Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Lyman Orton envisions a day when every business in downtown Steamboat Springs, from hair salons to gas stations, is part of one big history museum -- and he's not talking about antique gas pumps and curling irons.
Showcasing the region's history should be a big part of Main Street Steamboat's efforts, Orton told the organization's board of directors Tuesday morning. He thinks enlisting every downtown business to help showcase Steamboat's pioneer history will translate into more people spending more time and money downtown. Ideally, people shopping and running errands in downtown Steamboat would find it hard to avoid displays of historical photos and anecdotes.
"There are many more opportunities and places to showcase and tell our historic stories than are currently being used -- inside businesses and offices, on the street outside these places, over gas pumps, wherever," Orton said. "Showcasing our past and its stories is important to the sustainability of businesses' bottom line, because it creates stickiness for return visits. It's one more thing for visitors to remember us by. It also develops greater understanding and appreciation by residents of their history and of this place."
Small historical displays inside and outside businesses could give visitors to Lincoln Avenue an increased sense of local history, Orton said.
Intrigued by Orton's presentation, the board of Main Street Steamboat moved to ask its promotions committee to look into it further.
Orton said that although the Tread of Pioneers Museum, Bud Werner Memorial Library, Historic Routt County and city and county governments provide ample opportunity to study the history of the Yampa Valley, the average visitor doesn't seek out those places.
The national Main Street Program was founded by the Trust for Historic Preservation, Orton added. He suggested that Main Street Steamboat use historical displays to build and strengthen its relationship with visitors to the downtown shopping district.
City Manager Paul Hughes noted that Orton's presentation came just days after the city learned it would inherit the historic Rehder Building in the 800 block of Lincoln Avenue, provided that it can find a way to use it to reflect the history of the region.
"The timing is perfect to start thinking about more than one building" as a place for people to view historic displays, Hughes said.
Orton suggested that the Yampa Valley Community Foundation take up the fund-raising campaign for the initiative and that Main Street Steamboat hire a "downtown curator" to move it forward.
"We will take our history to the streets and into the places people frequent, create 'push marketing' from the historic institutions that also will pull more visitors, but significantly increase the number of faces before which we place our history and heritage," Orton said. "The result will be an expanded canopy casting an energetic glow of living history over historic downtown Steamboat Springs."