Colorado’s Craigslist ghost town can’t find a buyer – The Denver Post

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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
James Johnson stands outside of what used to be the Cabin Creek gas station and theater on the 5 acre piece of land that makes up what is now a ghost town on the eastern plains on July 6, 2016 in Cabin Creek, Colorado.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
The lonely town of Cabin Creek, which is unoccupied except for by the owner James Johnson, is a 5 acre piece of land that makes up what is now a ghost town on the eastern plains on July 6, 2016 in Cabin Creek, Colorado. The town near Byers, used to have a running cafe, a motel, a caretaker's house and a gas station. The buildings are still there but not open. Owner James Johnson has owned the parcel twice and is looking to sell it to a very special buyer for $350,000. He would like someone to restore it to its heyday of the 1950's and 1960's. He calls it a "Route 66" type of town with all of it's quirks.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
An old medical skeleton, known affectionately as Dead Head Fred, is set up to look outside of the window of the Cabin Creek gas station and theater on the 5 acre piece of land that makes up what is now a ghost town on the eastern plains on July 6, 2016 in Cabin Creek, Colorado.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
James Johnson looks at what used to be the inside of Cabin Creek Motel on the 5 acre piece of land that makes up what is now a ghost town on the eastern plains on July 6, 2016 in Cabin Creek, Colorado.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
A desolate Highway 36 runs past what is now a ghost town on the eastern plains on July 6, 2016 in Cabin Creek, Colorado. The town near Byers, used to have a running cafe, a motel, a caretaker's house and a gas station. The buildings are still there but not open. Johnson has owned the parcel twice and is looking to sell it to a very special buyer for $350,000.

A for-sale 5-acre lot with run-down buildings 11 miles outside of Byers on the Eastern Plains might not look like much, but it holds a kind of magic over James Johnson.
“I just remember driving by and thinking, “Wow, that’s cool,’ ” current owner Johnson said. “There’s just something about it that’s always drawn me to it — it’s a real Route 66-looking ghost town, and I know it must have meant something to someone.”
Cabin Creek sits sandwiched between stretches of farm land and grassy plains for miles in every direction, north of Interstate 70. The property boasts a vintage gas station, an eight-room motel that eerily resembles the A&E’s “Psycho” spin-off, “Bates Motel,” an RV park and two quaint houses. The asking price is $350,000.
Most of the tiny town’s amenities may seem full of potential but it’s going to take some serious heavy lifting and carpentry to restore life to the skeletal remains of Cabin Creek.
Johnson sold all of his belongings to purchase the property in 2000 and began revamping the lot in hopes of creating what he imagined to look like a 1950’s pit-stop town. He lived with his family in the main house.
Friend and neighbor Dwight Winters, who grew up on the lot across U.S. 36 from Cabin Creek, can confirm Johnson’s imagination.
According to Winters, a man named Frank Snavely took it over in the 1920s when it was just one shack and two gas pumps. He passed it on to his grandson Eugene Stephens in the 1930s, and the Stephens family expanded the tiny town to what current infrastructure stands today.
“In the 1950s is when the commercial side kind of took off — Eugene moved the gas station and built the garage and service station, they even had lifts so they could work on cars. They turned that old gas station into a cafe, and with increase in traffic, they decided to start work on the motel,” Winters said.
The rise of I-70 was the demise of Cabin Creek in the early 1970s as traffic was drawn away from U.S. 36, and the lot returned to a state of abandonment with a smattering of families coming through and out again, staying only for a few years at a time.
Winters said it wasn’t until Johnson purchased Cabin Creek that the lot had seen a rightful owner in decades.
“We actually had the daughter of a former owner stop by some years ago with her son. She worked as waitress in the cafe here,” Johnson said “That’s it, I just want to make sure somebody remembers it, because it means something to somebody.”
But Johnson said he feels it’s time to pass the baton to someone who shares a similar dream.
“Let’s just say my beard had no gray in it when I purchased the lot the first time around,” Johnson said.
Unfortunately, it’s been difficult to find a successor because of issues with financing, despite a surge in visitors and interested buyers in recent weeks.
“All of the people that come out here absolutely love it, but they can’t get proper financing. There’s residential property mixed with commercial property, and then there’s the liability aspect with the condition of the property,” Johnson said. “They’re shells of buildings — banks won’t give you a mortgage just based on the conditions.”
Sherry Parrish, a real estate associate with ReMax who specializes in developmental land, said Cabin Creek could qualify as mixed-use property and therefore fall under commercial financing.
For Johnson, however, he said he’d rather the property sell in one swoop to someone with the means to do so. His ideal buyer will need enough funding to purchase Cabin Creek mortgage free and have the devotion to keep the town afloat and to restore it to its former glory.
“I just want someone with a vision like I did when I went to restore this place so that when you’re coming down this highway, it’s like a flashback into the 1940s and ’50s,” Johnson said.
Cabin Creek is listed on Craigslist and has its own website.
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