Interest in moving historic Aspen buildings rises
Members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission appear to be warming to the idea of moving three historic, 1880s-era buildings from the site of a new Aspen police building to the Marolt property west of town.
That’s according to a straw vote taken at Wednesday’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting, where four board members voted in favor of moving the well-preserved log-cabin home, a shed and a barn to the larger property that already supports the Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum.
Those who voted for the idea included Chairman Willis Pember as well as board members Bob Blaich, Patrick Sagal and Michael Brown, said Aspen City Clerk Linda Manning. Nora Berko voted against moving the buildings, while Sallie Golden, who was attending her last meeting as a member of the commission, abstained, Manning said.
That is nearly a 180-degree difference from the Feb. 24 meeting, when it first talked about the new police building and decided that the best solution was to keep the historic buildings on site, said Amy Simon, the city’s historic preservation officer
“I’d definitely say (Wednesday) night there was more interest in taking the buildings to Marolt,” Simon said.
However, she pointed out that a different set of board members showed up for the February meeting than attended Wednesday’s meeting.
“With a different mix of people you can get different results,” Simon said. “There are different points of view, … and things always get complicated when (plans) get continued.”
The Aspen Police Department wants to build a 16,000-square-foot building on the site of the current city Parking Department building at 540 E. Main St. One of the main questions for the commission and anyone else interested in Aspen history is what to do with the historic buildings.
One idea is to move them during construction and store them until the building is done, when they would be moved back to the site and used as some kind of interpretive site. The other is to move them to the Marolt property.
Lisa Hancock, curator at the Aspen Historical Society, said the original log cabin on the site was built in 1885, with an addition constructed in 1888. And it basically hasn’t changed since then, making it valuable to preservationists and historians, she said.
“It’s the only item like that in the entire town,” Hancock said. “The interior is intact. It is an exceptional case.”
That interior includes the original wallpaper, flooring and wood stove, among other things, she said. In addition, the historical society received all of the contents of the home, barn and shed when the city bought the property in 2005, and would like to be able to reintegrate those items, Hancock said.
While both the historical society and the Historic Preservation Commission prefer to leave historic buildings in place, Hancock said the police site is a unique situation and leaving the buildings there raises problems.
First, the site is much smaller than Marolt, so any way the historic buildings are arranged will be cramped, she said. Second, that small space comes into play if school children or other groups come to tour it. And third, it would cost a lot of money for the historical society to run the site, and that money would have to come from the city, Hancock said.
However, if they’re moved to the Marolt site, they would only have to be moved once, which would save both money and wear and tear on the buildings, she said. In addition to displaying the home, the barn could be used for a large artifact display and the shed could be used as a blacksmith shop and the historical society already has docents on site to assist visitors, Hancock said.
Finally, the historic buildings would fit nicely at Marolt alongside the mining and ranching museum, she said.
“It’s a better idea to move them to Marolt,” Hancock said.
Simon said the board on Wednesday asked architects for the Police Department project to bring back alternative plans. Those are to include keeping the historic buildings on site while altering the main police building and affordable housing buildings slightly as well as plans envisioning the removal of the historic buildings and a realigned affordable-housing element, she said.
The Historic Preservation Commission will next debate the plans April 27.
Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said the Police Department is fine with leaving the historic buildings on site or moving them.
Pember declined to comment, saying that board members cannot talk about projects outside board meetings.
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