Plans for historic move going forward
It’s news to no one that Aspen is reverential of its own history.
And that’s why an upcoming project to move three historic buildings dating back to the city’s founding years initially struck some as impossible historical blasphemy. Moving historic structures from their original sites is unprecedented, said Amy Simon, Aspen’s historical preservation officer.
“It’s never happened before,” Simon said. “(Historic) buildings are moved around sites but not to different parts of town.”
The three buildings in question are located behind the city’s Parking Department building at 540 E. Main St.. They include a small shed and a barn, though the real historical value resides in the main house, which was built between 1881 and 1885 and is one of the best-preserved and only Victorian-style dwellings left in Aspen, Simon said.
“It’s like the family walked out the door in 1930 and never went back,” she said. “There’s nothing else like this in town.”
Adding to the historical value is the fact that the house still contains finishes from the late 1880s, including layers of wallpaper, paint, carpet and linoleum, said Simon and Lisa Hancock, curator at the Aspen Historical Society. When the city purchased the property from the Zupancis family in 2005, the house also contained a stove, a bed, a radio, a desk, a dresser and other items now in storage at the historical society, Hancock said.
The city is planning to tear down the Parking Department building — the former ranch house built by the Zupancis family in the 1960s — and build a new police station and affordable housing in its place. Initially, plans called for leaving the buildings on the site and either creating a museum or converting the house to an affordable-housing unit.
However, those plans could never quite jell into a workable proposal. And despite initial qualms by some members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission about moving the buildings to the Holden/Marolt Mining Museum site at the Marolt Open Space west of town, the idea quickly gained momentum and was unanimously approved by the commission earlier this year.
The main crux of the argument to move the buildings was that they’d fit well with the historic mining structures already on the Marolt property and that the historical society doesn’t have a good, interpretive example of what houses looked like back in the 1880s, Hancock said.
“It’s cool that it worked out,” she said. “It’s one of those projects that seems to be a win-win for everybody.
“Keeping them where they were would not have worked.”
The question now is how to move them and where to put them on the Holden/Marolt site.
Because the buildings are a city asset and will be located on city-owned property, the city will pay for the move, constructing foundations on which to place the buildings and reconstruction and refurbishing efforts, Hancock said. The project is currently estimated to cost $100,000, though that could change, said Jeff Pendarvis, project manager for the city’s Capital Asset Department.
The barn will be deconstructed and rebuilt on the Marolt property, while the shed is small enough not to pose many logistical problems, Simon said. The house is more complicated because it was first built as a log cabin back before a sawmill existed in Aspen and then was added onto twice in the next few years with wood framing available after a sawmill opened, Simon said.
The house may have to be moved in three parts, she said.
Pendarvis said the goal is to be as minimally invasive as possible. Consultants think they might be able to insert beams beneath the house that would allow the move, he said.
The move could occur in late October or early November “when it’s quiet,” Pendarvis said. Plans must first be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, and then a building permit for the Marolt property must be issued before the move occurs, he said.
The city also plans to hire a consultant versed in interior finishes of the era to recommend the best practices for interior preservation and restoration, Simon said.
Hancock said she believes the buildings will be open to the public by summer 2018.
“We’re excited,” she said.
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