The de-Victorianization of Aspen
Dear Editor:Aspen is a wonderful place to live, but it is disappointing to watch the de-Victorianization of Aspen.Presumably, no one really wants this to happen, but it is happening. When I moved to Aspen, its authenticity as a Victorian silver mining town was a big magnet – what a surprise to find so few people who care about Aspen’s great history, and even fewer who are truly committed to the preservation of our Victorian architecture and heritage.The Century Room of the Hotel Jerome has long been one of the great Victorian treasures of this town. Yet, the new owner almost immediately stripped the flocked wallpaper from the walls and changed the magnificent ceiling in the room. It’s not unattractive; it’s just no longer the Victorian jewel it has been. The final coup de grace will be, in the owner’s words, “combining Jacob’s Corner and the Century Room into one sexy upscale eatery.” Just what Aspen needs, another sexy upscale eatery! Beware of the new owner’s other suggested changes.On the broader front: Believe it or not, our city has a policy that prohibits an owner of a Victorian house from building an addition in the Victorian style of the original house. Does a modern addition to a Victorian house really promote what our locals and tourists want to look at? Is it really important to us to clearly delineate the addition from the original? The only people that care are architects and historians who can tell the difference anyway.Historic lot splits are an abomination. I thought that horse was out of the barn, but maybe not after Mr. Holst’s suggestion to council [Monday] night. But even with these, the HPC could require that the new house be in a Victorian design or at least something in harmony with the original, but it rarely exercises that right. Every new modern house or addition in a Victorian neighborhood like the West End reduces the historic ambiance of our town.Do we really need to induce people to restore historic houses with additional FAR and TDRs? People who are lucky enough to own one of our historic treasures should be jumping at the opportunity to restore it without compensation, rather than looking for a big payday.A commercial building on the Blue Vic site? The delisting of a historic miner’s home in the West End? What can we be thinking about? Finally, does every house in Aspen, including even historic ones, have to have a new master bedroom suite and a huge kitchen with granite counters? Even the Historical Society gutted the inside of its beautiful Victorian building on Bleeker Street. What a great role model for others to follow!I would like to pin responsibility on developers, builders, architects and brokers, as well as noncaring second homeowners, for damaging our lovely heritage, but I also know too many longtime locals who sold out for big bucks. Perhaps, the problem is no one, yet every one of us who put money and every indulgent comfort ahead of all other values.Joe MyersAspen
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