City: Holland House quaint, but not historic
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Holland House, one of Aspen’s oldest remaining ski lodges, has been removed from the city’s historic inventory.
Now, some City Council members are wondering if any of the resort’s venerable old lodges should be handcuffed by a historic designation.
The council voted 5-0 last week to delist the Holland House, ending a long battle by the owners of the family run lodge to get it out from under the purview of the Historic Preservation Commission and ease their ability to renovate it.
“We kind of feel like we’ve been let out of jail,” said Yasmine dePagter, who runs the Holland House with her husband, Jack Simmons. “Really, we should never have been designated in the first place.”
Council members concurred after a visit to the Holland House and last week’s hearing, during which they pored over photographs chronicling the many changes to the Holland House that were made over the years.
The original Hollander’s House, a house that Yasmine’s father, Dutchman Jack dePagter turned into a lodge soon after his arrival in Aspen in 1949, is no longer on the site. It was moved below the Castle Creek bridge in 1963 and is still the home of Jack and his wife, Anneke.
The present Holland House consists of an annex built to the south of the original lodge in 1956, and a much larger addition that was constructed in 1963-64, replacing the building that now sits along Castle Creek.
When the Holland House was added to the city’s historic inventory in early 1995 as “an outstanding example of more modern architecture,” neither piece of the structure was even 40 years old, Simmons noted.
Over the years, Jack added chalet-style details, like shutters and porch balconies featuring a tulip motif.
Its evolution was typical of early ski lodges, and the Holland House remains a key piece of Aspen’s early development around the base of its original chairlift, said Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.
“We still feel it has integrity that is sufficient to account for its preservation,” she said. “It tells a story that is important to the community.”
But other local lodge owners urged the council to free the Holland House from the regulations that come with a historic designation so its owners can make the kinds of changes that will keep it a vital part of the community.
Old lodges need the ability to renovate in order to remain economically viable as guests demand change, said Carol Blomquist, owner of the Chalet Lisl.
“You’ve gotta be able to do it, and you can’t do it under HPC,” she said.
“There’s no way a small lodge can keep up with the times if they’re hamstrung by committees like [the HPC], which don’t know really the needs of that small-lodge owner,” said Charlie Paterson, who runs the Boomerang Lodge with his wife, Fonda.
“You list my property, you better buy it because it’s dead,” said Michael Behrendt, owner of the St. Moritz Lodge. “You will kill a business when you list it.”
Some council members expressed reluctance to make it even more difficult for small ski lodges to do business and all of them questioned the historic integrity of a lodge that has seen so many alterations, despite its quaintness.
“It’s a bit ironic that it’s fake historic,” said Councilman Tim Semrau. “The fakeness makes it look old. I do think the integrity of the building’s in question.”
“I like the way it looks and I hope, if it gets remodeled, that I like it just as much,” said Councilman Tom McCabe. “But, it’s a business and it has to work and that’s what we want to happen. We want the economic bedrock of the community to still function.”
The Holland House owners would like to tear down and rebuild the older south building and put an addition on the north section of the lodge, adding six to 10 more rooms to its current 20, Simmons said. The remodeling would also add private bathrooms to all of its accommodations, something guests expect in the 21st century.
Many of Aspen’s ski lodges have undergone significant renovation and expansion recently, but the restrictions that come with historic designation have hampered the Holland House’s ability to change with the times, Simmons said.
Only a handful of lodges are designated historic, including the Little Red Ski Haus, which recently completed renovations despite its historic status, and part of the Skier’s Chalet, next to the Holland House. The Boomerang and Deep Powder have been identified as candidates for inclusion on the city’s inventory, Guthrie said.
“I’m not sure it’s the death of small lodges to have them on the historic inventory,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.
Nonetheless, council members have indicated they’d like to discuss how to balance the city’s desires to protect the history of its ski lodges without causing them undue hardship.
“It’s not fair to make them little museums,” Semrau said.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to make the decision that all lodges should be delisted,” Klanderud countered.
After last week’s hearing, Michael Hoffman, vice president of the HPC, urged council members to give further thought to the historic designation of lodges.
“There’s a real need to find a way to honor historic preservation values and, at the same time, do what’s clearly needed – allow historic lodges to adapt and change for the future,” he said.
“I have the exact same goals for the community that they [Holland House owners] have for their lodge, and yet the HPC is viewed as the enemy and that is not correct,” Hoffman said.
The listing of the Holland House, however, was a mistake, according to Councilman Tony Hershey, who apologized to the lodge’s owners for the bureaucratic hurdles they have faced as a result. The lodge’s owners also bore the expense of hiring an attorney and their own historic consultant in their fight to delist the lodge.
Now, according to Yasmine, they will take a breather before turning to their future plans for the Holland House.
“Our goal is, five years from now when people look up Aspen Street, they’ll say, `Gee, the Holland House is really looking good these days,'” she said.
“We’ll still be cute,” she promised. “If people are attached to tulips, we can put the tulips back up. I just don’t want them to be historic tulips.”
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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