A dilapidated bit of West End is the focus of preservation plan
One of Aspen’s most dilapidated historic properties is about to get a face lift.The Mona Frost house at 216 E. Hallam St. and the barn behind it are the focus of a preservation/renovation project that received the unanimous blessing of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission last week.The two 19th-century buildings sit on a weed-infested lot next to the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center in the West End. The vacant house and barn are in a worrisome state of disrepair, according to Amy Guthrie, Aspen’s historical preservation officer. The barn, she noted, is in “a near state of collapse.”Sharing the city’s desire to see the property saved and restored is its new owner, Frost Property LLC, represented by managing partner and Aspen resident Camilla Auger.”It was one of the highest, if not the highest, preservation priorities in the city,” Auger said. “If it was not for that, we wouldn’t have taken it on.”Working with architect Scott Lindenau, Auger and her LLC partner have come up with a development plan that calls for splitting the barn site and the house into two separate lots. The barn will be renovated into a four-bedroom home. An addition to the 1,355-square-foot house will create a 3,740-square-foot duplex with three bedrooms per unit.Full basements below both buildings will mean smaller above-grade additions, according to Guthrie. The addition proposed for the house will be added to the side yard and stepped back from the front of the home, Auger said. It will be shorter than the existing house.The proposed duplex still requires city Planning and Zoning Commission approval; the P&Z will take up the duplex as a conditional use in the R-6 zoning district on Tuesday. The city’s planning staff has recommended approval.If the duplex is not OK’d, the house will be enlarged as a single-family home, said Auger, who is hoping the duplex units might be affordable for full-time local residents.The house was once the home of Mona Frost, a longtime local teacher and one-time chairwoman of the HPC. She died last year in Colorado Springs, and the family trust that held the home put it on the market.The opportunity to undertake a historic preservation project and accomplish some public benefit appealed to Auger.”The main thing we want to do is a good preservation project,” she said.But the development proposal also includes landscaping improvements along the bike trail in back of the property, as well as behind the neighboring Red Brick.And, Auger vows, the lilac bushes on the property will be retained, though they may be moved around.To restore the home to its original condition, Auger went in search of old photographs. Frost’s daughter had a few but they didn’t depict the details of the house too clearly. The younger Frost made some sketches of the house as she remembers it, but it was longtime local resident Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, contributing editor to The Aspen Times, who came up with a truly revealing photo to guide the restoration.Auger was hunting for photos when Guthrie suggested she try Hayes’ extensive collection of images chronicling old Aspen.”Indeed, Mary Hayes found a photograph she had taken of the Frost house in 1952,” Auger said.As it turned out, a number of the home’s historical features had been obliterated. The windows had been altered substantially, and asphalt siding was nailed up over the original wood.”The shape of the [original] windows is just gorgeous,” Auger said.The historic look of the house will be restored as part of the project.The proposed redevelopment required several actions on the part of the City Council. Last week, the council voted to rezone a small piece of the barn lot so it matches the zoning on the rest of the property and agreed to vacate the alleyway between the house and barn. The piece of alleyway is the only segment remaining on the block, as buildings on either side have been developed over the former alley.In its most controversial move, the council also approved a license agreement that will formalize the public right of way alongside the Red Brick building as the driveway access to both lots on the former Frost property.There is no driveway onto the lot; city officials believe access to the house and barn was at one time available off the alley, but the alleyway was vacated to allow construction of the Red Brick, a one-time school.A handful of neighbors raised objections to the council about the density of the project, facilitated by use of the public right of way.Attorney Hal Dishler, representing neighboring homeowner Joe Amato, said his client objects to the use of public property to benefit a for-profit real estate development.”It allows for unanticipated development on this tract,” Dishler said.But local resident Helen Palmer praised the project.”I would like to see the spirit of Mona’s house, which fits into the neighborhood so well, retained,” Palmer said. “She loved that house. I see now a chance for it and the barn and the lilacs to be saved.”
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