Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson
Special to Colorado Community Media
Recently some residents have expressed their concerns regarding the preservation of historic structures in Elbert County. With the newly developed Elizabeth West, the Gold Creek Ranch farmhouse situated on Highway 86 between Walmart and Sonic Drive-In will be torn down to make way for new homes.
While the Gold Creek Ranch farmhouse is in a state of disrepair, some structures in better condition are being restored by developers to help preserve the heritage of Elbert County. Namely, many of the century-old structures located at Craft Companies’ Independence neighborhood site are being preserved and their associated artifacts restored.
The Independence Homestead house, the Farmhouse Victorian and the barn are currently being transformed into shared community spaces and amenities.
The Farmhouse Victorian, a structure dated to 1921, will be converted into a coffee shop and community center for residents and community members. Original artifacts from the structure have been restored and will be placed within the space so patrons can learn about and interact with the history of Elbert County.
The historic artifacts associated with the structures are being preserved by The History Quest, a local company specializing in historical research, genealogy and restoration. They focus the majority of their efforts on historic ranches, farms and homes in Colorado. The History Quest is run by restoration specialist Shawn Strain, a lifetime local resident and former antiques shop owner in Elizabeth.
In a phone interview from April 21, Strain expressed his interest in historic artifacts and the reconditioning process.
“I was raised by my grandparents and grew an appreciation for the old ways and old things at a young age,” explained Strain. “I now like to do reconditioning of the artifacts. The artifacts can leave a story. Reconditioning lets me keep some of their bumps and bruises and show their history.”
Strain also shared his experience working on the Independence Farmhouse Victorian and plans for the coffee shop conversion.
“We are restoring everything from furniture down to small little kitchen items like glassware. There is a plan to switch them out of the coffee shop seasonally so community members who come through can experience all the different artifacts,” said Strain. “Some restoration took a while though. When we got to the house, there was some damage done to the artifacts due to weather and some unwanted visitors, like birds.”
According to Strain, the restoration process that The History Quests has utilized to recondition the artifacts is as follows:
1. Dispose of things that are too damaged to restore.
2. Categorize artifacts into groups.
3. Inventory artifacts based on historical significance.
4. Wash and clean the artifacts.
5. Wrap and store artifacts that will be presented to the public.
In an email correspondence from April 21, Strain also explained the steps that Independence and Craft Companies have taken toward general historic and environmental preservation, writing:
“The three original windmills on the property have also been preserved as iconic landmarks, symbolizing the spirit of Independence to honor the past and guide the path forward.
“In addition to the preservation of original buildings, wildlife corridors and natural vegetation have also been protected, and existing wetland habitats have been restored.
“The Independence community has also partnered with the Butterfly Pavilion to create a Pollinator District that will ensure the landscape throughout the community provides an enriching habitat for both people and pollinators.
“In collaboration with Denver Urban Gardens, shared community gardens are also underway at Independence to cultivate new and experienced resident gardeners and to promote horticultural beauty and healthy living. This will be done by utilizing water wise techniques that combine methods used in this high plains desert for over 100 years with modern approaches.
“I’ve enjoyed working with Craft Companies. I am very impressed with their support of local businesses, contribution to conservation, and ongoing support for the community. Even as controversial as the Independence project has been, I’m happy to work with them because they really do care about the community.”
Elle Ethington, spokesperson for Craft Companies, shared the thoughts of an artist who took part in the preservation of the site’s barn:
“We loved painting the vintage flag mural on Independence’s original barn because it enabled us to preserve and restore a historical part of the community through art,” said Larry Polzin of Denver-based Stargazer Creations. “It was our ideal project because it required a great deal of artistic creativity that resulted in a beautiful and unique piece of art that honors the past and will greet residents for years and years to come.”
You can also find images and videos of many of the artifacts restored by The History Quest on the TikTok and Instagram, both @thehistoryquest