Roughing It With Ease

McGraw Ranch, a facility used by the Continental Divide Research Learning Center, once functioned as a dude ranch, and now houses researchers when they work on projects that help Rocky Mountain National Park staff better manage our park's resources. Because McGraw Ranch was a working operation that evolved over time (called a vernacular landscape by landscape architects,) historic preservationists had to decide on a specific time period to restore it to in the process of rehabilitating it for its new role. Based on historical documentation, they chose the time period between about 1935 and 1955.

Not only did the park repair the buildings to represent that time period, but the staff also chose furnishings with an eye to economy, durability, and to period detail. A park volunteer researched furnishings owned by the McGraws and that were popular between 1935 and 1955. Another volunteer with training as an interior designer searched catalogs of furnishings and compared them to historic photos of building interiors from the period to find just the right pieces. Funds from private donations allowed the park staff to purchase historic lighting fixtures, rewired to meet today's standards. An Estes Park resident donated funds to recreate the beautiful front door in the main lodge, and a cabinet maker came from England to volunteer and provide the labor on this and several other aspects of the restoration project.

The McGraw Ranch facility has also received artwork, a wonderful period piano, and a utility quilt typical of what would have been used in the dude ranch era from a variety of private donors. Old photographs copied from McGraw family albums and art from the park's museum collection also grace the walls. These objects remind viewers of the cultural environment that once pervaded the ranch and help them picture a time long ago when the ranch hosted dudes rather than researchers. These objects keep the spirit of the ranch, best expressed by the McGraws: "roughing it with ease."

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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Estes Park, CO 80517


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