The Virginia Dale Overland Trail Stage Station

Built by Jack Slade


The Virginia Dale Station as it looks today
Photograph by Darleen Zollinger, Copyright © 1996 All Rights Reserved

National Register of Historic Places

Built in 1862, the Virginia Dale Overland Trail Stage Station is a remarkably intact hand-hewn log building, remaining to this day as the only Stage station on the Overland Trail to survive its original site into the 20th century. It is an irreplacable link to our historical heritage.

Jack Slade, credited with the naming of the Virginia Dale Stage Station, was also responsible for seeing to the construction of the main building, the stables, and other out-buildings. The station was of built of logs, but of a more uncommon piece-sur-piece, or mortise and tenon, construction technique. This construction technique was brought to the United States by the French fur trappers who built their cabins along the Rocky Mountain creeks in this same manner.

The long, one-story hewn log structure still sits atop a knoll on the north side of a county road which was once the Overland Trail. The rural landscape of this area has remained virtually unchanged since the station was built in 1862.

The station is a “three-part” building with vertical posts separating each section and into which the end logs are mortised. The east and center unit are “clapboarded” and were originally covered by an open shed-roofed porch. At some point in the 1920’s when the building was being used as a general store, the open porch was enclosed. By 1942, the porch had been removed. The west end section, with the hewn logs exposed, originally had a shed addition of vertical boards which projected approximately the depth of the open porch.

The first shingles on the Station where freighted in from St. Joseph, Missouri at the cost of $1.50 per pound. Openings on the front (south) wall include an entrance with a board and batten door in the west section; an offset door in the center unit with a pair of double “one-over-one” windows to the side, and a door in the east end, also with a “one-over-one” window to the side. The top log plate is pineed with pegs and spliced in the middle just above the center door.

The gabled east end features a parapet wall that extends above the slope of the roof to just below the roof peak. The corner posts contain a continuous mortise which still shows the marks of the housewright’s T-auger. The existence of the parapet in combination with the continuous mortise facing the exterior suggests that a two-story addition was planned for the east wall at the time of construction. However, historic photographs verify that the addition never materialized.

A large stone chimney is attached to the east wall with a six-over-six pane window to the side. Historic photos reveal that the stone rubble in evidence around the base of the chimney was present at the time of construction. By 1864 a hand dug well 65 feet deep and though solid granite was added.

In the early 1960’s a rolled siding was applied as a protective measure to the north wall to prevent snow from blowing in during the harsh winter months. Over time the chinking has eroded, especially on the north wall, leaving gaps between the logs. From the interior, all the window bays are evident, having been boarded over or nailed shut.

The interior is composed of one large open room with exposed log walls. Remains of white wash can still be seen. A woodstove is placed in the center of the room and makes use of the brick chimney. Known alterations to the interior include the lowering of the ceiling, and the reconstruction of the brick fireplace on the east wall.

There is an original cellar under the east third of the stage station with access only through a doorway at ground level on the front side. The cellar stairway and the cellar walls are of stone. From the cellar, one can see that the floor joists were sawn on a “reciprocal” sawmill.

In 1985, the Stage Station was designated on the National Register Of Historic Properties After 130 years of snow, wind, and heat the old building is showing signs of wear. In early 1996 funding was granted from the Colorado State Historical Society in order to stabilize and preserve the building. This work was completed by Peter Haney, master woodworker and horse logger, director of Rocky Mountain Workshops.

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Created and maintained by Elizabeth Larson
Copyright © 1996-2000 All Rights Reserved

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