509 Yampa stands the test of time
Craig Many of Craig's early residents added to the history of the town. The marks they left still can be seen today.
The town has grown a lot since the first few buildings were erected on the dirt street that was early Yampa Avenue. Most of the old buildings have long since disappeared - victims of fire or construction that either couldn't stand the test of time or didn't fit into design plans for a forward-thinking community.
One of the few original buildings still in use in Craig's original business district is located at 509 Yampa Ave.
"The largest building now under course of erection is the brick block being put up by J.M. Darnall, E.B. Darnall and Walter Coleman. This block is 25-by-60, two stories high and has a basement. The second floor will be fitted up especially as a hall for the use of secret societies. The first floor will be fitted up expressly for store purposes. Charles J. Collom will occupy the front part of this floor with his stock of drugs and furnishing goods. E.B. Darnall will occupy the rear portion with his taxidermist display. (Craig Courier: June 22, 1895)
In the well-known photograph of Craig's main street that has been painted on the stage in the museum and used as a casual logo, the light coming through the windows of the building lets viewers know that the roof wasn't completed when the photographer closed his shutter.
The building has had many tenants and owners since it was completed more than 100 years ago. It has served a wide range of needs and interests. Some of those activities have been lost forever, while others are documented.
The Sept. 12, 1907, Routt County Courier reported: "The Courier is once more homeless. This week the Courier building (at 509 Yampa) was sold to the Goddard & Hedreck interests and as soon as the paper can be transferred to a new home this building will be used in connection with the one the firm is now in for the expansion of their business."
In February 1919, the building was sold again. This time it gained a name that would stick with the structure even though it would see many different tenants and owners in the future. Glenn and Albert Tower bought the building from A.M. Ranney. Haubrich & Downs were operating a general merchandise business on the ground floor of the building and the Cedar Mountain Oddfellows Lodge was meeting in the upstairs area. The organization was instituted shortly after the building was built and had met in the space for nearly 25 years, but they were put out with the sale and the Tower brothers moved their billiard equipment into the space.
A year later, the Courier reported that Earl Blevins and Gilbert Sturman opened their new plumbing business on the ground floor of the building. They signed a two-year lease on the building and promised good service. A 1920 photograph of the building shows the sign, "Blevins & Sturman - Craig Plumbing & Sheet Metal Works." A door on the south side of the front says, "Club Room - Soft Drinks and Cigars."
By the end of the same year, however, the Empire ran the following: "A quick lunch restaurant will be opened the last of the week in the storeroom recently vacated by the Craig Plumbing and Sheet Meal Works. Albert Tower also is moving his pool hall to the downstairs location. The restaurant will occupy half of the room. The rest of the room will be devoted to a soft drink parlor conducted by Mr. Tower. W.C. Held also will have a news stand in the store.
"The rear room of the building, formerly used for storage has been redecorated and remodeled and will contain pool and billiard tables. The upstairs room : will be used by some of the Craig lodges as a meeting place." (Craig Empire: Oct. 20, 1920)
Throughout the years, several community organizations used the upstairs room as a meeting place including the Oddfellows, Woodsmen of the World and the Masonic Lodge. Just as people came and went depending on their fortunes and if the area fit their lives, businesses came and went through the solid brick building.
J.J. Kusey was going to leave Craig and close his grocery, but he was persuaded to stay by many of his customers. He took up the downstairs space of 509 Yampa and made plans to put in a "modern meat market, keeping the very finest of cornfed meats." (Craig Empire Courier: Dec. 10, 1930) Kusey must have found running a grocery too demanding as he took his own life shortly after reopening.
The next documented business in the building was the Gregory Cash Grocery (IGA) that opened its doors July 5, 1934. They put in the meat market that Kusey had promised and remodeled the building, removing the street door to the upstairs room and installing plate glass display windows. Today, an examination of the east (back) wall of the building still shows the painted sign for the grocery.
During the decades, businesses came and went - some spending more time than others and remodeling to fit changing business needs. From dry goods to drug stores, plumbing to home decorating and clothing, the building at the northeast corner of Yampa and Victory Way has seen Craig's people come, go, grow and die.
The current tenant, Empire Express Hobbies and Toys moved in during 1991. As the business community has evolved, so has the business and it now houses a pack and ship service and Country Wide Home Loans.
The building sags just a bit now. The floors creak too, but it is a constant reminder of Craig's history and the faith that people have had in the community when they opened the doors of an independent business to enjoy the riches - and challenges - of a free marketplace in America.