Historic Horse Barn at Red Mountain Gets Makeover

Historic horse barn built by R. O. Roberts around the end of the 19th Century (Photo by Richard Gonet)


by Richard Gonet

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In the 1870s, farmers and ranchers began settling in the area now known as Red Mountain Open Space, which is comprised of close to 16,000 acres that are owned and managed by Larimer County’s Department of Natural Resources.  

This ecologically unique area where the mountains meet the plains is thirty miles north of Fort Collins on the Wyoming border.  It holds artifacts left by Native Americans over thousands of years and structures built by its more recent inhabitants more than a hundred years ago.

One of those early settlers was R. O. Roberts, who homesteaded there and built a horse barn that still stands today as a physical reminder of the heritage and spirit of those hardy pioneers who worked the land.  

Roberts Horse Barn (photo by Richard Gonet)

To rehabilitate the barn, a crew of volunteers has assembled at the property under the auspices of HistoriCorps, a nonprofit organization that conducts more than 50 such preservation projects across the country annually through the work of more than 2,000 volunteers. 

Crew Leader Daniel Ensalaco will lead the volunteers who work on the Roberts horse barn, and they will repair and replace the weathered siding and repair structural components of the barn as they uncover them. 

They will also shore up the barn’s stone foundation where needed.  Crew members will camp in tents in a tree-shaded grove nearby and will take their meals together in a large tent since they will be living and working miles away from the nearest amenities. 

Nearby the horse barn is a log cabin school house which another group of HistoriCorps volunteers restored in 2021.  Unfortunately, this section of the Red Mountain Open Space is not open to the public, but the greater portion of the natural area contains miles of trails that are open for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. 

Red Mountain Open Space adjoins the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area which is owned and maintained by the City of Fort Collins.  

Like its neighbor to the west, Soapstone Prairie has miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.  It is also home to a herd of bison relocated from Yellowstone National Park to preserve their genetic integrity.  

Red Mountain and Soapstone are open to the public and there is no entrance fee or parking fee.  The areas close for the season on November 30 because of harsh winter weather conditions, which only underscores the hardiness of the people who once lived there and struggled to make a living from the land.