Parachute offering $1 yearly lease to parties interested in opening shop in historic Wasson-McKay Place
Sandstone infrastructure and late Victorian architecture. A cabin indicative of early settlers. A family of cattle ranchers sheltering from the high-desert elements.
Parachute took ownership of its antique Wasson-McKay Place and had it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Since then, the building has either housed the town’s parks and recreation department or, even more recently, sat completely empty.
Now, the town is offering to lease out its local landmark for $1 per year. The aim of this discount is to open a new business inside of the house while keeping it well-maintained, Town Manager Travis Elliot said.
“If community members have seen it, it’s pretty incredible,” he said of the Wasson-McKay Place. “I think we started to realize its potential.”
Up the Creek: Parachute’s Creek’s Pioneer Families and Energy Development 1875-2015 is a book written by well-known Parachute local Ivo Lindauer. Lindauer, who passed away at age 91 in September 2022, came from a family of ranchers who raised cattle and horses along Parachute Creek, his obituary states.
In the book, Lindauer writes that a man named Hugh Richard McKay came into the Parachute region in the early 1890s, bringing some 700 head of cattle to De Beque ranges for years. By 1902, after the original log cabin was built, the house now known as the Wasson-McKay Place was built. It eventually became the longtime home of McKay’s grandson, Stanley, and his wife, Evelyn (Wasson) McKay.
Evelyn (Wasson) McKay was the daughter of Sam B. Wasson and Eva F. (Hunter) Wasson, the book states. Wasson was born in Virginia and later came to run cattle in the Grand Valley Area in 1907.
“After Stanley McKay passed away in 1979, Evelyn continued to live in the Wasson home near the railroad tracks in Parachute. She lived another twenty-seven years until her death on December 14, 2006,” Lindauer wrote. “Their beautiful stone home and adjacent land was sold to the town of Parachute in recognition of the work that the two families had done over the years for the town of Parachute.”
But Wasson-McKay Park, located on Cardinal Way just before Grand Valley High School, has deteriorated over the years, prompting the city to do renovations. Last summer, they conducted a first phase of renovations by adding things like a gazebo, benches and new restrooms on the grounds.
But the house itself still needs work.
“The walls are cracking on the inside,” Elliot said. “We want to make sure it lasts for another 100 years. It’s been due for some TLC.”
Elliot said the city is budgeting for those rehabs for 2023 as a capital project but that, ultimately, it wants to see the historic place get used.
On Feb. 16, Parachute Town Council decided to issue a Request for Letters of Interest for any prospective entities interested in the Wasson-McKay Place. This means entities like small businesses or nonprofits could potentially open up shop there.
“The Town is also in the process of developing a Trails Plan that will document Parachute’s desire to create a well-connected and well-maintained regional trail network,” city documents state. “The site’s location adjacent to Parachute Creek and to the pedestrian bridge spanning across Interstate 70 will serve as a key point in the development of the trails system and serves as a main pedestrian connection to the historic downtown area.”
Elliot said the city’s main focus is finding a community member that can bring some vitality into the Wasson-McKay space and that charging just $1 for a yearly lease should hopefully accomplish this goal.
“What that is,” Elliot said of the house’s potential future uses, “we don’t know.”
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