Wheeler Opera House should be sacred, not solar | AspenTimes.com

Wheeler Opera House should be sacred, not solar

The following letter was written to Aspen City Council, the Wheeler Opera House board of directors, and city officials.

Some 70-plus years ago, I was privileged to graduate from the stage of the Wheeler Opera House. Aspen was to celebrate its modern rebirth with the Goethe Bi-Centennial of 1949. The Wheeler stage was minimal and undergoing renovation from the fire of November 1912 — the blackened and charred roof beams could still be seen from the stage I sat upon as Hildur Anderson of the school board presented us with our diplomas.

Many years later, sometime in the ‘70s, the city proposed to sell the Wheeler. My beloved Ramona and I posted opposition posters on the doors of City Hall.

Reference my book: “Aspen Memories.” Then some years later, while the Opera House was undergoing renovation in 1985, the fire sprinkler line froze and flooded the basement, which I discovered on Christmas Day 1985. To quote my “Aspen Memories”: “The Wheeler Opera House had withstood the fire of 1912 and would survive the flood of ’85. That mid-winter night in the basement of the Wheeler reminded me of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. But unlike the Titanic, the Wheeler survived and was renovated in grand style”.

I cherish my Aspen memories including those of the historic Wheeler Opera House. From boyhood memories of the Pitkin County Library, Beck & Bishop grocery, a Burl Ives rendition of “Jimmy Crack Corn” and high school graduation, the Wheeler Opera House holds a special place in my heart.

Please don’t desecrate the exterior with solar panels on the roof, which can be seen from many parts of town.

I am all for renewable solar energy! The city of Aspen can and should partner with Holy Cross Energy and the Aspen Sanitation District for its solar electric needs at an appropriate location. But most certainly not on the roof of Aspen’s most beloved and iconic Wheeler Opera House.

Jim Markalunas


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