I have always been intrigued by old farm houses, barns, and dilapidated buildings. I am drawn to their stories and imagine the lives and spirits that they once captured. They’re like time capsules–ancient relics juxtaposed with elements of our modern lives.
As a young girl, we lived in New Jersey. My parents were divorced and we spent every weekend with our dad. He picked us up in his old ’79 Explorer, affectionately and appropriately nicknamed, The Beast, and took us to where he and our step-mother lived. He never really took the highways much. Instead, we were always winding through the farming communities and countrysides of New Jersey. I loved gazing out the window and into the vast cornfields and cow pastures. New Jersey has quite the reputation for being a dump, but it’s called the Garden State for a reason. The countryside is quite beautiful.
I have memories of going corn-picking with my dad one year and getting lost in the crop. At least that’s how I remember it anyway. I remember looking up and seeing tall corn plants surrounding me and I was scared. I also have memories of going apple picking with my sister. I don’t remember our ages or the names of the places, but I remember doing it. We used to explore the backwoods that surrounded the home that my step-mother grew up in. There were old rusty cars back there and a dense forest that seemed to go on for miles. When I think of my life before I was 10, I think of the old farmlands of NJ. And when I recount all of these memories, I feel a sense of serenity and almost a calming effect.
For the vast majority of the last 18 years in Colorado, I have always lived in the southwest part of town where everything is nice and new. There are mega-churches on every corner; none of which have any history or any charm. Nor do most of the buildings down there. Nearly every square foot has been developed with strip malls and restaurants.
When Derek and I decided to get married, we also decided to move “up north.” I was really leery at first, but as we drove around and scoped the place out, that feeling of serenity came back. The northerners value their space and privacy. There are working farms and wide open spaces everywhere. And to my elation, there are old abandoned buildings and preserved homesteads that are full of history.
One day after school I decided that, instead of going to the gym like I should have, I was going to drive around and take pictures of whatever caught my fancy. I drove down a street called Old Wadsworth up here in Broomfield. I love that road because it is full of that modern and old juxtaposition I mentioned in earlier. There are old farm houses amongst newer half million dollar homes. I chose this road because I figured I’d find something–not realizing it would set off this storm of interest and creativity within me.
I found this old barn and silo that was out in the middle of no where. It was surrounded by a fence on one side and a highway off in the distance on the other. It was incorporated into Lower Church Lake Open Space, not private land, so I pulled off and took some photos. When I posted it on Facebook later that night, my friend pointed out to me that it’s haunted and her brother sneaked in there when he was in high school.
Her comment sent me into a tailspin and I was looking all over Google trying to find out more about this place. I finally found some good stuff on the City of Westminster site. I learned that it’s called Tucker Ranch and was part of a larger “home site” for a farming family in the early 1900s. In 2006, they removed all of the other buildings on the land and these two were left. They grew corn and hay here that they stored and then transported to their large cattle ranch in Nederland. The barn was primarily used for hay storage and a 20 cow milking operation. The silo and barn foundation look like brick, but were actually made with clay tiles that became obsolete after WW2 (due to the popularity of concrete). Not many buildings were made with these tiles in Colorado, so these buildings are pretty darn special. I never did find any validity to the place being haunted, but the family did have a child that died at 4 years old… Yeah, I won’t be entering that place and stirring up any spirits. I also learned why everything over there is “Church” something or other (Church Ranch Rd; Lower Church Lake). Church was the name of another farmer in the area that formed a business relationship with Tucker and were the prominent cattle ranchers of the area. Cool! I love learning stuff like this!
I decided I wanted to set out to research and photograph more old barns and things in my area. I knew of another barn on my route to the gym and decided to Google map it. Technology is so amazing! I found it and it led me to the same city website, which talked about all of the historic and preserved farm buildings in the area. Now, I had a mission! And I decided it might be fun to share it with you.
Here is Fonay Barn. This barn was also built in the early 1900s and is a remnant of the old Foney wheat farmstead. If you live here and want to see it, it’s on Huron at about 144th. What’s cool about this one, is that it was built without nails. Instead, they used wood pegs. Obviously, it was a pretty good method because it’s still standing. According to my husband, there were other buildings on this lot too that were recently torn down during all the recent construction. The website said that there is a plan to move it about a quarter mile east and will be rehabilitated and permanently protected by the city.
You know, I have been intrigued with this barn since we moved to this end of town. I was thrilled that I had an excuse to photograph it. Let me tell you, however, I will not be returning to this one any time soon. First, it was upsetting because of all the debris and junk that was piled around it. A lot of new construction surrounds this barn and there was an overall weird feeling and chaotic energy there. As I neared the barn, I felt this tremendous sense of dread. I felt uncomfortable and as if I was not welcome. I took about 7 pictures and skeeedaddled on out of there. I could have walked around it and up close and personal, but I was kind of fearful. I did some research and there is not a lot of information out there. I was left wondering what happened there that may have trapped some funky energy. Yes, I believe in that stuff and I don’t mess with it.
The final destination in our little tour is the Savery Savory Mushrooms water tower. Derek and I live within walking distance of this thing and never really knew the story behind it.
I always thought that it was a fun play on words and just a clever way to draw attention to the pond that was there. Turns out, it is the original water tower (circa 1927) that pumped water to a huge mushroom farm that surrounded it. How cool is that?
Long story short-ish, a Charles Savery moved to Denver from Pennsylvania in 1909. He was originally a stockbroker and was looking for a new career. He thought that growing mushrooms would be lucrative, but was told that it was too dry here for it to ever be successful. Well, the guy failed for the first three years, but didn’t give up. He built these small mushroom houses and created his own moisture system using canvas strips, troughs of water, and fans to circulate the created moisture. His idea worked well and he built several more mushroom houses, a homestead, and employed many Mexican immigrants. It became quite an empire and he became the largest supplier of mushrooms in the Rocky Mountain region.
If you have the notion to read more about Savery and his mushrooms, check out this link. It’s really quite interesting. More history in my own backyard! When we first moved to Westminster, there was no access to Mushroom Pond other than through trails in the neighborhood. In fact, I walked around it almost every day when I was pregnant with Ella. Now, they have created a trail head with a small path that leads to the pond. It is now designated open space and is protected by the city.
There were two other places I wanted to see, but they were really challenging to get close enough to get good shots of them. If you live here, you may know of The Ranch on 120th and the old Metzger farm on Lowell and 120th. They’re also relics from the early 1900s and protected by the city of Westminster.
It was fun taking a tour of our town. I have a new appreciation for the lives that were here before ours. From the right vantage points and facing west, one can look out on the countryside, and almost see what it was like here before modern technology took over. Purple mountains majesty… so very beautiful.
Thanks for taking the tour with me. I hope that if you live in a place that is rich in history, you stop and look beyond the shopping malls and highways. A lot is there if you pause to view it.