Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Wigwam Teahouse

Anna’s Cabin                                        The Teahouse


 Anna WolfromWhat might motivate a single female teacher from Kansas City to move to the Rocky Mountains in 1907? The Homestead Act of 1862 required an individual to stay on the land, build a structure, raise crops or animals and pay $10.00. Once the homesteader spent five years ‘proving up’, they still needed two neighbors to testify before they owned 160 acres.

Look back to 1907-1912, when Anna was working to improve her claim. There was not a National Park in the vicinity of Anna Wolfrom’s claim. She needed help clearing trees and hauling supplies to a steep site in a wheel barrow. Women were still fighting for the right to vote in U.S. elections, despite Coloradoans passing women’s suffrage in 1893. In fact, stories about the west were mostly about male pioneers, explorers, miners, missionaries and soldiers.

Anna Wolfrom was well-educated, studying in the United States and France. She may have known, she was making herstory. At age 35, she decided not to pin her hopes on marriage. Instead, she chose to become a landowner and independent woman.

Her property was between the YMCA in Estes Park and Lily Lake, three miles from the road to Lyons. She put herself on the map by building a teahouse and curio shop for people traveling along this rugged trail. Construction continued for two years, 1913 – 1914. Rocky Mountain National Park was dedicated on September 4, 1915. Serving tea and cakes in the wilderness was quite popular. She added on to her teahouse in 1921. One of her visitors was Dr. Orville Dove of Kansas City who fell in love with the mountains and the first woman homesteader in Estes Park. At age 51, Anna Wolfrom married Dr. Dove. When asked how she liked being married, she replied, “It beats teaching school.”

You can still hike to the site of the Wigwam Teahouse from Lily Lake, but you’ll need a current map and time to complete a 4.7-mile hike. Bring your own snacks and water, since the teahouse has been closed for close to a century. You can also see more photos and artifacts at the Estes Park Museum, at 200 Fourth St. which is open seven days a week.

Anna Wolfrom was too busy to write a book about her life. Fortunately, Marcia Meredith Hensley wrote Staking Her Claim and included the story of a neighbor who was inspired by Anna Wolfrom. Katherine Garetson moved to the area near Allenspark in 1914 and built the Big Owl Teahouse. She left details of a single woman’s life in the Rocky Mountains which paint a vivid picture of the time and place.