Sommers Ranch Homestead Open House 9/8/11

Sommers Ranch Homestead Open House
Upper Green River Valley homestead living history site
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
September 8, 2011

On Saturday, September 3rd, the Sublette County Historical Society, Green River Valley Museum, and siblings Jonita & Albert Sommers held an Open House to showcase the renovation of the 100-year old homestead house on the Sommers Ranch. Around 250 people turned out for the gathering at the rural ranch located on the Green River approximately twelve miles southwest of Pinedale.

The ranch was started in 1908 and is still a working cattle ranch owned and operated by the same family who homesteaded there more than one hundred years ago. It has been designated as a Wyoming Centennial Ranch by the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Stockgrower’s Association, Wyoming Woolgrower’s Association and the Wyoming Business Council.

The ranch headquarters including the two-story log homestead house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The ranch property became part of a 19,000-acre land conservation project in 2010 as part of four conservation easements between the Sommers Ranch and the Grindstone Ranch. As part of that project, the homestead house, several other historic buildings were given to the Sublette County Historical Society to manage as a historic site, along with an easement on about an acre of land.

The site is not a museum. Its purpose is to explore the lifestyles of early homesteading and ranching through research, experimentation and interpretation. It will be a living-history demonstration site with many hands-on learning experience opportunities for the public.

The homestead house restoration began in 2010 and was completed in 2011. General contractor for the work was Jim Roscoe with Rosco Co. His crew spent hours meticulously restoring the outside and interior of the building. Historical aspects of the work was guided by historic architect Kurt Dubbe, with Dubbe Moulder Architects out of Jackson, Wyoming. Restoration was managed by Albert Sommers, Jonita Sommers and Clint Gilchrist, President of the Sublette County Historical Society.

The first major hurdle of the renovation involved rebuilding the crumbling foundation under the two-story log house. House-moving specialists, Lemons House Moving Inc. out of Idaho Falls, Idaho, were brought in to perform the delicate task of raising and moving the old building. The entire process took several weeks to move the house approximately 30 feet, dig out the old foundation, pour a new foundation, and move the house back onto the new foundation. Once that major task was done, the restoration of the outside and inside began. Logs were cleaned and re-chinked inside and out. Doors and windows were rebuilt. The back porch was completely rebuilt. The kitchen cabinets were removed and refurbished. All the old sheetrock was removed and the insides of the walls were cleaned and sanitized to remove rodent droppings. The floors, ceiling, walls, chimneys, stairs, front porch, and roof were all restored. An ADA compliant handicap ramp was installed to a door in the back of the house to give access to the lower floor. Outside, structures rebuilt included the old meat house, several chicken coups, and a teeter-totter in the kids’ playground.

Numerous contractors and volunteers spent hours working on the homestead house trying to faithfully recreate the details of the original homestead. The need to stick to the historical accuracy of the details as much as possible significantly prolonged the reconstruction project, and increased the cost, compared to an average log house renovation job.

The majority of the funding for the homestead house renovation was provided by Jonita and Albert Sommers. Additional financing was in part with funds granted to the Sublette County Historic Preservation Commission from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Additional buildings, which include a cellar, garage, bunk house, a wind charger, and chicken coups will be restored as money is available.

An advisory board consisting of representatives from Sommers Ranch (Jonita and Albert Sommers), Sublette County Historical Society (Angie Thomas and Clint Gilchrist), and Green River Valley Museum (Carrie Anderson and Jeanne Lockwood) guide the project. However, the site is being run mostly by volunteers. Each fall, the volunteer group will pick a theme for the following year and will research related topics for the interpretive and living history projects for the next season. Interested volunteers are always welcome. Donations are very much appreciated.

A Grand Opening will be held in 2012. Because of its remote location, the site will have limited public hours. The site will be open select days during the summer, for special occasions, and by appointment.

For more information about this project, contact project director Angie Thomas with the Sublette County Historical Society, 307-367-4101, angie@mmmuseum.com.

The Advisory Board and Sublette County Historical Society wish to recognize and thank the following people and organizations who have helped with the Sommers Ranch homestead restoration project over the past year and a half and the open house.

Roscoe Inc – Jim Roscoe
Dubbe Moulder Architects – Kurt Dubbe
Paul Davidson
Kurt Babcock
Lemons House Moving, Inc.
Tom Mitchell
Richard Roberts
Bob Hayward
Tony Latimer
John Berndt
Ron Dorman
Corbin Lind
Justin Wagner
A to Z Hardware
Bressler Insulation
Buck’s Welding
McKinsey Fencing
Mark Domek Logs
Frontier Electric
Jack Hegart Masonry
Jackson Lumber
M & M Transfer
Obo’s
Pine Creek Woodworks
Pinedale Lumber & Pinedale Rentals
Rocky Mountain Home Center
Susan Kautza
Office Outlet
Sublette County Historical Society/Museum of the Mountain Man – Angie Thomas
Green River Valley Museum – Carrie Anderson
Green River Valley Museum – Jeannie Lockwood
Museum of the Mountain Man
Sublette Examiner – Joy Ufford
Pinedale Roundup – Kaitlyn McAvoy
Pinedale Online – Dawn Ballou
KPIN 101.1 FM Radio – Bob Rule
1st Bank
Sublette County Historic Preservation Commission (CLG)
The Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office

This project was financed in part with funds granted to the Sublette County Historic Preservation Commission from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Volunteers:
Jonita Sommers
Albert Sommers
Clint Gilchrist
Maggie Miller
Carrie Anderson
Jeannie Lockwood
Jon Boroff
Sheryl Boroff
Dianne Boroff
Caroline Brazell
Jamie Brewer
Haley Lockwood
Toni David
Mark Denekas
Dawn Ballou
Seth Brewer
Sandy Brewer
Ashley Brewer
Heidi Brewer
Florence Beard
Garlie Swain
Charles Price
Angie Thomas
Elaine Crumpley
Tawnya Miller
Carole Richie
Swede McAlister
Linda Meeks
JoJo Robert
Jeremiah Robert
Sharon Moreno
John Berndt

(Apologies to anyone whose name was missed from this list. The SCHS sincerely appreciates the support and generosity of everyone who has helped with this project to date and helped make the open house a big success!)