Letter: Preserve church history
After considerable review and effort by the Historic Preservation Commission, the Aspen City Council, the Historic Preservation Office, the applicant and community members, the proposed addition of a parish social hall to St. Mary Catholic Church will again come before the Historic Preservation Commission for the last time. The commission’s decision will determine the fate of St. Mary Catholic Church and one of Aspen’s last historic half blocks on Main Street.
On Wednesday, two options are being considered for the location of the above-ground entrance to a new, 7,000-square-foot, underground parish hall. Both options are proposed next to the church in the open, grassy yard. Option A is at the back of the property with the yard in front, and Option B is at the front of the property, blocking the yard. Option A is preferable if the community would like to continue to see the stained-glass windows and graceful arches of St. Mary’s. It’s also preferable if the lilac bushes, and the yard surrounding the church, are to be partially retained. Preserving the grounds around structures such as St. Mary’s, the Stallard House Museum and Pioneer Park also preserves the history, grace and prominence of the buildings.
Option B emphasizes the modern glass entrance over the church itself. Because of its storefront location, the parish hall entrance would more significantly block the community’s view of the church. Instead, an empty entrance lobby or indoor parish activities like coffee and doughnuts would be the most visible. The open space between the church and the rectory would be blocked from view.
Both options would potentially connect the modern glass entrance to the church, forever marring the historical fabric of the church itself, unless the Historic Preservation Commission bars this “connector” from happening. The reason given for a “connector” is to create better flow so parishioners wouldn’t have to be out in the elements or feel unsafe as they walk the few feet between the church and the above-ground entrance to the parish hall. There is currently interior access to the parish hall through the existing elevator. Americans With Disabilities Act access is possible, without a connector, both to the parish hall itself inside and to the separate above-ground entrance outside. Given that most people are out in the elements to get to the church in the first place, it would be worth eliminating the connector to save the historical fabric of the church.
Now is the time to speak up for keeping this new proposed above-ground entrance to a parish hall separate from the church and for preserving the small open space next to the church by advocating for Option A with no connector. Come to the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission meeting today at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall. The voices of the community are important to the commission’s decision.
Julie Markalunas Hall
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