Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, the Kennicott Cabin north of Westcliffe still looks much as it did when Frank Kennicott built it in 1869–70.
Located about three miles north of Westcliffe in the Wet Mountain Valley, the Kennicott Cabin is a rare example of a two-story log cabin. It is significant in the early settlement of the area. Frank Kennicott built the cabin on his original homestead, and his family lived there until the early 1890s. In 1988 the Kennicott Ranch was recognized as a Colorado Centennial Farm.
Sheltered between the Sangre de Cristo Range and the Wet Mountains, the Wet Mountain Valley has a long history of human use. Muache Utes hunted there, and Zebulon Pike passed through the valley during his 1806–7 expedition. Hispano shepherds from the Upper Huerfano Valley later ventured north into the area. The first permanent white settlers—Elisha Horn, John Taylor, William Vorhis, and brothers Frank and George Kennicott—arrived in 1869.
Originally from Illinois, the Kennicotts came to Colorado because they were suffering from tuberculosis. They recovered quickly and took 160-acre homesteads in the valley. They soon went into the cattle and freight businesses. Frank Kennicott probably built his log cabin in 1869–70, before the brothers returned to Illinois in 1871 to find wives.
The exterior of the Kennicott cabin had a rustic, rough-hewn appearance with round peeled logs and simple corner joints. However, the interior surfaces of the logs were hewn flat and covered with muslin and wallpaper. The cabin is also distinctive in Colorado because it was built in an Eastern or Midwestern log cabin style, with side-facing gables and longer front and rear walls, reflecting the Kennicotts’ Illinois origins. Frank Kennicott’s family lived in the log cabin until 1892, when they bought the adjacent Freer Ranch and moved to a larger ranch house there. Around 1900 the cabin had a one-story log building extending perpendicularly off the back, but that addition had burned by the early 1910s.
In about 1910, Frank Kennicott’s first daughter, Mary Louise Thorpe Kennicott, moved into the log cabin. Her husband, Lou Comstock, had died of tuberculosis, leaving her a widow with two young sons, Walter and John. For a while Mary Louise made money selling honey. Later, John Comstock and his uncle Edwin Rogers started a cattle company called Comstock and Rogers. Walter and John Comstock lived in the old log cabin until their deaths in 1990. The cabin had no plumbing and remained largely in its original condition. After the Comstock brothers died, the Kennicott Cabin passed to their cousin, Gertrude Schooley. She was one of Edwin Rogers’s children.
Today a small sign on the west side of Highway 69 identifies the log cabin, and the surrounding land has been placed in a conservation easement.