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Waite House to look old

John Colson

It was a case of historic preservation by committee Wednesdaynight at Aspen City Hall, and the historic Davis Waite House renovationproject was at center stage.Members of Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission were tryingto undo the damage done last year when a local contractor strippedoff a third of the siding and a variety of other materials andthrew them away as part of a renovation project.In a lengthy dialogue with historic preservation staffer Amy Guthrieand homeowners Don and Gwen Mullins of Texas, members of the HPCwent over a list of “remediation” measures in painstaking detail.They touched on everything from the type of glass to be used toreplace broken windows to the color of stain needed to ensurenew roofing materials have the same “historic patina” as the original,authentic materials.In the end, the HPC signed off on a broad range of repairs, manyof which involved “replicating” bits of trim, window sashes andother materials that had been thrown away.The West End house was built in 1888 and was the one-time residenceof a populist Colorado governor. It has been in the local limelightsince mid-January, when contractor Gary Wheeler was told to haltwork on the building after Guthrie discovered that he had removedand tossed a considerable amount of the materials used to buildthe home, in violation of city codes.The case was headed for a quasi-judicial hearing to determinewhether the Mullins’ building permit should be yanked, when adeal was struck that allowed the renovation to continue. The delayscost the Mullins some $75,000, according to reports, as well asa $15,000 fee assessed by the city.Part of that deal was an agreement that the Mullins would workwith the HPC to bring the house back to its authentic conditionto the extent possible.In going over the Mullins’ “remediation plan,” Guthrie repeatedlydemanded precise explanations about how architect Scott Lindenauplanned to remain faithful to the original Victorian designs.At one point, while discussing different approaches toward “replicating”specific wood trim designs, Guthrie openly questioned whetherthe HPC could believe that the cooperation of Mullins and Lindenau,and the woodworking skills of the Aspen Design Workshop, wouldyield exact replicas of the destroyed materials.”If that’s not the approach that was taken in the past, how canwe trust that will be the approach taken now?” she asked.In the end, the HPC approved much of the remediation plan, whichamong other things calls for replacement, in faithful imitation,of all the siding on the north side of the house, and a varietyof wood trim, wooden posts, roofing and other material.Some of the original material has been salvaged and will eitherbe used in making copies or will be reinstalled on the house.But some aspects of the reconstruction, such as the type of glassused to replace broken windows, or the material to replace a patternedconcrete floor to a porch, awaits further research.The porch floor, for instance, may have been connected to famedBauhaus designer Herbert Bayer, who once lived in the house. TheHPC is reluctant to allow reconstruction until more is learnedabout the design and origin of the floor.The next airing of the remediation plan will be at the March 24HPC meeting in City Hall.


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