Rehabilitating a Wyoming Dude Ranch with HistoriCorps

Posted on: August 17th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

Written by Jenny Buddenborg

HistoriCorps operates in the Rocky Mountain region, but accepts volunteers from across the country.

The Mountains/Plains Office of the National Trust partnered with HistoriCorps in early August to bring volunteers together for the stabilization and rehabilitation of three buildings at the Double D Ranch located in the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming - the first federally protected National Forest in the United States.  Nestled amongst the Absaroka Mountains, the site is just southwest of the small town of Meeteetse (Shoshone for “meeting place”) and five miles below the abandoned mining town of Kirwin.  It is an old homestead turned dude ranch eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The ranch land was homesteaded in the 1890s and purchased by Carl and Vera Dunrud in 1931.  The Dunruds set about using the site as a guest ranch that operated until 1945.  Over the years Carl himself built many of the buildings.  The site includes a barn, cabins, dugout, lodge, garage with stone walls, and an outhouse.

The ranch offered activities for relaxation and recreation in a remote location, including a masonry swimming pool that would have provided a fairly chilly dip, it being at an elevation greater than 9,000 feet.  Its guests included Amelia Earhart and her husband George Putnam, an acquaintance of Carl Dunrud’s.  They stayed in the one-room log cabin nestled in a corner of the ranch with a front porch angled towards Jojo Creek.

The Dunruds owned the ranch and surrounding land until 1959 when it was sold to the American Metals Climax Corporation who in turn sampled the area for ore, discovering rich deposits of copper and molybdenum.  The company eventually ceased its explorations due to fluctuating ore prices and a negative public view of open-pit mining.  In 1992, the Mellon Foundation and The Conservation Fund purchased the companies’ holdings, which included the Kirwin mining district, and donated both the mining district and the Double D Ranch site to the U.S. Forest Service.

At the time the Forest Service acquired the site, the Double D Ranch buildings had suffered from years of deferred maintenance and neglect.  But there was strong local sentiment for their preservation that has held over the years.  Descendants of Carl and Vera Dunrud still live in the area, so the Double D Ranch history is alive and well.  With support from the Shoshone National Forest and a grant from Wyoming’s Abandoned Mine Land Program, the stabilization and rehabilitation of the Double D Ranch buildings became a recent reality.

HistoriCorps joined in the effort by providing the necessary technical and volunteer support.  They planned a two-week long volunteer project over August 1-12.  The first three days of the project were co-sponsored by the National Trust and brought in 20 volunteers and staff members from the Forest Service, HistoriCorps, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and National Trust.

The overall scope of the two-week long project was to rehabilitate cabins #2, #5 and the barn to serve as public rental facilities.  The roofs of cabin #5 and the barn had collapsed and the foundations suffered from serious deterioration.  HistoriCorps planned to reconstruct the roofs and replace and repair rotted sill logs.  Cabin #2 would also be re-roofed and have sill logs replaced.

Over the course of the National Trust’s participation, the group worked on the stabilization of the three buildings – an effort led by two HistoriCorps project supervisors.  Rehabilitation began on cabin #5 at the tail-end of the three days. Participants learned how to salvage historic materials, peel logs, repair and replace deteriorated sill logs, and re-roof with historically compatible materials.  During the down time, HistoriCorps provided a jovial camp setting that included hearty food and lively discussions that ranged in topic from historic preservation to bear safety.

The Double D Ranch project is one of five that HistoriCorps is managing in 2011 – its second full season.  During its 2010 season, the organization completed 14 projects in Alaska, Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming.  HistoriCorps is a national initiative to provide a volunteer workforce for historic preservation.  The goal is to increase the capacity for achieving preservation projects by teaching preservation maintenance and traditional building skills, advancing sustainable technology for historic buildings, and generating an interest in historic preservation.

HistoriCorps is based in the Rocky Mountain region with an office in Denver, Colorado, but coordinates and instructs preservation projects across the United States.  It is a program of Colorado Preservation, Inc., a National Trust Statewide Partner, supported by the Forest Service, the program’s lead federal agency, and assisted by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.  Like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, it provides an experiential opportunity for volunteers, while also making a positive impact on communities and places.  HistoriCorps achieves the latter by saving dozens of significant historic places.

The National Trust seeks to build support for historic preservation through experiential opportunities like those offered by HistoriCorps.  Co-sponsoring the Double D Ranch rehabilitation project allowed us to literally get our hands dirty and to engage new preservation supporters in a meaningful way.

Jenny Buddenborg is the Program Officer in the Mountains/Plains Office who brings the resources of the National Trust to Wyoming constituents.  For more information on HistoriCorps and to learn of their upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit www.historicorps.org.

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National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

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