The Tigiwon Community House was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933–34 as a meeting spot for pilgrims coming to see Mount of the Holy Cross. Located along Tigiwon Road south of Minturn at an elevation of about 10,000 feet, the rustic log building continues to serve as a meeting spot and event center. In 2015 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Holy Cross Pilgrimages
The Tigiwon Community House is associated with two early twentieth-century developments: first, the rise of nationwide pilgrimages to Mount of the Holy Cross; and second, the improvement of national forests for recreational use.
Mount of the Holy Cross was named for the 1,500-foot-high cross formed by snowy crevasses on its northeastern face. It was described as early as the mid-1800s but did not become famous until an 1873 photograph by William Henry Jackson and an 1875 painting by Thomas Moran made the mountain into a renowned Christian symbol. Pilgrimages to view the mountain gradually grew in popularity, especially in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In 1927 R. O. Randall began to lead pilgrimages to Notch Mountain—which offered unrivaled views of Mount of the Holy Cross—and in 1928 Denver Post owner Frederick Bonfils started to promote the pilgrimages and push for better access to the Holy Cross area. On May 11, 1929, President Herbert Hoover declared nearly 1,400 acres around Mount of the Holy Cross and Notch Mountain to be a national monument.
Meanwhile, recreational use across the national forests had been increasing steadily since the 1910s. In 1933 the US Forest Service began using New Deal programs to develop new recreational resources such as trails, campgrounds, and shelters. Because of the growing number of pilgrims visiting Holy Cross National Monument—600 came in 1932, 800 in 1933—it was a clear choice for new infrastructure investment and facilities construction. Using labor from the Tigiwon CCC camp near Minturn, in 1933–34 the Forest Service quickly developed the Tigiwon Community House to serve as a base for pilgrims, the Notch Mountain Shelter to provide a protect spot for viewing Mount of the Holy Cross, and a network of hiking trails in the area.
Before the Forest Service started its improvements, a site called Camp Tigiwon had already become the de facto headquarters and gathering spot for organized pilgrimages to Mount of the Holy Cross. In 1933 CCC workers improved the road to Camp Tigiwon, which Randall and Bonfils had originally financed a few years earlier, and the Forest Service submitted a proposal to build a new community house there. Federal money from the Emergency Conservation Fund and the National Industrial Recovery Act paid for the building’s materials, and the CCC camp provided most of the labor. Construction started in 1933, paused during the winter, and was completed in the spring of 1934.
The Tigiwon Community House provided protection for the pilgrims who gathered at Camp Tigiwon, most of whom were not used to the harsh weather at Colorado’s high elevations. Located in a north-facing meadow at about 10,000 feet, the building was a simple meeting hall made of rustic logs on a stone foundation. Inside, the one-story building had a single room dominated by a large stone fireplace in the center of the back wall. Pilgrims who stayed there could hike the newly constructed Notch Mountain Trail to see Mount of the Holy Cross from Notch Mountain Shelter.
Thanks in part to the new facilities and trails developed by the Forest Service and the CCC, in 1934 the number of pilgrims to Holy Cross National Monument climbed to 3,000.
Pilgrimages to Mount of the Holy Cross declined soon after the Tigiwon Community House was built. The journey was arduous, and Bonfils, its main promoter, died in 1933. Attendance began to drop in 1935, and the last pilgrimage was held in 1938. As visitation decreased, the Forest Service dropped its plans to add a dining hall, rental cabins, and other facilities near the community house. In 1950 the superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, who administered Holy Cross National Monument, recommended that national monument status be retracted because fewer than fifty people visited the area each year. The land reverted to Forest Service control.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the development of nearby resorts at Vail and Beaver Creek and the growing popularity of outdoor recreation brought increased visitation to the Tigiwon Community House. In 1986 the building received a new front porch and concrete floor, and in 2008 and 2010 repairs were made to the windows, shutters, and fireplace. Today the Tigiwon Community House is visited by nearly 8,000 people per year and can be rented for reunions, weddings, and other events.