Downtown landmark may be seeing final days

The White Horse Inn, known for its honkey-tonking and piano-playing owner, has storied history

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By JEFF SWANSON
Daily Press writer
A historic landmark in downtown Craig may soon be reduced to a pile of rubble, but not necessarily because the owner of the building would like to see it that way.
The White Horse Inn, located at 476 Yampa Ave., is reaching its final days in Craig and owner Aleka Butler believes that its destruction may be in the best interests of the community.
"It has got to the point that it is unsafe," she said. "So, we decided that it would be in the best interests of everyone if we were to just take it down."
Before demolition begins, Butler will need to remove a large amount of asbestos that is still in the building, according to Craig Building Inspector Dave Costa.
"It has been declared condemned, and we have given a notice to the owners," Costa said. "The real issue that we have had to deal with is the asbestos and condition of the building. As soon as we receive the sign-off for the asbestos abatement, they can proceed with demolition."
Although the White Horse may be viewed as an eyesore in present-day Craig, during the late-1930s it was one of the most frequented establishments in town.
Opening right after prohibition ended in 1934, the White Horse was one of Craig's first taverns.
What took place in the early years of the White Horse is still open to public debate, however, at different times it served as a livery stable, mercantile and garage.
A few lingering reports also claim that the inn once served as a house of prostitution, although evidence does not exist to support the theory.
"That's one of the things we've heard," said Butler, who purchased the building four years ago. "Of course, there is no way that we can prove that it really was a whorehouse, but that's the way the story was told to me."
In March 1945, the White Horse Inn was purchased by Bruce and Millie Castine of Craig.
Millie helped to run the tavern for over 40 years, entertaining patrons with her honkey-tonk piano playing and friendly local presence.
She was also generous to a number of charities in the Craig area.
Castine died Nov. 7, 1988, leaving the White Horse Inn legacy to her daughter, Wanda, and son-in-law, Bill Curry.
The Curry's attempted to revitalize the once-popular downtown business in 1988, but the attempt was short-lived, and the Curry's were forced to close the business a short time later.
Despite the storied history of the White Horse Inn, Butler believes that the time is right to tear down the ramshackled tavern.
"I really wish we didn't have to tear it down," she said. "I really appreciate all of the history that is in that building. Unfortunately, it has got to the point that we have to do something, and we expect to be getting that done soon.
"It's really too bad," she said. "But we feel that it is the best thing to do."
After demolition is complete, Butler said the final decision would be made as to what will become of the landmark building and its adjacent lot.
"We have a lot of ideas in the works, but we are still not sure what we'll do," she said. "We will have to wait and see what our options are at that point."

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