WHR Helmsman 89th with Darst on left.
WHR Helmsman 89th with Darst on left.

Darst Buchanan’s Show Barn, located at 27965 Meadow Drive, has endured its charm since the day it was built in the 1940s to present day. It was there that the legendary oil and gas man, originally from Springfield, MO, built his historic Show Barn to house his legendary prized Herefords. His most valued Hereford bull was WHR Helmsman 89th, who had won National Reserve Champion at the National Western Stock Show in 1947. Darst’s grandchildren share that he paid between $60,000 to $80,000 for WHR Helmsman, tens of thousands more than he paid for his Hiwan Ranch in 1938.

Desiring lush acreage for his Herefords to graze, Darst became a land baron, purchasing and leasing expansive acreage between Evergreen, Golden and Central City that totaled over 33,000 acres. He also purchased a second ranch in southwest Denver, known as Wadsworth Ranch, for winter grazing. Darst’s three daughters, Betty (Casey), Barbara (Kirchner) and Joan (Landy Goodale), were born with horse fever and loved nothing more than participating in cattle drives that extended from Central City to Idaho Springs, Evergreen and down to southwest Denver. Daughter Joan once told me, “I don’t know which stopped traffic more—seeing a cattle drive or watching my sisters and I work the herd.”

Hiwan Ranch, previously named Camp Neosho, was owned by Mary Neosho Williams, a Civil War widow, and her daughter, Josepha Williams Douglas, one of the first female doctors in Colorado. Mary purchased her beloved land in the late 1880s. A hay barn was the only structure at the time of purchase. In 1893, Josepha hired renowned carpenter John “Jock” Spence to convert the barn into a three-room cabin, which he completed in 1893. Tour the Hiwan Museum to glean the complete story.

When Josepha died in 1938, Darst bought the property that included a cabin and approximately 1,100 acres. Darst’s wife, Ruth, renamed the property Hiwan, claiming she found the term in an Anglo-Saxon dictionary she thought the Douglas family had left behind. Ruth claimed the definition of Hiwan was “a plot of land for a family,” obviously an omen for the expansive Evergreen subdivisions Darst created with several business partners, including Betty’s husband John Casey.

Darst envisioned Hiwan Estates and Fairway and built luxurious homes surrounding an equally luxurious golf course. Hiwan caught the attention of President Eisenhower, who rolled into Hiwan in his chauffeur-driven limo around 1960. Two kiddos on horseback caught the president’s eye, and were taken aback when the limo stopped, the back passenger window rolled down, and President Ike Eisenhower asked, “Can you give me directions to the golf club?”

The Show Barn is steeped in history and lovingly built by Darst, and remains a vibrant character within our community. It still bears a sign he hung on original frame, “Established 1949.” WHR Helmsman 89th enticed global cattle breeders to view him in the Show Barn which led to countless semen purchases to strengthen their herds of Herefords.

Thomas Bergen, Evergreen’s earliest pioneer, established his homestead in Bergen Park in 1860 followed by other settlers who built homes and established businesses in Bear Creek Canyon, the present site of downtown Evergreen. Homesteader D. P. Wilmot bought a large tract of land south of what is now downtown, and was the first to call the area Evergreen.

Evergreen Transfer is claimed to be Evergreen’s first hardware store, which was later purchased by Beth LeRoe King and his son Laird. They aptly renamed their store King’s Hardware and expanded it three times with the primary reason to hire locals who were much in need of work. Known to be generous to a fault, the Kings scrounged for building elements from abandoned army camps to help Evergreen citizens purchase used windows, doors, and other building supplies.

Paul and Elma Hammond purchased King’s Hardware, changed the name to Hammond Hardware, and it’s the Hammonds who connect us back to the Show Barn. Joan Landy knew the Hammonds loved Darst’s Show Barn, and she ensured the Hammonds purchased the Show Barn in 1976. One year after their purchase, they sold the Show Barn to Ted LaMontagne, who renamed it The Hardware.

Kay LaMontagne with her precious dog C.S. Lewis.
Kay LaMontagne with her precious dog C.S. Lewis.

Ted, like the Kings and the Hammonds, poured his heart and soul into The Hardware as well as our community. When he passed in 2009, Evergreen came to a standstill. His wife, Kay, now has her business, The Evergreen Design Center, in the Show Barn, which also extends into Darst’s original Bunk House across the parking lot. Her business moniker unites the past, present and future of the location: “One Historic Location/Twelve Unique Shops.”

Kay shares, “Ted lived to help others. When the local Boy Scouts needed building materials, he supplied them. He was a member of Bootstraps, whose mission is to ‘help both Evergreen and Conifer students reach their educational dreams.’ Ted served on the boards of the National Repertory Orchestra, Evergreen Music Festival, Art for the Mountain Community, and Sculpture Walk, to name a few. When it came to his employees, they were his extended family. Ted hired people with special needs who worked for him for years.”

She continues, “I remember when Ted’s son, Evan, worked at The Hardware and sold a lawn product to a customer that turned out to be lethal to his grass. Ted sent Evan to the customer’s house to tear up his entire lawn and reseed it for him. Ted was all about customer service, and when it came to customers who needed materials which they put on account, if they later had difficulty paying their accounts off, Ted always extended their payment time. When I married Ted, my kids were then 6 and 11. No matter how much Ted had to do at the store, as well as keep up with his many community commitments, he always made time to play cards and do puzzles with my children. Never did Ted lose his temper with me, my children, his employees or his customers. He was not a critical man and loved all living creatures. When squirrels got into the seed bins, he humanely trapped them, then drove them a distance away and released them. Needless to say, Ted was forever trapping and releasing squirrels.”

Jaine Hamilton worked for Ted for 24 years, and now works at Ace Hardware. She shares, “I was 42 years old when I first started working for Ted. He put me in the garden department, knowing I had little experience, so he sent me to the CSU Extension Office for their Master Gardner Training Program. I became enthralled with plants and wanted to carry them year-round. When a stray cat bore into the exterior wall of The Hardware, Ted knew he had to help her. Many of us helped Ted ravage the wall to “save” her. She was painfully thin and what we thought to be malnourished. Ted took her to then local vet, Dr. Winter, who informed Ted she was malnourished and was also a lactating mother. Ted and several employees damaged more wall space and found four precious kittens. Ted named one of them Gadget in honor of being born at The Hardware.”

Jaine adds, “Ted always paid for the training his employees needed to improve our knowledge, and never did he readily fire any of his staff. He gave everyone second and third chances. When cunning customers thought they could pocket merchandise and leave by the back door then come through the front claiming they purchased the item and were returning it for cash back, Ted had a way of working through the lie without shattering egos or triggering tempers.”

It’s our mountain community’s history and heritage we need to preserve so their legacies, and all they have done, will never be forgotten. (Special thanks to Joan Goodale’s daughter, Wendy and son, Rick.)