Aspen Home & Garden Tour on Saturday |

Aspen Home & Garden Tour on Saturday

Stewart OksenhornAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

ASPEN There is a “wow” factor to the Aspen Home & Garden Tour. Who wouldn’t want to see what treasures – architectural, artistic, design and historic – lie in the seven Aspen abodes on the tour?There is also a good-deed facet to the event. The tour is, as it has been since the early 1950s, the principal fundraiser for the Aspen Community Church. The ongoing vitality of the church should be of interest to more than Christian worshippers: The Community Church opens its doors to Jewish and Buddhist groups, yoga practitioners and musicians. And in a community that can seem to change at a breathless pace, the church, one of the country’s National Historic Buildings, is a rock. Standing at the corner of Aspen and Bleeker streets since 1887, it is practically a gateway to Aspen’s picturesque West End. As Fonda Paterson, who chairs the church’s board of trustees, says, “We take the ‘community church’ very seriously and try to be a community resource.”Apart from the gaping and the do-gooding, there are more eye-opening reasons to take the tour, which is set for from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4. The tour is self-guided; participants are welcome to stroll at their own pace, and docents will be at each house to facilitate the tour. The tour concludes at the Aspen Historical Society’s Wheeler/Stallard House, where an ice cream social will honor longtime Aspenite and town historian Helen Palmer.Our own surroundings become so familiar to us that we often overlook that there are other approaches to creating a home environment. The tour – which includes seven houses in the West End – is intended to raise our awareness of how people decorate and design their own homes.”I think it’s a way to look at your own home with fresh eyes and appreciation,” said Paterson, who has been involved with the tour since the early ’70s, and has helped resurrect it after a one-year hiatus last summer. “It’s for people who are interested in architecture and interior design. It’s just interesting to see how other people live, how we create beauty in our lives, how we take care of ourselves and create comfort.”This year’s tour is also designed to help participants get a grasp of how the community is changing, and the efforts to preserve Aspen’s architectural heritage. Among the homes on the tour is the Mona Frost House, next door to the Red Brick Center for the Arts. Frost was an organist at the Community Church and was instrumental in founding the Pitkin County Library. The 100-year-old house has been in the hands of just three families: Frost’s parents, Frost and the latest owners, who recently renovated and expanded the building.”It’s a good chance for members of the community to see how the Historic Preservation program is working under its current guidelines,” Paterson noted. Another house on the tour – whose redevelopment was completed this past week – is unfurnished. But Paterson says it’s another valuable example of efforts toward preservation. The house belonged to the town butcher during Aspen’s mining days. The redevelopment stripped the house of all its additions over the years but kept the historical core intact, and built what Paterson calls “a spectacular modern addition, with sophisticated lighting and high-end finishes.”Two other homes on this year’s tour offer a glimpse into Aspen’s past. One is the Sardy House, the former Main Street hotel recently sold for use as a private residence. “I think people are curious: What in the world did they do to it to justify another $6 million?” Paterson said in reference to the home’s most recent price tag. Also on the tour is the Gorsuch House, the former home of Aspen pioneer Elli Iselin.One other house on the tour is notable for its “green” features. The house has a roof that looks like common slate – but is, in fact, made from the plastic of recycled diapers.Past tours have included the homes of modern Aspen’s matriarch, Elizabeth Paepcke, art collector Linda Pace, Aspen architect Fritz Benedict and the downtown penthouse of gallery owners Richard Edwards and the late Harley Baldwin.Paterson said each tour is intended to present contrasts. So in addition to the old and historic homes, there are also examples of the mega-homes with art collections and modern amenities. But she adds that Aspen has never been short on spectacular homes to tour.”The Aspen product has gotten more sophisticated over the years. But the homes we’ve visited have always been special,” she said. “When we toured Elizabeth Paepcke’s house, it was a fabulous art collection, with Herbert Bayer prints. We visited, in the ’70s, the Stern house on Starwood. They had an indoor pool – that was special at the time.”Paterson, who helped run Aspen’s Boomerang Lodge, which her husband, Charlie, built in the ’50s, praises the people who open their doors to the tour. “It’s a tremendous act of generosity. Sharing your home with the community – that’s kind,” she said. And she keeps after those homeowners who have yet to open their doors, despite repeated requests.”They know who they are,” she said. “And we’d still love to have them.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is