Friday, October 14, 2016

"Re-urbanism" Preserves History, Conserves Energy And Enhances The Local Economy

The Western Colorado Power Company office building in Durango is now home to the Durango Coffee Company
"The greenest building is the one already built."  That's a popular and oh so true statement when we look at the environmental impacts of construction. New buildings require us to destroy and dump all of the materials and energy expended to build the old structure, and to replace those old wood, metal and masonry products with more of the same.  As far as the energy efficiency of new installations versus the old ones, the Preservation Green Lab determined that that it can take up to 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome the environmental (climate change and energy consumption) impacts caused by the new building's construction. And there's more than just environmental benefits in retaining our historic buildings.

Historic buildings convey an authentic sense of the community's history and character. They are billboards for the roots of the community and they tend to attract entrepreneurial and creative industries.  Real estate studies show that historic buildings in and near historic districts are valued at about 20% higher than their counterparts.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation-a long time advocate of rehabilitating historic buildings-has a program called "Reurbanism" that champions adaptive reuse of historic buildings. Two of their ten principals are;
Older places provide the distinctiveness and character that engender success. Older buildings give cities a sense of identity, history, and authenticity—which is the most important competitive advantage they can have in today’s economy.
Older neighborhoods are economic engines. Research shows that neighborhoods with a mix of older and newer buildings perform better along a number of social, economic, cultural, and environmental metrics than areas with only new buildings.

If you want to learn more about Re-urbanism, click on this link National Trust Reurbanism.  Architect Rick Feeney just shared a great article about this movement in Denver.  This link  at Colorado Biz will take you to the article.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Putting the Grand Back into the Grand Imperial

Al Harper, the owner of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is dressed in period clothes as he welcomes visitors to the celebration of the restoration of his Grand Imperial Hotel.
 On May, a blustery Saturday, we gathered at 10,000 feet above sea level to tour the newly restored Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton, Colorado. What an impressive building, with granite carved block walls and a brick front. The rooms inside have been freshened up and the bathrooms are now up to modern standards, but the old hallways lit by sunlight from the atriums and the tall doors with the transoms still make you think of times long ago when passengers from the D&RG RR stayed here. Those of us who drove to Silverton joined the passengers from first Durango-Silverton train of the season and enjoyed some great street-dancing music from The High Rollers.  A Fun day!

Brr-Glad we brought our down coats.
New wallpaper and carpet in this glamorous lobby. Don't you love the portrait of
starlet Lillian Russell on the wall?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tune Into KSJD on Friday

KSJD Public Radio broadcasts from the historic Montezuma Valley Bank and Store in Cortez, Colorado

UPDATE: If you missed the interview, you can hear it at .

On Friday, May 6, KSJD Radio will air a short interview I did with Tom Yoder about historic preservation and the ongoing historic building survey in Cortez, Colorado. They told me the interview will air on Friday during a break in NPR's Morning Edition at 7:30am (MDT).  You can stream KSJD at . Click onto the Listen Live" button on their website.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

Here's something really fun to do.

The La Plata County Historical Society is partnering with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and Xcel Energy to host a very special fundraising event!

On May 6th two train cars designated as the "Tacoma History Train" will depart on the final Winter Train to Cascade. Participants will depart the train at the historic Tacoma Power House for a rare interior tour of the 1906 working power plant and a walking tour of the Tacoma townsite. Costumed interpreters and historians will interact with guests, providing historical information and stories on the north and southbound routes. Tickets are $65.00, with all proceeds going straight to the Animas Museum. A deluxe boxed lunch is available for an additional $15.00, provided by The Yellow Carrot. For tickets or additional information, please contact the Animas Museum at 970-259-2402 or at We hope you will join us for this exciting and special event. Reserve your tickets soon- space is limited! With Mother's Day just around the corner (May 8th), this would also be a wonderful way to celebrate with your mom!

Friday, January 15, 2016


Well, I guess it had to happen. Sooner or later your past catches up with you. I was born in the height of the craze for modernism and now I'm making part of my living by documenting it.

All of those ranch homes, and odd shaped bank buildings, and strip shopping centers that sprang up after World War II are now more than 50 years old, which means they are old enough to be considered for most community and state historic registers, as well as the National Register of Historic Places.

So much concrete, so many prefabricated aggregate panels, so much steel. Modernism was everywhere--even in our National Parks as part of their Mission 66 program, which funded the largest building program in the National Parks from 1956 to 1966. Modernism in our rustic parks?  Well yes. Think about the round, concrete visitor center at Mesa Verde National Park, which has recently been vacated for new digs. Even the venerable Grand Canyon National Park encouraged modernist style buildings, like the Thunderbird and Kachina Lodges that are tucked in near the venerable El Tovar.

Everything in those days touted all of our modern conveniences and most particularly our cars.
We Americans were crazy about the automobile. Our lives revolved around our cars. We constructed huge parking lots and oriented our lives, our businesses and our buildings to the street curb. We loved drive-thrus of all kinds--banks, fast food, and in New Mexico we even had drive up pay phones.  Now that's an anachronistic concept. I can't imagine ever seeing a millennial sitting in a car or using a pay phone.  

So I see the need to document and celebrate a piece of our history that revered technology and seemed so distant from the natural world. But I'm glad that time is now past.

If you want to know more about my work, scroll through this blog or check my site at Linked In

Monday, June 8, 2015

History Talks!

The Mexirado Building in Cortez was constructed in the 1920s on the site of Perley Wasson's old stable.
Southwest Colorado's KSJD Radio hosted a conversation recently about history and historic preservation in Cortez, Colorado. Check out this link to San Juan Dryland Radio to hear radio host Tom Yoder interview the chair of the town's historic preservation commission- Linda Towle- and me about the recent historic building surveys in Cortez.

Located just down the road from Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez boasts its own fascinating history as a water town. It was created as part of a grand scheme in the 1880s to develop real estate by diverting water from another drainage to this arid region. While local cowboys and the Ute Indians explored the cliff dwellings that would eventually become part of Mesa Verde National Park, the little town of Cortez set down roots and started to grow.

There is a lot of interest in honoring the local history of Cortez. Residents of the Montezuma Avenue neighborhood are moving towards establishing a historic district. This would be the very first historic district in this town that has many hidden gems.  I've just  finished a survey of buildings within the original townsite,  If all goes well,  the commercial buildings on Main Street will be next.

Many thanks go out to KSJD Radio for their coverage of local Cortez history. If you want to know more about my work, scroll through this blog or check my site at Linked In.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Here's a nice honor from the La Plata County Historical Society in Durango.  Tickets are available at the Animas Museum at 970-259-2402 or online at