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Zillowing Out

A $985,000 Commune To Move To With All Our Pals

An overexposed artist's rendering of a cabin with a porch
Illustration: Chris Thompson/Defector

My city feels empty lately. When I walk my dog in the now-dark evenings, there aren’t many lights shining. The fancy building a few blocks away only had three apartments lit up at 8 p.m. a few days ago. People have fled. They have put their condos up for sale up and down the street, running (I imagine) away to the suburbs or countryside homes with sprawling land and sky. This is jarring because it didn’t used to be like this. I live close to a bunch of restaurants that used to pump out the smell of roasting vegetables and the laughter of patrons. The whole point of living in a city is that the city feels alive. You live close to your friends, and close to the bar where you know the bartender, and close to activities. You sacrifice price, and space, and natural beauty because that liveliness seems worth it. 

It’s not the sudden solitude that’s upsetting, or even the loneliness, it’s that it didn’t used to be this way here. It’s not supposed to be this way here. I wonder if that’s why several people I know have moved to rural areas this year, to places where it’s supposed to be calm and quiet and a little lonely, but for that you at least get something beautiful. I respect this decision, but personally, I like to live close to my friends. That’s why this week’s house is the perfect place to convince all your friends to live a little closer together. 

(Zillow)

This is more than a house. This is a whole ass ranch. It’s in La Veta, Colorado, which is almost exactly three hours from both Santa Fe and Denver. The closest mountain on the map is named Silver Mountain, which makes sense because what we are about to buy is a mining town!

It is on 300 acres of land. You know the land is grand because the first eighteen photos are all just beautiful landscapes. We are nestled in between the mountains, surrounded by trees. There are snow caps and smaller foothills in the distance. Here on our land there is lush green grass and a wide flat blue sky. There is a trail through some tall trees and an old rusted out car. This part I don’t understand, and will ignore. Here is a cute little creek with tiny cascading waterfalls. All of that on 300 acres. Do you know how big that is? That’s about 226 football fields. That’s 187.5 square city blocks. 

That’s a lot of space to spread out. And we know that land, lots of land, under starry skies above, is at least one solution to COVID-19. Cases are spiking. The last COVID-free county in America (Loving County, Texas) just got its first cases. So, yes moving to 300 acres of land in Colorado will not necessarily protect us all by itself. But look at all that sky. Perfect to distance under.  

(Zillow)

But that’s not why this week’s house is great. This week’s house is great because it’s designed specifically for sharing. On this property, there are nine historic buildings. Six of them have been restored. The first we see is an adorable little cabin. It has a pointed roof and a big porch and looks exactly like the drawings of houses children make: a pair of windows on either side of the front door, a few small steps up. 

Inside, the house is cute but not strange. It has drywall and curved entryways. It has a wood burning stove in the corner of the living room, a sunny kitchen window, and cabinets that look custom. Out back it has a wraparound porch. Also, I will live in this house. It is cute. What’s even cuter about it is that it was built in the late 1800s and restored by two siblings. 

You see, our property, which is lovingly known as Uptop by people in the area, has been around since 1877 when the nearby town of La Veta had the world’s highest train tracks! Formerly, the property was known as Muleshoe and was a profitable silver-mining town from 1877 to 1899 when the world’s highest train tracks were removed. It stayed popular for a while: coal miners in the early 1900s, loggers in the 1920s, people taking their car for a drive through the high pass in the ’40s. But in 1962 the state of Colorado built a big highway, leaving Uptop off the path, sealing its fate as a ghost town. 

(Zillow)

But that was not the end for Uptop. It was a ghost town until 2001 when siblings Deb Lathrop and Dianne “Sam” Law took over. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a wonderful blog written by Steven Piccione about how the siblings abandoned their hectic east coast lives, quit their jobs, and moved West. The American Dream in its fullest. According to Piccione’s reporting, the siblings worked to get Uptop listed on the National Register of Historic Places and fixed up six of the nine buildings and now, after 20 years, they are ready to move on. That’s why the property is for sale. It is ready for us to take it. 

According to Zillow, the siblings listed the house in March 2019 for $1,350,000 so it is safe to say that the $985,000 it’s listed for now is a steal. 

Beyond the main cabin there is a small church with pews (and an altar that definitely could not be used for a sacrifice), three more renovated and partially renovated single family cabins, and then there is the showstopper: a giant, vaulted ceiling dance hall complete with a huge curved wooden bar! 

(Zillow)

So here is what we are going to do: We are going to form a commune. Think about it. It makes perfect sense! We can gather up three or four other households and form one pod of people that goes West and moves into this former ghost town and fills it with life. “But Kelsey,” you might be saying, “how is this not a cult?” And I will tell you: This is not a cult, it is a commune. Cults have a leader and here we will only have community. We will practice not self care but mutual cooperation. We will believe that we are the ones who keep us safe. We will see people we love on weeks we desperately need to, and be able to hug because we are all together anyway. We will maybe give sustenance farming a shot. We will be so much less lonely if only because there will be no more six-foot gap standing between us, reminding us of how far apart we are. 

Of course we can’t live in harmony with our pals forever. Everyone knows that most communes fail, that capitalism can ruin even the most beautiful communities. But we don’t need a space that can be just for us forever. We only need this space for now. Look how large the serpentine bar is. Look how smooth the wood is, how it is the perfect height to lean across as you ask for a single, no. Make it a double. When precedented times return, maybe we can host fancy weddings on our property: small ceremonies in the church, big parties in the dancehall. Definitely no conferences or workshops with Powerpoint. But until then, at least we’ll have this big sky and this space and each other.

The ranch has been listed on Zillow for 282 days. If you buy this wonderful ranch, please give it to me. Dibs on the main house. Thank you.