You don’t have to book it to see it, so plug “Historic Riverfront Poor Farm” into an Airbnb search for the Salida area and view the stunning photos on the listing, which is a whole-house, five-bedroom rental for 10 guests, for $525. We got lucky with one of the rare single-room options for closer to $150 with fees, etc., on a Thursday night (and ended up having the shared areas of the house to ourselves). The Poor Farm’s 5-acre property, set just above a bucolic stretch of the Arkansas River, is also the private residence of Dram Apothecary owners Shae Whitney, founder, former bartender and herbal alchemist, and Brady Becker, who comes from a tech background. We aren’t listing its address because there’s no retail front on-site, though an increasing variety of botanicals are being cultivated in its front gardens.
There’s several reasons why you may wish to gather a group of friends or family for a special occasion and rent the place, though. It, like Howl’s space, looks like it fell out of a slick designer’s Instagram feed. But let’s start with its history: If you’ve ever heard that turn-of-the-antiquated phrase “you’re gonna send me to the poor farm!” that’s because counties and municipalities around the nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries actually had them, as places to house indigent people who typically would do a work exchange for food and housing. Chaffee County established this one in 1892 according to literature found in our room, and it had undergone some levels of restoration prior to Becker and Whitney acquiring it in early 2017, though they did an extensive overhaul to bring it up to today’s grandeur. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Ouray Wildlife Refuge abuts the property past two historic barn structures and a private beach and fishing pond, allowing for roughly a mile walk north along the river, complete with picturesque willows, sweetgrass scenting the air, and ample vegetation, from which we startle a couple deer. It’s an easy two-mile walk or bike ride to town for more exercise. The highlight of a stay is the house’s decor though. Our room has ornate lighting fixtures, a lovely mountain view, and, as you see in the photos online, rooms are tastefully decorated with a minimalist sensibility, and a clean black-white-gray (non) color palette. Fiber works and historic images populate the upstairs hallways. There’s a vintage pinball machine game room, no TVs and a long wooden community table in the dining room (tumbleweed as a furnishing reinforces the plant theme, as do succulents and cacti spread about). The kitchen (stocked with Dram products), is the bright, homey kind you really want to make brunch in just to utilize it. Yes, there’s antlers, animal hide rugs, and taxidermy to complement the nature theme, including a hilarious squirrel paddling a canoe set in the social lounge’s bookshelves, under a striking gold-colored stamped ceiling.
So, yeah, if anyone ever threatens to send you to the poor farm, just make sure it’s this one, and pack your bags. Do not forget your camera.