The odor was unbearable.
Arianthe Stettner and Jayne Hill ducked into the crawl space to search for the source of the stink, where they found a pile of dead skunks -- which complemented the piles of dead mice they found in the walls.
The two historic preservation activists spent days on end in the 19th century red Mesa Schoolhouse at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass, ripping out rotten antique boards and dousing everything with Clorox to kill the germs and, they hoped, the lingering smell.
Stettner, president of Historic Routt County! and recent retiree of seven years with the Steamboat Springs City Council, is most known for her work behind the desk, but she's not afraid to get dirty to get the job done.
"That's what I really appreciate about Arianthe," said Hill, a longtime friend, colleague and director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. "She's more than the face behind the work, she's the one on the floor scrubbing. That's what the Hazie Award is all about."
Saturday night at the 22nd Annual Snowball in the Steamboat Grand ballroom, Stettner received the 2004 Hazie Werner Award for Excellence, an honor given each year by the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to a woman who has provided great service to the community or excelled in her field.
"The award is such an honor for any woman," said Hill, who received the award in 2001. "It's a symbol of the hard work Hazie Werner did in her lifetime -- raising a family that did so much for this community."
Restoring that old schoolhouse was just part of what got Stettner -- and Hill -- the honorable recognition.
Stettner, 56, has been a part of preservation efforts for buildings across Routt County, including the once endangered 124-year-old Rock Creek Stage Stop on Gore Pass and the Carver Power Plant, which ultimately was incorporated into Centennial Hall.
Perhaps a culmination of her work, the Centennial Hall project was singled out by first lady Laura Bush, which helped earn Steamboat Springs an honorary "Preserve America" designation in a recent ceremony at the White House. Bush launched the Preserve America federal initiative a year ago to encourage local efforts to preserve cultural and natural heritage.
Historic Routt County! is, in essence, the local version of Preserve America. It continually provides initiatives to property owners to preserve buildings of historical significance. Since it got its start in 1997, Stettner has worked with hundreds of property owners to have their properties designated on county, state and national historic registers.
Stettner also has helped historic property owners get grants for free building assessments to help them find what is needed to maintain the historical character of their structure. While on City Council, she proposed a sales-tax rebate initiative -- which passed -- for property owners to consider saving older buildings rather than demolishing buildings.
"It's so nice to have supportive colleagues who are willing to look at things differently," Stettner said. "This community is so supportive of making positive things happen."
Steamboat Springs City Manager Paul Hughes said gaining perspective is easy when Stettner is talking.
"She's somebody you can't help but like and listen to," Hughes said. "She specializes in getting people's attention. She has boundless energy. She's always smiling. She is one of (the) warmest, fuzziest people I know."
The efforts of Stettner and Historic Routt County! have had continuous support from the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, the Tread of Pioneers Museum, the U.S. Forest Service, Yampatika, Colorado Preservation Inc., the State Historical Fund and the Colorado Historical Society.
Stettner sat in her office Friday for the last time on the second floor of the Squire Building, above Lyon's Corner Drug. While turning away solicitors on the phone with a kind but firm tone, she simultaneously scanned the room, contemplating where pieces of furniture will go in her new office down the hall. She smiled when historic-designation projects were pointed out and explained why preserving these places is important.
"Imagine having amnesia," Stettner said. "If you don't have some look of your past, land marks or historic buildings, how will you know your past? If the buildings are gone, where are the stories? How do you keep your town unique?
"All the communities in this valley had buildings for different purposes for people with different needs. Oak Creek had coal mining. Hayden had ranching. Hahns Peak had gold. People built the structures with the materials around them, so each community's history is unique.
"Today's town3Cs are becoming homogenized. If every place looks the same, with the same big interstates driving by the same big green signs, this country could be called 'Generica.'"
Having lived in San Francisco during the late 1960s, Stettner witnessed some of modern music's most influential performers: Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and several others. Some of the performers had an effect on her.
She particularly remembers lyrics from Joni Mitchell about turning "paradise into a parking lot."
"You don't know what you have until it's gone," Stettner said, translating the folk singer's lyrics. "It's important to preserve the cultural landscape."
As she received the Hazie Werner Award on Saturday night, Stettner joins what she calls "fabulous company" of prominent Steamboat women. Some also are inspirations to her, including Hill, Eleanor Bliss and Rita Valentine.
"Arianthe is an absolute perfect recipient of this award," Hughes said. "It's a great honor for her, and it brings the city an honor by her receiving this award."
-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204
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