A group of local preservationists opposes the Tread of Pioneer Museum’s plan to tear down this building and replace it with a facility to better store its collections.

Photo by John F. Russell

A group of local preservationists opposes the Tread of Pioneer Museum’s plan to tear down this building and replace it with a facility to better store its collections.

Plan to tear down building in Old Town Steamboat splits preservation community

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Past Event

Steamboat Springs Planning Commission meeting

  • Thursday, December 8, 2011, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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Past Event

Tread of Pioneers Museum open house

  • Friday, December 9, 2011, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available

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— Plans to tear down a 1900-era building in Old Town Steamboat and replace it with a modern facility better capable of storing the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s collections have created a schism in the local historic preservation community.

The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission will consider tonight development permits that would allow the museum to build a new collections building and expand display space on Eighth Street adjacent to its other buildings.

The Historic Preservation Commission voted 3-1 on Sept. 14 to recommend that the city approve the plan, including the demolition. The vote went against the recommendation of Historic Preservation Planner Alexis Casale Eiland, who asked that museum officials explore rehabilitating the old house instead of razing it.

Although the house is considered historically relevant, it is not on any historic registers. City planning staff stated in its report on the development plan that demolishing the building and replacing it with a new facility to store museum collections still will have a “net benefit to preserving cultural heritage.”

Prominent local preservationists, including the dissenting Historic Preservation Commission member, Cami Bunn, sent a letter to the museum board objecting to the demolition plans and forwarded a copy to city planning staff. The letter states that the house where the museum currently stores its collections that aren’t on public display is from the earliest days of Steamboat and is eligible for listing on the local historic register.

“For keepers of our history and heritage, preservation of our resources is not a choice. It is an ethic. … If we are not living this ethic and promoting it as a community norm, who is? ... If you choose to demolish the collections building, you set the standard for every person who comes after you. “

The letter suggests that other property owners will reason that “if the Tread of Pioneers Museum can tear down a building eligible for listing on a historic register, why can’t I?”

The letter was signed by Towny Anderson, Kathy Cline, Pam Duckworth, David Epstein, Todd Hagenbuch and Arianthe Stettner, in addition to Bunn.

Museum board members and their architect, Eric Smith, told the Historic Preservation Commission in September that they estimated rehabbing the house likely would cost more than building a structure designed to safely store historic objects. They also rejected the possibility of using storage space off-site because of insufficient staff.

The old house has a leaky basement and a steep staircase to the second story, where collections are subjected to extreme heat during the summer. The walls and floors are not stout enough to meet minimum commercial loads, Smith told the Historic Preservation Commission.

The new building, when fixtures, furniture and landscaping are taken into account, will cost about $1 million. The museum board said it already has about $600,000 on hand from sources other than the property tax for historic facilities.

City Planner Seth Lorson said variances to parking, side setback and the ratio of the size of the building to the lot are not problematic.

“We’re pleased that the new building is consistent with the commercial neighborhood design standards,” he said.

The minutes of the Historic Preservation Commission’s September meeting reflect that its members recognized the complexity of the issue.

“I really struggled with this one because I agree with you that we’re here to try to preserve historic structures,” Historic Preservation Commissioner Sally TeStrake said. “Clearly it meets the criteria, but I think the location of the museum in downtown Steamboat Springs as a prominent location is what makes it so important. It does have this campus with these two other structures, which are fairly sound. I think that we have to look at that overall picture.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

John St Pierre 3 years ago

Perhaps the Dissenters can get together and find a spot to move what they consider "preserving". The current facility is in deplorable state... and also has no fire protection to protect the museums valuable collection.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

Preserving a crumbling eyesore is an "ethic"? This is a position held by grownups? Seriously? Deploy the bulldozer and be done with it. Ye gods.

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greenwash 3 years ago

Brian while your at it , might as well bulldoze all those crumbling houses down Pine and 7th what a bunch of ugly eyesores.Can you believe people actually live in those things...Add that crumbling Rehder and Lyons drugstore to that list as well.

Ye gad. ...

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sledneck 3 years ago

Why is it not surprising that T. Anderson's signature is also on the objecting letter?

Buy the house and "preserve" it all you want. Otherwise shut up.

Forcing others to "preserve" something at their expense and to benefit YOUR desires is not philanthropic or benevolent.

I can't get over the depths to which some "do-gooders" will stoop. What irony! Happily using "preservation" as a tactic or tool, even against a facility which is dedicated to preservation. These peoples' train of thought is completely de-coupled from the locomotive of reality.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

greenwash:

Those other buildings are up to code and properly maintained. Nice strawman, though.

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sledneck 3 years ago

Greenwash, There's a big difference between not wanting to bulldoze what is YOURS (totally acceptable) vs wanting to use the police power of the local government to prohibit a property owner from bulldozing THEIR OWN property.

You own it... you smash it. Nobodys damn business. Period.

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greenwash 3 years ago

How about all that money being dumped into that Lagacy Ranch bulldoze that s#*thole as well...unbelievable now they want to preserve Howelson hill ...Seriously lets bull doze that place too.I mean come on ...YVLT,HRC what a waste of time these organizations are.

Ye Gad..

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

If your argument fails to carry your name, and your argument's strength rests in any part on attacking the character of others, it begs the reader to ponder the question of your own character.

Reality.

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Scott Wedel 3 years ago

The letter suggests that other property owners will reason that “if the Tread of Pioneers Museum can tear down a building eligible for listing on a historic register, why can’t I?”

Yep, and what is so wrong with that? Is it really that wrong for a person to think that tearing down a junky old building not on the historical register and rebuilding might be allowed?

If the Historic Preservation Committee wants to preserve old buildings in downtown then they should aggressively work with property owners to get buildings listed on historic registers. Then the property agrees to keep the building and gets tax breaks on preserving it. But forcing those that never agreed to preserve that they must preserve is bad policy. Creates the incentive for owners to not maintain the building so the building becomes damaged and beyond repair.

If the historic look is worth preserving then get the neighborhood to agree to design standards so that new houses have an exterior style similar to the area's old houses.

This building has close to zero visual interest. I'd expect the museum is likely to replace it with a building that is a better example of that old style.

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bubba 3 years ago

While I do not necessarily agree with the dissenters, I admire that they are sticking to their guns - wasn't the Historical Preservation Commission attempting to pass a law prohibiting the scraping or major renovation of historic structures a few years ago?

It seems like the expense of rehabbing or maintaining a dilapidated old structure is not too much if it is someone else's money, but the score is different when one's own money.

For the interest in preserving old buildings to be credible, it seems like the Historical Preservation Commission should lead by example here. If their argument is that the building is in a state of disrepair that makes it impractical to repair, isn't that an incentive for others who own old buildings to allow theirs to fall into disrepair as well, if that is what it takes to preserve their property rights?

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sledneck 3 years ago

Those who have planted no trees deserve no shade.

If an argument falls in the forest, and nobodys name is on it, might it still have merit.

I question the character of people who would usurp property owners' rights and presume to dictate the use of that which is not theirs while never having paid the first electric bill, heating bill, tax bill, landscaping bill, mortagage payment, etc. THOSE are the critters who's character ought to come into question.

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

I agree with Bubba. Well put.

Their current division is the basic proposition historic preservation presents to any owner of historic property. This debate within their group is entirely constructive for the community and instructive for the group. No one's property rights are at stake here. This is the ultimate historic owner debating with himself.

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

Sled, It is complete and useless politics to hinge the right or wrong of an issue on the character of its participants. Presuming yourself superior renders you irrelevant.

First, you subordinate your argument's simple merits beneath a contempt that interests only fellow partisans.

Second you signal that your argument's merits are insufficient to stand alone.

Third, your behavior exhibits your chosen vacuum, being a behavior nonexistent the actual meetings where such decisions are made.

You might entertain yourself this way, but you resolve nothing. Your idea's merits stand better alone.

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Scott Wedel 3 years ago

Sled, Sure, an idea with no name on it may have merit. But your comments regarding Towny Anderson suggest you can know an idea is bad because of the name of it. So anonymously ideas should be considered on their merits, but ideas with named people supporting them can be rejected out of hand because of the names behind the ideas? So for you to consider the merit's of Towny Anderson's ideas then he'd have to suggest them anonymously?

That makes no sense. But it does qualify you to serve on Oak Creek's Planning Board.

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sledneck 3 years ago

I did not hang the merits of an idea on its supporters, guys.

I read the article and decided for myself that the idea of preventing someone from demolishing something THEY own runs counter to the principles of individual freedom.

Then (and only then) I added my contention that it was not surprising to find Mr. Anderson once again on what I believe to be the wrong side of personal freedom.

The fact that I led my comments with the "T. Anderson" thought does not mean that my position was taken based primarily on his support thereof. However, I do feel somewhat sure that if I took the OPPOSITE position from Mr. Anderson EVERY SINGLE TIME without any knowledge whatsoever of the subject I would, more often than not, find myself on the correct side of whatever subject was being discussed.

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