Museum eyes downtown spot

Building gifted to city by longtime resident

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The Rehder Building at 803 Lincoln Ave. was recently gifted to the city of Steamboat Springs. A local artists' organization wants to use the space for a museum.

— The city of Steamboat Springs now possesses the deed to a historical downtown building, and a local group is eyeing the space for an art museum.

Longtime Routt County resident Helen Rehder, who died in May 2004, owned the building at 803 Lincoln Ave. with her husband, Henry Rehder, since 1937.

She offered the building to the city as a gift, and in her will, she requested the building be "designated and preserved as a historic monument, and that it will be operated as a museum for the preservation and commemoration of the lifestyle of settlers in Routt County."

The city accepted the deed Sept. 12.

"This is one of the most significant gifts the city of Steamboat Springs has ever received," City Council President Ken Brenner said. "It is a beautiful building that has been a key landmark in downtown for more than 100 years. The city is honored to be entrusted with the legacy of Henry and Helen Rehder."

Linda Kakela, Steamboat Springs' director of intergovernmental services, said the will of Helen Rehder "does not clearly define how to proceed," but the city has given a group of local art enthusiasts first dibs.

The Steamboat Art Museum organization formed in December, and its goal has been to find a facility for a fine art museum.

"The concept of the museum is to collect art that is of our culture and heritage," said Steamboat Art Museum board president Robert Dieckhoff.

The organization has entered into an agreement with the city to investigate the feasibility of leasing and renovating at least part of the building. Dieckhoff said the possibility of opening the museum in the Rehder building is the "golden opportunity at the moment."

"It's a matter of whether the money works out and whether it works out for the city and a great deal of the community," Dieckhoff said. "The opportunity of being there is very optimistic."

It's unclear whether the leases of two of the building's currents occupants - Vectra Bank Colorado and Antares - will be renewed. Into the West also occupies the building, and owner Jace Romick, who knew Helen Rehder for more than 30 years, is relocating his store to free up space for a museum.

Romick said Henry and Helen Rehder - a talented amateur artist - wanted to give something back to the community.

"I think Helen would be beside herself to know it became a museum that would benefit downtown Steamboat," Romick said. "She loved to paint, and I think she would be thrilled to have that as a museum."

Romick also said he thinks establishing a museum in the space has great potential to strengthen the art community, and that Steamboat could build a reputation as being a destination for art enthusiasts.

"It could be a huge draw," he said.

Dieckhoff said the Steamboat Art Museum will hold a fundraiser Oct. 14 called "The Art Event" to kick off fundraising efforts for what he hopes will be the future home of the museum. Original paintings and sculptures by area artists will be auctioned as the function's main event.

Dieckhoff said that ideally, the organization would want to occupy the entire building so it can accept "shows of significance" and have room to grow.

Getting the Rehder building fixed up could be expensive.

The city is applying for grants to restore and rehabilitate the exterior of the building at an estimated cost of between $600,000 and $800,000. Work could begin next year. As the tenant, the museum would be responsible for most interior renovations on the building, which was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Having the building pay for itself is important, whether that would be in the form of rental income from the museum or another business, Brenner said.

"The city has inherited the long-term financial obligation of sustaining the building," Brenner said. "We'll see what the museum folks can come up with."

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210 or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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