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Telling the SAT Story: Hutchinson Homestead Ranch

Hutchinson Homestead Ranch 
Salida, CO
Year of Award: 2009
National Park Service SAT Grant: $200,826
Matching Share Leveraged: $212,021

In the late 1800s, the fast-growing Colorado ranching industry helped to establish the region’s culture and economy before its statehood was established. Situated southwest of Colorado Springs in the town of Salida, the Hutchinson Ranch and Homestead, established in 1868, was one of the area’s first. Today, it is one of the oldest continuously operating ranch houses in the United States, and thanks to a Save America’s Treasures grant in 2009, its storied heritage can now be shared with the public.

Perhaps most notable about the property is that it has remained solely in the Hutchison family since it was first homesteaded as a private home and agricultural site.  Four generations later, in 2006, Dr. Wendell F. Hutchinson donated the property to the nearby town of Poncha Springs, who worked with Salida Area Parks, Open Space and Trails (SPOT), and the Hutchinson family to preserve and interpret the site. Instrumental to this preservation was the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grant. Katy Grether, Project Leader of the Hutchinson Homestead preservation project since 2002, credited the SAT grant for making it possible to “open the doors to the public as a ranching heritage site and agricultural learning center.”

The main house, ca. 1900. [1]

The main house, ca. 1900.

The grant provided brick-and-mortar funding to be used on the rehabilitation of interior finishes in the homestead house. During this process, the preservation contractor, Salida-based Older Than Dirt Construction, installed Lexan polycarbonate plastic over several original details—carved initials on the front porch, original fragments of wallpaper, and a section of interior wall left unclad to showcase the newspaper insulation used in its construction—to leave them visible to visitors, while protecting them from further degradation. Using the Hutchison family’s extensive record of journals and drawings, they also replanted plants and shrubs original to the property.

The main house being lifted during stabilization. [2]

The main house being lifted during stabilization.

Improvements were also made throughout the site using SAT funding, including enhanced pathways between existing buildings that made the complex more accessible and created a sequence that could be followed for visitors. The SAT grant meant that endangered outbuildings were stabilized. The inclusion of these resources in the project assists in bringing the homestead back to life and providing an authentic interpretation opportunity with the buildings such as the granary, calving shed, and the corral.  The Hutchison family had, Grether said, “deep ties to the Chaffee County and neighboring Ute people.” These materials share the ranching community’s practices and legacy, including “what cowhands do, how they dress,” as well as the site’s preservation practices.

Hutchison Homestead and Ranch received matching funding from the History Colorado State Historical Fund and from the local community. “We credit our fundraising success to a very supportive local community that loves the Hutchinson family and their immense contribution to local history, an incredibly successful state grant program, and its counterpart on the federal level through the National Park Service,” explains Grether.

And the community is now benefitting from their support of cultural heritage in many ways. The completed site, now dubbed the Hutchinson Homestead & Learning Center, is a prime destination in Chaffee County, and has helped to promote heritage tourism and increased tax revenue there. The project also attracted a local non-profit, Guidestone, a food and agricultural education nonprofit who manages the site, providing tours and other events and classes,to educate the community about the value of land and water in local food security.

A school group touring the restored Hutchinson Homestead & Learning Center [3]

A school group touring the restored Hutchinson Homestead & Learning Center

Imbuing younger generations with a sustainability ethos that focuses on local food production and appreciation of finite resources like water and fertile land is a great benefit to the future of the community. And by doing it in a historic place, the community is also connected to their past in meaningful, tangible ways.

A part of the local community for generations, the Hutchinson Homestead can now take on an even more meaningful role as an example of heritage and natural resource stewardship, an outcome that would, according to Ms. Grether, “not be a reality if not for the tremendous support from these generous Colorado state and National Park Service grant programs.”

For more information on the Hutchinson Homestead & Learning Center, please visit their website [4] or connect with them on Facebook [5].

Established in 1999, the Save America’s Treasures program is managed by the National Park Service, with the National Endowment Agencies, to preserve and protect nationally significant properties and collections for future generations of Americans.  Stories of saving those treasures will be shared through partnership with the American Architectural Foundation.

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Photos courtesy of the Hutchinson Homestead & Learning Center.