to live in the High Country years ago.
The Honeymoon Cabin
The name for this Depression-era cabin comes not because it’s a desirable place for a newly wed couple to stay — it isn’t — but from the story surrounding its origins. The cabin was built in the 1930s by a lumberjack whose name has faded into obscurity over the years. His motivation for building was supposedly his fiancée, who stated she would not marry him until he provided a house for them to live in.
This lumberjack was not a rich man, so it’s believed that the majority of the materials he used to make the cabin were obtained illegally. He didn’t own the land he built it on either, and is reported to have tapped into the wires running power to lamps in the mines for his own electricity. The cabin’s roof and four walls must have been enough for the fiancée, however, because they moved in and lived there for at least a year.
And that’s all it is — a roof and four walls. The cabin is a single room 12 by 12.5 feet. It’s made out of lodgepole pine logs, with smaller aspen logs in the gaps on the outside and alder logs on the inside. The even smaller gaps and chinks were filled in with mud, clay and bits of old cloth. A wood stove heated the room, which featured a single bed, a braided cloth rug and probably a few other furniture items like a dresser or small table. A chamber pot in the corner shielded by a folding screen served as the bathroom. The couple’s only luxury, it seems, was an old Victrola, which they relied on for entertainment.
The Honeymoon Cabin was moved from its original position in Keystone, at the base of the resort where the gondola is now, to Dillon, behind the old Dillon Schoolhouse museum. Tours are available.
The Myers Cabin
Though just a few yards away, the Myers Cabin represents a definite step up from the tiny Honeymoon Cabin. Two stories tall and 16 by 24 feet in size, the Myers Cabin represents what a couple of comfortable means could afford in Summit County in the late 19th century.
Charles Delker, a Dutchman who had some business with the local mines, built the cabin in 1885. He got the land through the Federal Homestead Act, which allowed a person to eventually own 160 acres of land so long as the head of the household built a live-in structure within five years of receiving the claim, and 50 acres of it were improved in some way (such as developing them for agriculture). The family was required to occupy the land within six months of building and couldn’t leave for more than six months out of the year, to receive the claim.
The Delkers sold the cabin to the local Myers family in 1920. Lula Myers lived in the cabin from 1924 until 1966.
“She was quite a hardy woman,” said Polly Koch, a docent with the Summit Historical Society, board member and who occasional tour guide for the two cabins.
Originally from an area near Castle Rock, Lula Myers, née Orsburn, moved to Summit County to be the Frisco schoolteacher. Her time there was not without controversy — upon returning from a trip home over Christmas, she discovered, much to her surprise, that she had been fired. Apparently, though it was common in those days for women teachers to remain unmarried, Lula had been courting Jim “Dimp” Myers (her future husband). This did not please the all-male school board members, one of which may have fancied her himself. Somehow, Lula cleared up the controversy and returned to teaching.
The Myers cabin features a front sitting room, which leads into the kitchen/dining area. In the ceiling of the kitchen is a window with a dual purpose — to let in light, and to serve as a sort of “escape route” for when the snow piled up too high against the front door, Koch said.
To the left of the front room, a narrow, rickety staircase leads to the second floor, a small loft area just big enough to house a bed and chest of drawers. This was the sleeping area for the adults and youngest children of the household. Lula Myers remained in the house into her 80s, before moving to Denver to live with her daughter.
“It was quite fancy for its time,” Koch said.
Just like the Honeymoon Cabin, the Myers Cabin was moved from its original site in Keystone and now sits behind the Dillon Schoolhouse, where it can be viewed through tours with the Summit Historical Society.
The importance of preserving buildings like these cabins “is to show how people lived in the past and how, in a short period of time, society has advanced so much,” Koch said. “I think it’s important to teach that history.”
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