How to help
To donate, call Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Executive Director Tracy Barnett at 846-1800 or stop by the office at 703 Lincoln Ave. The $5 “Save the Noon Whistle” whistles still are for sale.
Steamboat Springs Steamboat’s fabled noon whistle will return, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Executive Director Tracy Barnett said Tuesday.
The organization that promotes downtown has led the fundraising effort to replace the whistle, which was located in the 800 block of Oak Street before being taken down in October 2008.
Barnett said they’ve raised $5,000, enough to buy a whistle that would simulate the sound made by a steamboat.
“It doesn’t get us the authentic, off-an-old-steamboat whistle,” she said. “But it will get us a steamboat-sounding whistle.”
Mainstreet is continuing to fundraise, Barnett said. She said the group needs another $10,000 to buy a whistle designed for a real steamboat and is trying to get big donations from individuals, businesses and organizations. The $15,000 total cost includes the whistle, compressor and timer.
Barnett said restoring the noon whistle is important because it’s representative of small-town America. She said many residents told Mainstreet they wanted the tradition back.
Bill Fetcher, 63, a 60-year Steamboat resident, said many think the whistle began sounding in the 1920s, located on the outside of Steamboat Laundry, the current Soda Creek Building. But Fetcher said that a few years before that, it might have been located at the Carver Power Plant, what now is Centennial Hall.
After Steamboat Laundry, Fetcher said, the whistle moved several times and changed from a steam whistle to a siren that produced a wailing sound that summoned volunteer firefighters to blazes.
He said he thinks the practice of sounding it at noon was an excuse for the fire department to test the siren. But historically, Fetcher said, whistles served practical purposes.
“Going back, the tradition of blowing whistles in the morning, noon and evening was from factory towns to signal when to start work, break for lunch and knock off at the end of the day,” he said.
Barnett said the Steamboat whistle blew at noon and in the evening. She said in addition to summoning firefighters, the whistle served as an air-raid siren during the Cold War era. It was a “deafening blast” that didn’t please nearby business owners, Barnett said.
Cyd Pougiales, an architect with Thira and a member of the Mainstreet design committee, is leading the fundraising effort for the whistle.
She said part of the problem with the less expensive whistle is that it sounds like a train, which Mainstreet is trying to avoid.
“The idea was we did a bunch of research to get a marine-grade whistle that will last for generations,” she said. “But to also have a low steamship sound that would emanate in the valley.”
Pougiales said the whistle Mainstreet has targeted, from manufacturer Kahlenberg Bros. Co. in Two Rivers, Wis., would sound three blasts. Although it’s more expensive, she said it would last longer, sound authentic and “give us a giggle at lunch.”
Barnett said the new whistle would be located on the snowmaking building at Howelsen Hill. She said the goal is to have it bought and installed in the spring.
“We’re looking forward to having it back up, to reinstate the noon whistle for the community,” she said. “It’s part of our community character.”
To donate, call Barnett at 846-1800 or stop by the office at 703 Lincoln Ave. Barnett said the $5 “Save the Noon Whistle” whistles also still are for sale.