Hessie Cabin, CO 2022
Hessie Cabin, CO 2022

Hessie Cabin, CO 2022

Hessie Cabin, CO 2022

Located near a wildly popular (and beautiful) hiking area, the Hessie Cabin is one of the last remaining traces of a short-lived Gold Rush boomtown west of Nederland, CO. HistoriCorps volunteers will take on a major rehabilitation project here – and in the future, the cabin may be available for overnight rentals!

PROJECT PARTNER:  Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest

DATES: September 11-16


CREW LEADER: Rachel Hoff

Project Site Description & History

Today, Colorado is celebrated as a dream destination for outdoor lovers, but much of the state’s history and current economic activity is rooted in mining. The discovery of gold on Pikes Peak (historically inhabited by Jicarilla Apache, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations) in 1858, which led to the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, was a pivotal factor in the development of the current state of Colorado. The Rush brought record numbers of prospectors (by some estimates 100,000 people) to the mountains known as Colorado’s Front Range. The population growth that resulted from miners and their families flocking to the area led to the establishment of the Colorado Territory only three years later,  in 1861.

Roughly thirty years after Colorado became a territory, the town of Eldora (historically inhabited by Cheyenne Nation peoples, and currently part of Boulder County) was established. Eldora served as the local center of gold mining activity west of Boulder. After Eldora (peak population 1000) was settled, the lure of gold brought another wave of miners to the vicinity, and a smaller camp town, “Hessie,” grew up a few miles to the west between 1895 and 1905. Hessie Cabin, AKA “Kennewick Cabin,” is one of the few standing residential structures left from Boulder County’s mining history. Kennewick Cabin, built in Hessie prior to 1906, is an excellent example of the type of cabin miners living and working in the Front Range during the 19th century would have lived in.

When Captain J.H. Davis brought his wife, Hessie, to the new settlement, she made herself indispensable by launching a crude postal facility in the Davis Cabin. In gratitude, the miners decided to name the settlement “Hessie” in her honor. The town of Hessie was thus added to the map of Colorado. Hessie supported about eighty residents at its peak. Located just east of where the North and Middle Forks of Boulder Creek come together, the settlement at its peak had several stores, a schoolhouse, boarding house, sawmill, and residences. The high elevation, about 8,600 feet, made agriculture difficult, but some settlers managed to grow hearty vegetables like potatoes, radishes, carrots, and peas.

Mining efforts continued until about 1904, but gold mining around Eldora and Hessie was never as productive or profitable as hoped. To make up for the lack of mining profits, a large-scale timber business was started in Eldora. In 1899, a massive fire swept through the mountains surrounding the town. Eldora itself did not burn, but the trees in the neighboring mountains were gone, marking the end of lumbering. With mining unprofitable, the timber gone, and an unforgiving climate, there was little to encourage residents to stay. By 1910, the towns of Eldora and Hessie were mostly abandoned, but (according to the book Colorado Ghost Towns), not before Hessie became the site of a complicated murder case that remains unsolved to this day.

The scenic Diamond Lake lies just down the road from the Hessie Cabin by way of the popular 4th of July Road.

Location and Logistics

SESSION DATES: September 11-16

LOCATION: Hessie Cabin is at an elevation of 9,000 feet and we strongly recommend acclimating to before arriving on project.

ACCESS: Tent camping onlySite is RV/trailer accessible

Tents, truck campers, campervans, and RVs/trailers can access this campsite, but there are no hookups and RV spacing may be tight. Potable water and restrooms will be available. A single lane dirt road passes the cabin. The road is maintained, but can be deeply rutted. High clearance vehicles are recommended.  Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted. 

WEATHER:  Anticipate high temperatures in the mid 60s and lows in the 40s. Weather conditions may be rainy, cloudy, or sunny. Volunteers are responsible for checking weather conditions before their session begins, and packing appropriately.

ABOUT VOLUNTEERING: HistoriCorps projects are free for volunteers! HistoriCorps will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to the campsite, sleeping equipment, work gloves, clothes and boots, and other personal gear.

Scope of Work


HistoriCorps is committed to educating and training volunteers in preservation skills, with an overarching mission of inspiring a preservation ethic in all those involved. Learning and working alongside expert HistoriCorps field staff, volunteers and applying the traditional skills necessary to restore the Hessie Cabin.

  • Rebuild interior floor system (30%)
  • Interior and exterior wood chinking and lime mortar daubing (30%)
  • Interior painting (15%)
  • Window and door rehabilitation (15%)
  • Install wood burning stove and stovepipe through metal roof (5%)
  • Misc carpentry repairs (5%)

Please note: Tasks vary by day and by week, depending on a variety of factors including: weather, project priorities, previous groups’ work, and more. Though it is likely you will get to learn and practice most or all of the above tasks, it is not guaranteed. The higher percentage of the scope a particular task is, the more likely you will get to practice it.

Sign Up!

We’re thrilled this project has inspired you to volunteer! Choose your session and register below:

You will know your registration was successful when you receive a confirmation email. Contact volunteer@historicorps.org for assistance.

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Volunteer Logistics, Policies, and Advice

We’re so glad you’re interested in joining this project! If you’re new to our community, review the Volunteer FAQ first! Please note the following logistics and policies:

  • HistoriCorps is committed to keeping our volunteers, staff, and project communities safe. All volunteers will be required to affirm that they will be fully vaccinated from the Covid-19 virus by the time their project begins. Read our Covid protocols here (updated October 2021).
  • Volunteering with HistoriCorps is free! We will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite or shared indoor lodging. Dinner is not provided on the first night.
  • Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own gear, work gloves, sturdy work clothes and boots, and appropriate sleeping equipment. Check the average temperatures before you start packing – the nights and mornings may be colder than you anticipate! Then, read this advice about how to stay warm when tent camping in colder places.
  • Campsite accessibility varies by project. Some projects can accommodate tents only; others can accommodate small RVs. Please review the project site description above for more information, and if you’re still not sure, email volunteer@historicorps.org for help.
  • If this project does not offer showers, you might want to consider bringing a solar shower or research other methods to clean up after the work day.
  • Volunteer crew sizes generally range from 4-8 volunteers, with two HistoriCorps staff that lead and train volunteers in the work.
  • Safety is one of HistoriCorps’ top priorities, and volunteers can contribute to a safe working environment by ensuring their physical fitness is adequate for the work. See above for this project’s scope of work and difficulty level. Please, call us if you are not quite sure if a project is a good fit for your skills or fitness level. We may be able to suggest a project more suitable and enjoyable for you.
  • Hard hats, eye protection, ear protection, gloves are standard personal protection equipment (PPE) required on all projects. Hard hats must be worn at all times on the project site, unless working in a designated safe space. Field staff will train volunteers on correct use of PPE.
  • Dogs are generally allowed to accompany their humans in project campsites (actually, we love having dogs join us around the campfire!). Dogs are not permitted on the job site for everyone's safety. HOWEVER: HistoriCorps also follows the rules and regulations of our project partner. If the project partner does not permit dogs onsite then HistoriCorps is no exception. Please ask HistoriCorps or the project partner directly if you have any questions about whether Fido is welcome.