What do you see when you look at an old building? Before I became involved with historic preservation work, I never gave them much thought. But I now realize that these buildings house our past, present and future.
My family moved when I was in second grade, but I still remember the house I grew up in on 14 Gaywood Circle. I remember the Snoopy birthday parties; navigating the Easy Bake Oven, stuffed-animal treehouse and Army stuff (I was a tomboy) on Christmas with my brother; and sledding down the neighbor’s front yard “hill” during a rare Alabama snowfall. I remember my parents and our lives brimming with hope, joy and promise.
We all have places that conjure up a treasure chest of golden memories that help make us who we are today. I drive by the house on Gaywood Circle every time I go back to Alabama, and I see a house with a nicely manicured lawn and fresh paint — a loved house full of the same promise I felt when I was a kid.
I am proud of the work we do at Historic Routt County. We save the places that matter to people of all generations here, in our very own backyard. These are the places lovingly built by Routt County families, the places that house their lives and memories. In saving the Foidel Canyon Schoolhouse, we remember the schoolchildren — now much older and wiser — who learned how to read and pulled pigtails there. In saving Crossan’s M&A Market in Yampa, we honor the folks who shared the latest gossip with the neighbor they ran into at the meat counter.
The very act of saving these buildings brings people together today. I have seen volunteers from all across the county glaze windows, hammer nails and caulk trim at the Foidel Schoolhouse, all the time laughing and sharing stories with one another. South Routt community members have spent hundreds of hours cleaning, stabilizing and writing grants to save Crossan’s Market. They even won (for now) the “Battle of the Marmots” by successfully re-locating the pesky family that had set up residence there, inadvertently undermining the foundation of the building.
These old buildings hold promise of the future, too. By restoring the Foidel Schoolhouse, it can be used by you and me as a gathering place for weddings, family reunions and retreats. We all will be able to stop by the new visitor’s center at Crossan’s Market as we head up to hike the Devil’s Causeway. While remembering the people and events of our past, these fixed-up old buildings are bringing and will continue to bring us together to share, laugh and connect. Isn’t this what life is all about?
Like Ebenezer Scrooge learned in “A Christmas Carol,” our past and present shape us into who we are and let us see how we positively can impact others. Can an old building really bridge the past, the present and the future to help us understand all of this? Sure it can. I’ve seen it happen with my very own eyes.
Meg Tully is a certified association executive, executive director of Historic Routt County and owner of Nonprofit Know How, which provides services to nonprofits of all shapes and sizes.