Ute Cemetery gains national recognition
April 15, 2002
Aspen’s Ute Cemetery has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and a restoration project is slated for this summer.
The designation was announced Friday, said Amy Guthrie, Aspen’s historic preservation officer. With a $100,000 grant from the state historical fund, the city will restore gravestones and other artifacts in the cemetery.
Later this month, Guthrie will ask the Aspen City Council for $200,000 from city coffers to add a pathway through the site that does not pass over graves. A sign announcing names of people buried in unmarked graves could also be added, she said.
“We’re basically hoping all this could happen this summer,” Guthrie said. “The council is really aware of this project, and everyone has concern for the place. It’s not very respectful, [and] it’s very threatened with the gravestones deteriorating.”
A City Council work session is slated for April 23 to discuss funding the project, and on May 13 the council will be formally approached for a decision.
The cemetery at the east end of Ute Avenue near Ute Spring is a jumble of toppled tombstones. It was deemed Aspen’s place for burial in 1881 on Charles A. Hallam’s land. Colonel Kirby of Texas, one of the first prospectors to reach the Roaring Fork Valley, was buried on the plot of land in 1880.
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About 200 people are believed to be buried there, and 78 of the graves are unmarked. It is likely that some markers have been lost to vandals and the effects of time, but historic preservation consultant Ron Sladek said it’s likely some graves were probably never marked.
The cemetery has been slowly reclaimed by nature, with aspen trees overtaking many of the plots. Some of the earliest grave markers are barely legible, although some iron fences around plots remain intact.
A historic preservation plan for the cemetery completed last November by Fort Collins-based Tatanka Historical Associates Inc. reads that the land is “a testament to the numerous working-class people who settled in Aspen during its early years and upon whose labor the town thrived as a leading silver-producing center.”
In his research, Sladek noted the cemetery is the final resting place for some of the working-class laborers who came to Aspen during its silver-mining boom and died penniless and far from home. The cemetery features a haphazard layout, except for two rows of Civil War veterans’ graves.
This city has been looking closely at how to take care of the cemetery for the past four years. The Colorado Historical Society first awarded Aspen a $3,400 grant to prepare the nomination for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, leading to the hiring of Tatanka for the preservation plan.
About 25 buildings in Aspen are on the National Register, but neither of the other two local cemeteries, Red Butte or Aspen Grove, have the designation.