Omigod, they painted it gray!
I spent some time the other day staring at the Elli’s building from across the street, trying to get upset by the fact that it has been painted gray.Desecration! Outrage! Rape! Who did that? Where’s their sense of history? Where’s their respect for tradition? Walter Paepcke! Herbert Bayer!Whew.Hang on a second while I catch my breath.Sorry. Maybe I’m trying just a little too hard here, but I have to confess, I really can’t get properly worked up about the change of color at the old wooden building on the corner of Mill and Main.I mean, I know it’s desecration and all that. The building used to be painted blue. To be more specific, it was Bayer Blue … chosen by Herbert Bayer, one of the icons in the Paepcke Branch of the Aspen Pantheon.(Timeout for a side note on the rules of Aspen’s favorite game, “I’m More Local Than You”: If you don’t know who Walter Paepcke was, you can’t even play the game. Immediate disqualification. If you don’t know who Herbert Bayer was … well, you won’t make it out of the first round of play. So there! I’m more local than you. Nyah-nyah.)Anyway, I still can’t get appropriately angry.Not about the gray paint anyway.Arguing over the color they paint the Elli’s building is like getting upset about what color lipstick the embalmers put on a corpse.That once-charming, no-account ramshackle building was raped and pillaged years ago, when it was renovated Aspen-style – which is to say, it was fluffed up, puffed up and buffed up to the point where it was a parody of its original self.It was, in fact, a great hulking parody of its original self, which may or may not have contained a single stick of wood from the original building – but, by God!, they slapped a coat of Bayer Blue paint on it and declared it historical.You know what? Anyone who’s upset that the building has now been painted gray really ought to have been outraged that they’d painted it blue after the renovation.Once they’d stolen its character and soul, it was a damned insult to repaint it that sacred blue. We’re talking Invasion of the Body Snatchers here. Stepford wives. Lipstick on a corpse.It’s curious, actually, that anyone would get upset by the violation of historical principles involved in repainting a building that Herbert Bayer once decreed should be blue.Back in the late 1940s, when Walter Paepcke was first sweeping into Aspen and taking the town over, he decided that Aspen needed a little sprucing up. So he offered to pay to have any building in town repainted … as long as his pal Herbert Bayer (a renowned Bauhaus designer and artist) would choose the colors.Aspen locals back then pretty much told Bayer to take a hike (and, after hanging on through dirt-poor decades in a near-ghost town, they were definitely more local than he). So Aspen’s first encounter with Herbert Bayer and the choice of paint colors basically involved drop-kicking Mr. Bayer and his paint cans as far as possible.Of course, Paepcke owned what we now call the Elli’s building, so Bayer got to paint that one, at least, his favorite color blue.But never mind all of that, because here’s the heart of the matter, here’s the real sad story: It isn’t the color of the paint; it isn’t even the “renovation.” It’s the fact that after a century or more, the building that was once Mr. Pool’s candy store and then an assay office for the silver mines and then the headquarters for the Goethe Bicentennial and then Elli Iselin’s clothing store and then a handful of other retail stores – in other words, after many decades of being filled with the hustle and bustle of everyday life, that building is now a bank, just another damned bank.And that’s sad.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com
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Columnist Paul Andersen continues to hope that the moral arc of the universe trends toward justice.