Colorado's Legendary Library of the West Hopes for a Kickstarter Come Through
The Rocky Mountain Land Library has been called one of Colorado’s most treasured collections of books. The 35,000+ private book collection primarily focuses on the West’s landscape, diverse history and legendary people. The Library’s sole mission it is to “…encourage a greater awareness of the Land…” and for 2017, the owners have embarked upon their latest ambition – to create a residential campus alongside the Library to be located at an 1861 era sheep and cattle ranch near Fairplay, Colorado.
Originally, the large collection of books had been stored in the basement of husband and wife curators: Jeff Lee and Ann Martin, longtime employees of Denver’s iconic Tattered Cover Book Store. In 2012, however, the couple was suddenly faced with the sale of their rental home. While inconvenient, the move created a spark of opportunity for the duo. Facing the difficult task of packing an estimated 1,000 boxes of books, the couple needed to quickly find a more permanent home for the private collection and it wasn’t long before they found the South Park National Heritage Area’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch. The historic site quickly became the preferred option and a 95 year lease was signed with the City of Aurora.
It all started when co-founders Jeff Lee and Ann Marie Martin, who met while working at Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store, took a trip to Gladstone’s, a residential library in Flintshire, North Wales.
Inspired by the experience of living among books, the couple began to imagine an overnight library of their own — one geared toward the American West and the Rocky Mountains.
Painstakingly curated by Jeff and Ann over 30-plus years, the Land Library’s book collection will be housed in three locations along Colorado’s Front Range mountains – roughly retracing the South Platte River from its alpine origin just upstream of the ranch, to the mouth of Littleton, CO’s Waterton Canyon and into the heart of urban Denver. The Waterton Canyon “Kids and Educators Library” features 3,000 books hosted by Denver Water in the historic Kassler Center, Denver’s first water treatment facility.
In 2016, an urban library location was identified in the heart of the historic Curtis Park Neighborhood at the old Puritan Pie Factory. After many volunteer hours cleaning the warehouse and an initial pop-up event, plans are underway to restore the Pie Factory as a multi-use, Urban Homesteading Library and learning center.
The 2017 Kickstarter campaign seeks additional funding from conservationists, book lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike to complete the renovation of the Cook’s House at the Ranch. The finished building will include two bedrooms, a kitchen, a large classroom space, and the ranch’s first library collection, housing workshops, residencies and retreats. The group may also add the restoration of a caravan, construction of a hillside barbecue oven and installation of a composting toilet with funds beyond the original goal. Eventually, founders Jeff Lee and Ann Martin want to renovate a total of six structures on the ranch, which they lease from the city of Aurora.
This Friday, April 7, 2017 – several of the folks supporting the Rocky Mountain Land Library(s) will host a happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m. at Denver’s BookBar – located at 4280 Tennyson St. Staff will be on hand throughout the night to talk about the project, the Kickstarter effort, as well as the books themselves.
Buffalo Peaks Ranch
The ranch is located one and a half hours from Denver at 9,196 feet in rural South Park, a 1,000 square mile grassland flat between the Mosquito and Park Mountain Ranges within the greater Rocky Mountains.
Developed by an industrious French widow during the mid-1800s, the ranch thrived as a sheep and cattle operation for over a century, but stood vacant for several decades, its tin-sided barn and wooden houses bearing the full brunt of South Park’s harsh winters. Channeling the spirit of rancher Marie Guiraud, Lee and Martin set to work cleaning up the property, and recruiting others to their cause.
The ranch has hosted two full summers of volunteer days, workshops, and events— in addition to serving as a home-base for extended field study programs for Colorado College in nearby Colorado Springs.
Learn More + Kickstarer Info
URLs and Video for KickStarter Campaign: