Marble Town Hall moving to historic bank building | AspenTimes.com

Marble Town Hall moving to historic bank building

Lynn Burton
Special to The Aspen Times

It’s difficult to tell which feature will be most talked about when Marble Town Hall moves into the historic Marble City State Bank building later this spring.

The obvious choice is the built-in vault that sits in the Town Council meeting room.

The arched windows looking out on Main Street are charmers.

There’s an upstairs community room, complete with an antique wood-burning cookstove, and a conference room with telephone lines for Internet access.

The existing town hall lacks running water and a restroom, so the handicapped-accessible facilities in the new town hall will be most welcome. The restroom also has built-in shelves to display little slices of town history.

“We have a lot of old bottles we found while excavating,” said Marble Historical Society member Joyce Illian. “We’re going to put them on the shelves.”

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Marble Historical Society members and others have been working to renovate and restore the Marble City State Bank building since 1990.

For years, it was a volunteer effort primarily funded by private donations. The project received a major boost when Illian landed a $105,000 grant from the Colorado Historical Society. Marble Historical Society member Bettie Lou Gilbert also corralled $98,000 in grants from five foundations.

Armed with a $203,000 budget, the Marble Historical Society hired an architect, contractor and other professionals to restore what could be restored, and to renovate where needed. All that’s needed now is the installation of 200-year-old oak flooring donated by a Marble area couple, plus a few odds and ends.

“We’re shooting for a Memorial Day weekend opening,” said Illian during a tour of the building, which is owned by Gunnison County.

Gilbert said the three-story bank building was built around 1909, although newspapers found in the walls date to 1889. The building was first a millinery store, selling women’s hats, and was converted to a bank in 1912, said Illian.

It operated as a branch of the First National Bank of Carbondale until 1918, when Marble fell on hard times due to World War I.

Gunnison County took possession of the building in 1925, after the bank failed to pay its property taxes. The county’s Public Works Department used it as a garage for trucks and a shop until the death of John Darien, the county’s maintenance worker, in the late 1980s.

Darien lived in the second floor of the building and worked downstairs.

Today, the downstairs room is painted white, with brown trim below the high ceilings. Antique lighting fixtures with brass rods and frosted globes hang from the ceiling.

“We got these from the Ship of Fools,” Illian said.

The built-in bank vault is about 15 feet in from the front door. It has one-foot-thick concrete walls, with a heavy, iron black door with “Victor Safe and Lock Company” spelled out in gold lettering.

“The town can put file cabinets in here,” Illian said as she opened the door to the 60-square-foot vault.

Tall windows let in light from the side walls. The ceiling has recessed lighting fixtures. “Those are for artwork on the walls,” Illian said. “We might have exhibits, or historic displays.”

Another prominent feature that hasn’t yet arrived is the building’s original wood stove. Gilbert said the stove is “beautiful,” with mica windows so that people can see the fire inside. A Cedaredge company is refurbishing the stove, which will be placed in its original position near the vault. But it won’t be functional.

“They’d burned coal in it, but it wasn’t built for that,” Gilbert said. “It would have cost a lot more to restore it so it could be used.”

Nobody really knows what the interior of the Marble City State Bank building looked like. “We haven’t found any interior pictures,” Gilbert said. She said an old article referred to a blue marble counter top, “but we don’t know.”

The first and second floors each measure 410 square feet.

The restroom is part of a section that was added to the back of the building, which also includes stairs to the second floor.

The community room upstairs will be available for meetings.

The second-floor conference room is light and sunny and looks down on Main Street. Illian said the town clerk may use the room for her office.

One idea that’s been considered, Illian said, is to install a computer there so that residents can access Gunnison County records without driving to the county seat in Gunnison.

The third floor is accessed by a narrow stairway that still has scraps of original wallpaper and newspapers on the walls. Heading up the stairs to the storage area Illian said, “I voted for a railing but it got voted out. The railing would have made the stairway too narrow.”

Gunnison County Assistant Manager Marlene Crosby said details are being worked out to transfer ownership of the bank from the county to the town of Marble.

The existing Marble Town Hall is located about a quarter-mile up Main Street from the Marble bank building, two blocks up from the main road through town.

If the bank building is experiencing a rebirth, Town Hall could be on its final legs.

Marble voters will be asked in the April 2 election whether to sell the existing town hall, although the move into the bank building isn’t contingent on the old town hall’s sale.

A former two-story home, the first floor covers 800 square feet. Much of the floor is covered by 1920s-era linoleum, cracked and worn. The decades-old wallpaper is peeling and sags off the walls and ceiling in places. The back rooms are crowded with boxes of books, records and garbage, said Marble trustee Wayne Brown. It’s a drafty place.

Brown was over at Town Hall Friday afternoon. “This used to be the third house from the church, but they moved it here … I’m guessing in the 1920s.”

The Town Board meeting room is located just inside the front door in the former living room. In the center is a gas stove. To the right are a couple of tables and folding chairs for the trustees, and to the left are wooden benches with thin cushions.

“This will hold 20 people comfortably,” Brown said, then he chuckled at the word “comfortably.”

“The benches came from the museum across the street. They aren’t comfortable, but I like it that way. People don’t stay long.”

There are a couple of relics in the room. A sign above the front door reads “Gunnison County School District 4.” On a wall is the framed charter for the Marble Boy Scout chapter, dated 1927. The Scouts were sponsored by the Marble Sportsman’s Club and troop committee members Charles Coyle and George L. Brown. There’s also a framed certificate stating the building is on the National Register of Historical Places.

“It ain’t much, but it’s ours,” said Brown, who served as trustee off and on since 1984.

Will Brown miss holding meetings in the old town hall?

“No. Especially not in the winter,” he said with a laugh, “especially when the ladies have to go to the potty. There’s no bathroom in here.”