Crews work to stabilize historic Emma buildings
BASALT The ongoing project to stabilize the buildings known as the Emma Townsite near Basalt recently ran into a little trouble when an upper section of one wall gave way and toppled inward.Project supervisor Doug McMillin said Friday that an upper portion of the bricks on the western wall of the main building collapsed due to downward and inward pressure from roof joists that were buckling under the snow load.Another corner of the building, McMillin said, also is expected to tumble, as have other, upper sections of the walls, either on their own or due to safety concerns about potential injuries to the crew.The brick work of the walls below the weakened areas appears to be stable, McMillin said, and both he and county officials are hopeful that the buildings will not crumble further.The damage, according to officials, is due largely to heavy snow loads that caused the roof of the main building to cave in, and moisture infiltration over decades of neglect.The project, which began last fall with a budget of approximately $78,000, is intended to protect the buildings, which are more than a century old and are just about all that is left of what was once a thriving commercial hub for the local farming community, a postal station and a train depot.It also appears to have acted as a jail, said McMillin and Pitkin County historic preservation officer Suzannah Reid.Thats the rumor, Reid said on Friday, pointing out a basement window with bars embedded in the casement. She said county officials are still gathering information about the buildings, and the jail theory may not prove to be true.The site, which includes approximately 12.5 acres of land surrounding the buildings, was purchased by Pitkin County Open Space & Trails last year for $2.65 million, and includes a historic mercantile and post office divided in two by a central wall, as well as a nearby powder building, where explosives and other volatile supplies were kept and which has weathered the years better than the main building. The property also includes a nearby Victorian- style house.The buildings, which stand within a stones throw of Colorado Highway 82 in between Basalt and El Jebel, date back to the late 19th century, when pioneer Charles Mather became the Emma postmaster and built the house and the commercial buildings. The house has remained habitable over the years, and was the home of former owner Owen Minney for years until the sale to the county.McMillin, supervisor and subcontractor for the project under general contractor J.D. Black, said on Jan. 21 that he expected to be finished with the first phase of the project with a couple of weeks.At that point, both McMillin and Reid said they hope the basic job of stabilizing the structures will be complete, and county officials can decide what should be the next step in the firstname.lastname@example.org
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