It was humble, but it was home | AspenTimes.com

It was humble, but it was home

Janet Urquhart

When I moved to Aspen, I was handed the key to an apartment I’d never seen. The Aspen Times had rented an apartment at Shadowood for me in anticipation of my arrival. I called it home until ever-escalating rents forced me out after five and a half years there. That was back in August 2001.

Last week, the fire marshal ordered Shadowood vacated and tenants were given a few days’ notice to find new digs. Had I still been residing there, I’d have been one of those people frantically looking for a new place to live.

So, I guess I got lucky, though certainly not as lucky as a select few of my friends and co-workers. They have no idea how lucky they are – how close they came to getting stuck with me, bunking on their sofas and drinking all their beer.

Anyway, it was with a real mix of relief (that I wasn’t living at Shadowood anymore) and sadness (because I’m not living at Shadowood anymore) that I read about its fate. It was, hands down, the best place I’ve ever called home.

Yeah, it was tiny, though my one-bedroom abode was cavernous compared to some of the studio apartments there. Every unit was funky and different.

The windows were drafty, but at least I had windows, not to mention actual views of something worth looking at. And they were all framed with wood, and had wooden windowsills that were wide enough for plants and stuff.

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Now, I live in a larger apartment with drafty aluminum windows and far fewer of them. My views include a dying pine tree on one side and the back wall of a monster home on the other, at least until my neighbor parks his unsightly RV right outside my bedroom window for the summer. Then I have a view of that.

Everyone at Shadowood had a woodstove – the kind with doors that fold open on the front and accommodate a fireplace screen. I could sit in front of a crackling fire on cold, winter evenings and watch the light and shadows flicker across my rustic wood ceiling while the coyotes yodeled outside.

I chopped kindling endlessly and kept my renter’s insurance paid up religiously, mindful of the realities of an old, wood building full of stovepipes and chimneys. I half expected to find a big pile of ash where my home used to be when I pulled into the driveway someday. That disaster never struck.

Every apartment dweller at Shadowood also enjoyed a spacious outdoor deck that significantly upped our living space during the summer months. OK, they were pretty creaky in spots, but no one ever fell through, as far as I know.

I was particularly fortunate. My deck wrapped around two sides of my apartment, offering a spot to eat breakfast in the morning sun and a view overlooking the Roaring Fork River around the corner.

It was difficult to sit still on that deck for long on summer evenings, though, when rising trout dimpled the water irresistibly. Invariably, I’d grab my fly rod and head for the river, where I remained until it was too dark to see.

For ground-floor dwellers, there was space and the freedom to plant flowers, even though we were just renters there. Denizens of the upper floors put flower pots all over the decks.

In short, it was quaint, quiet and just plain pretty, nestled in the trees with some green space around us. I’ve never run into a former Shadowood resident who didn’t gush fondly about their days there, which is more than I can say for my present address.

I have no idea whether the building should be boarded up, fixed up or torn down, but I hope the folks who make the decisions about building worker housing take a close look at the place. They won’t find a chapter on that kind of character in the building code.

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