Craig’s Luttrell Barn may be going away for good
The Luttrell Barn, once a popular location for a host of social occasions, has languished in disrepair for years.
The large red hay barn turned cultural center —now a home for a number of bats and mice — sits behind trees and tall grass on the east side of Craig near the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
Recently, the Boys & Girls Club of Craig reached out to the Moffat County commissioners to form a partnership and plan to split repairs but found the cost was too high.
“I was heartbroken that it didn’t work out,” Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Dana Duran said. “It had so much possibility and potential.”
When estimates on repairs came back at over $200,000, the club’s hopes of using the building as a center for its older kids were dashed.
“It’s unrealistic,” Duran said.
Now, the county commissioners, who have had $100,000 set aside for repairs at the barn since 2012, are looking for a new partner to split the cost of repairs and, more importantly, take over maintenance of the building.
“We don’t have the money to maintain it,” Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe said. “We don’t want to put money into something that we can’t take care of.”
If nobody comes forward to help save the barn, the commissioners are planning to free up the $100,000 and demolish or move the barn.
At the Aug. 23 commissioner’s meeting, Grobe said if someone could come up with a plan, then he would like to put the $100,000 into the barn but he doesn’t want roll the money forward another year.
“If we can save it — great,” he said. “But we can’t go on for years in this fashion.”
The Luttrell Barn, which Museum of Northwest Colorado Director Dan Davidson still refers to as the Rose Barn, was built by one of Craig’s founding fathers in 1904.
“William Rose built it,” Davidson said.
The hay barn was originally painted white and displayed the Rose brand on Washington Street near where Abbey Carpets is currently located.
“It was such a prominent structure over the top of town,” Davidson said.
By 1975, the barn’s prominence had greatly diminished and modern structures like an apartment complex were starting to encroach.
According to a January 1977 article from The Daily Press, Emilyn Young, who inherited the barn from her parents, donated the barn to the now defunct Moffat County Arts and Humanities Council in 1976, and it was moved from its spot on Washington Street to its present location near the fairgrounds on county land.
In 1984, the Arts and Humanities sold the barn to the county for $1 and the county continued to keep the building open to the public until 2012.
Parks Department Facility Coordinator Erin Miller said some people still inquire about using the facility, which was rented mostly for weddings and birthdays.
“Occasionally, I will get a call asking about it,” she said
Records show that barn rentals had not made money for several years. In 2010, the county brought in $1,895 while expending $2,348, and in 2011, the year before the barn was closed, revenue was $1,860 while expenses were $2,090.
When the county purchased the barn, the original operating agreement stipulated by Young was part of the bill of sale.
The operating agreement stated that if the barn was not used for its intended purpose as cultural center or if public access was cut off unreasonably, ownership would be restored to Young.
“Originally, they had kept a written reversion that if it wasn’t used a cultural center, it would go back,” Moffat County Attorney Rebecca Tyree said at the Aug. 23 commissioner’s meeting.
Young’s heirs reached an agreement with the county at the end of 2015 and relinquished their interest in the barn.
“It took us over a year to get ownership of the building because they had the first right to the building if anything happened,” Grobe said.
While the ownership issue was being sorted out, the commissioners were unwilling to put money into a structure they may not own in the end, Grobe said.
With no maintenance being performed, the building fell into a state of disrepair and the list of work needed continued to grow.
The Committee to Save the Barn started to convene and formulate estimates for repairs at the barn in 2013 but none of its efforts came to fruition.
At one point, the county discussed moving the barn to the Wyman Living History Museum but owner Lou Wyman said it never happened and he lost interest in the barn.
“We don’t really need it,” he said.
Now, the question of saving the barn must be answered before the commissioners finalize their 2017 budget on Dec. 15.
Development Services Director Roy Tipton said he understands the interest in the barn, but extensive repairs are needed to make it safe for public use.
“It’s a hot potato,” he said. “The save-the-everything crowd can’t handle the reality of — ‘what do you do with that? Why would you throw over $200,000 at that building?’”
Tipton said the work needed included repairing the warped wall on the west side, stripping all the walls and spraying insulation, installing a new roof, and much more.
Asbestos inspections would as be required, as the interior of the building was built in the 1970s.
In the past, a lot of projects were pulled off through volunteerism and “farmer engineering,” Tipton said, but higher standards are required now.
“I have to look at it from that point of view — we have to protect the public’s interest here,” he said. “If we allow this building to be reopened and it’s not safe and up to code, the county could get sued and we can’t let that happen.”
Tipton said the primary obstacle in making the barn safe for public use is getting rid of all the pests.
Bats and mice have made the barn home and brought disease along with them. Getting the bats out is easy enough, but preventing them from returning is the tricky part.
“There’s lots of things living in this building and in order to get rid of them, you got to seal it,” Tipton said.
Throwing kids into the equation raises additional concerns over the unwelcome guests.
“I have a daughter who is 12-years-old, and I would not let her come here in this building and play because there is all kinds of diseases caused by them,” Tipton said.
All in all, Tipton said estimates are at around $200,000 but there are countless unknowns that could raise costs, such as electrical issues that may be discovered when the walls are exposed.
“Your costs are just getting exponentially bigger and bigger,” Tipton said.
Pam Foster, of the former Committee to Save the Barn, said she is in the early stages of forming a new group that could return a plan to the commissioners for saving the barn.
“I think it’s appropriate to have a nice historical barn at a fairgrounds,” she said.
Foster said she understands that you can’t save everything just because it is old, but the Luttrell Barn is perfect for a multitude of uses.
“It’s just the right size for a lot of uses and people have used it a great deal for graduation parties, birthday parties, wedding receptions, smaller meetings, et cetera,” she said.
Moffat County Commissioner Frank Moe said the county needed to be honest with the community about the barn and the related expenses at the commissioner’s Aug. 23 meeting.
“We as a county cannot do justice to the building, cannot run it an operate it and tell the community that its not going to be a burden,” he said.
Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.Contact Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.
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Sean Hovorka may not have been born in Moffat County, but an understanding and appreciation for the area’s unique personality have made it a home to which he is truly dedicated.