St. Elmo

Snow blankets Main Street in St. Elmo. From left, the first three buildings, the Pushor and Cash-Criss buildings and the two-story Home Comfort Hotel and Stark Bros. Store, will benefit from grants recently awarded to Historic St. Elmo and Chalk Creek Canyon, Inc.

A pair of visitors exploring the St. Elmo town site recently entered the porch of one of the buildings in the ghost town, tried to open both locked doors and seemed disappointed they couldn’t explore the inside of the cabin.

One remarked that there was cut wood on the porch. The other wondered if maybe people used the cabin during the summer, while the first conjectured maybe it was put there for emergencies if someone was stranded.

The intruders were not youngsters, but a couple of middle-aged women who had come over a fence and past several private property and no trespassing signs to reach the porch of the privately owned cabin.

What they did not realize was that there was a security camera mounted on the porch and their movements and conversation were recorded.

The footage was posted over the weekend on Facebook by owner Melanie Roth who added the query, “Are property rights meaningless today?” to her post.

Roth, president of non-profit Historic St. Elmo and Chalk Creek Canyon Inc., whose family still owns several properties in the area, including the cabin in question, said there are many instances of people trespassing on the private property in St. Elmo.

Sometimes it’s the curious, sometimes it’s people looking for a place to hang out for a variety of reasons, not all legal. Very occasionally the intent is damage to a building.

While some of the more prominent buildings like the town hall, the American House parlor and the Home and Comfort Hotel are owned and cared for by Historic St. Elmo and Chalk Creek Canyon, Inc., most of the smaller cabins in the town are privately owned by individuals and families, in some cases the original families who built them.

All of the buildings in St. Elmo are private property.

There are signs in several places that inform visitors most of the buildings are privately owned.

While there are more people around in the summer months to monitor the comings and goings of visitors, during the winter somebody is watching too.

Because of past vandalism in the area there are several security cameras in town, so anyone might be on caught on “candid camera.”

Roth said visitors not respecting private property doesn’t just occur in St. Elmo.

There are incidents like these at many historic sites across the state and elsewhere where people trespass, leave trash, including bagged up dog feces, not camping properly and damaging historic structures.

There are several buildings in St. Elmo where it’s OK to take a peek through a window, such as the town hall, Roth said.

However, her general advice to visitors is “Enjoy the area, but respect the private property. Stay on the streets and boardwalks.

“People are welcome to share, just not everything,” Roth said.

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