In the northwest Colorado town of Hayden, a huge wooden granary was historically the spot where farmers and ranchers gathered to store and ship their crops. The granary building was also where they congregated around a coffee pot to gab about weather and the price of oats.
That hulking relic of Hayden’s farming and ranching heyday was slated to be torn down 15 years ago before Hayden residents Tammie and Patrick Delaney made what they call “a heart-over-head decision” to save it.
They bought the feed store they had been patronizing for years, and the attached elevator and storage area that once held 11,000 bushels of grain was thrown in with it. Since then, the Delaneys have turned the granary into a new kind of Hayden hub at an important time when the Yampa Valley’s coal mining and coal-fired power industries are being phased out.
The 106-year-old grain storage area now anchors The Hayden Granary district that includes a coffee shop, a wine bar, a brewery, rental units, a food truck and a space for a caterer and popup eatery.
It is a space that tourists heading to nearby Steamboat Springs on Highway 40 or flying in and out of the busy Yampa Valley Regional Airport have begun to discover. But, more than anything, it has become the spot for the 2,200 or so residents of Hayden to meet up with their friends and neighbors, dine, drink, and barn dance.
Yes. Barn dance.
Barn dancing is a century-old tradition around Hayden. It was started by a beloved local attorney in the early 1900s. Ferry Carpenter promoted barn dances as a way to bring people together in an area with a sparse population and some challenging terrain.
The Delaneys decided to carry on that tradition at the granary, so one Friday night each month older ranchers in their snap button shirts and fanciest boots, and young families with children bopping around the dance floor, turn out for a barn dance. At times, there have been hundreds of barn dancers packed into the granary.
“We have a lot of folks around here who like to play music and dance. It’s just a lot of fun,” Tammie Delaney told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. “It’s a great way to meet up with friends and neighbors.”
When the Delaneys purchased the granary, it was seriously in need of some TLC. Old feed sacks filled the space. There were holes in the concrete large enough to swallow a tall person. The building – one of only seven wooden grain elevators on the Western Slope - was on the list of most endangered places in Colorado.
The Delaneys thought they were going to run it as a feed store, but they soon found out there was no money in that. They couldn’t compete with big-box stores selling feed and pet food in nearby Craig. Oldtimers still came in for their coffee and gab sessions, and the Delaneys quickly learned that the tip jar with the coffee pot was more profitable than the feed store.
They closed the store and opened a coffee shop called the Wild Goose. Townspeople helped make that a going business by buying coffee cards in advance.
The Delaneys also tackled the grain-storage area. Besides all the cleaning and patching needed there, the Delanys also managed to get the edifice listed on the Colorado and National Register of Historic Properties. They established it as a nonprofit business and brought in Steamboat Springs businessman Paul Brickman as a partner.
Patrick Delaney said when he was attending one of the meetings for the Colorado Historic Preservation board, one member commented to him, “This is a fabulous property, but you’re nuts!”
“I agreed,” he said.
Recently, the granary received a $120,000 grant from Colorado Preservation Inc. to help replace the roof and façade of the granary.
The Delaneys hope the future will prove them not nuts at all. An effort is underway to bring passenger trains through Hayden using the rails that once carried coal trains. Yampa Valley residents are hoping trains could run from Craig to Steamboat Springs where the rail line could connect to the Winter Park Express Train. Trains would pass – and hopefully stop – at the granary.
Besides hauling skiers and other visitors, the hope in that area is that commuters would use the train. Home prices in Hayden have jumped up to an average of $500,000. More than 250 new housing units are being built or have been approved, underscoring the big need for worker housing.
The Delaneys recognize that their remote town is growing and changing. But they see the revived granary as an anchor to the past in an area where heritage has been ranked at the top of community values.
“The granary really is the catalyst for a lot of friendships,” Tammie Delaney said. “It’s an important part of Hayden.”
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