At the base of Boreas Pass in central Colorado, ringed by fir and pine and aspen, rests the modest but welcoming Roberts Cabin, one of the state’s oldest standing log cabins and one of a handful that people can not only visit, but rent for something of an authentic frontier experience.
The Humble Beginnings of Roberts Cabin
Although the remnants of Colorado’s early mining days are scattered across the state in the form of rotted timber and rusty machinery, few complete cabins exist. Even fewer have documented histories and records of their restoration.
The two-story log home today known as Roberts Cabin was likely built in the early 1870s, originally as a stable. The site was convenient to the winding wagon road that led miners from the southern end of the Front Range to the hub of Breckenridge via Boreas Pass (then known as Breckenridge Pass).
Physical evidence of the cabin’s initial use, according to U.S. Forest Service literature, included the remnants of a manger, a feed trough, and a low ceiling (prospectors preferred shorter, stockier burros to horses because they were cheaper to care for and more sure-footed in the rocky terrain). While the cabin bears the name of Fred Roberts, who was from England, whose name first appears in Park County records in 1869, and who held a small mining claim in the area, he may not have built the initial structure; history doesn’t indicate exactly when Roberts moved to the property, but a number of mining claims existed nearby, and the route to Breckenridge was already well-trod.
Home is Where the Barn Was
By the early 1880s, the barn was converted to a log home and a second floor was added. The addition was probably made after the stable’s initial transition to a proper log cabin, as photos taken prior to a later restoration reveal dovetail notching and other different building techniques used in the top portion of the home.
The expansion was necessary to accommodate the cabin’s residents; at the time, Roberts shared the house with George and Lucy Barrett, and their three children. Amid the era’s regional boom, the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad was constructed along what is now Boreas Pass Road.
Whether Roberts or George Barrett, whose occupation is often cited as butcher but who may have also had a local claim, worked on the railroad is unknown, though they certainly stood to benefit from its proximity. Roberts, according to a 2012 article in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, lived in the cabin until his death in 1909.
Intermittently occupied through the 1930s, including by a son of the Barretts, the cabin was abandoned after the Great Depression.
Restoring a Historic Log Cabin
Decades of neglect left Roberts Cabin with a rotting roof and foundering foundation. Between 1992 and 1993, the cabin was restored thanks in part to a grant from the Colorado Historical Society.
Roberts Cabin was essentially pulled apart and reassembled, with fresh timber used where necessary and the logs given modern chinking, the caulk-like substance that seals the spaces between the logs to provide some insulation and protect against moisture. It also received a new roof and a wood floor, but its rustic nature was otherwise preserved.
The cabin now contains a wood-burning stove, four beds and a sleeper sofa, and is maintained by the Forest Service’s South Park Ranger District. Roberts Cabin accommodates about eight people, and it may be rented via Recreation.gov.
Log Cabins: Living History
Roberts Cabin is not Colorado’s oldest standing log home; that honor is believed to belong to Wheat Ridge’s Baugh House, which was built in 1859. Nor is it the state’s best-known log cabin; that may be Breckenridge’s Edwin Carter Discovery Center, which was built by the eponymous prospector-cum-naturalist in 1875 to house the taxidermy treasury that later became the core of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science collection.
But Roberts Cabin provides an immersive experience those other log homes can’t match. One of the last remaining connections to the mining boom of the late 1800s, Roberts Cabin offers a glimpse of a West that was a little wilder.
If you desire the look of a log home or you’re considering restoring a log cabin, but you don’t want the hassle and costs associated with maintenance, you may want to consider the beautiful, energy-efficient and maintenance-free TruLog™ siding. Please call us today at (970) 729-8778 to learn more. TruLog™ is based on Loveland, Colorado, but we ship to multiple sites across the country.