The area around the Clark Cabin was home to a community of miners in the 1860s. These hardy men worked in the limestone quarry and used a lime kiln to process stone for construction materials and concrete. Seventy years later, a local couple named Benjamin and Alberta Jorgensen had a desire to create a mountain retreat to convene high-ranking state decision makers and officials from Western State College (now WSU) to discuss important issues. He constructed the cabin in 1932-33, and it soon became known as the “Governor’s Cabin” due to the high profile people gathering there.
In the 1970s, Butch and Judy Clark purchased the cabin and its surrounding 960 acres with an interest in starting a dude ranch, similar to the one where they first met in Wyoming. However, instead of moving forward with the ranch, they allowed the community to use their property for hiking, hunting, cattle grazing, cross-country skiing, and research. At one point, the Clark Cabin was the venue for local “Midsummer’s Eve” solstice celebrations in the Gunnison Country, following in the tradition of those in Casper Mountain, WY!
Over the years, the booming tourism economy has contributed to a decline in affordable housing and increased development pressure on remaining open space in Gunnison County. Anticipating this dilemma, the Clarks had a plan for how they could protect their land as open space and recreation while also addressing the housing shortage. They approached the Trust for Public Land (TPL) to help realize this vision.
In 2014, TPL helped conserve 331 acres of the property and the Clarks donated proceeds from the sale to the Valley Housing Fund, a local affordable housing nonprofit. Since then, almost the entire 960 acres has been transferred into public lands in the Gunnison National Forest, with the additional proceeds also going to VHF.
The Valley Housing Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to increase affordable and sustainable housing inventory in the Gunnison Valley, retains ownership of the 15-acre parcel where the cabin sits. Now referred to as the Clark Cabin, VHF operates the cabin as one of their fundraising mechanisms for affordable housing.