Playhouse to be demolished |

Playhouse to be demolished

Susan Cunningham

Demolition of the downtown Steamboat Springs building, once home to the Seventh Street Playhouse, the school band and a hospital, begins today.

In about three weeks, the building at Aspen and Seventh streets will be gone, replaced by additional parking, said Rick Denney, facilities director for the Steamboat Springs School District. The demolition process will cost $49,000.

The school district owns the old playhouse, as well as the series of connected buildings that all are part of its Seventh Street campus. The campus, which includes the old high school, is called the George P. Sauer Human Services Center.

The School Board decided to demolish the old playhouse at its meeting in late April. The building is unsafe and is considered a fire trap, Denney said.

“It’s a safety issue, and we just need to get it taken care of before something happens,” he said. “If it catches on fire, we could lose this entire site because of the speed at which that particular structure would burn.”

The building has wood paneling inside and in the basement, there are problems with its foundation, its cement block walls are crumbling, and it does not meet current building codes, Denney said.

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Problems with the old playhouse building, as well as with the human services center and Soda Creek Elementary School, were outlined through a recent analysis of district facilities. The analysis was commissioned last year to provide a blueprint for future needs.

The old playhouse is being demolished now because of safety concerns, Denney said. But the School Board decided to hold discussions with the community before deciding what to do with the other buildings.

“The community will definitely be involved with that process because we want to know what the community thinks,” Denney said. “We’ve got a lot of issues, and it’s going to take the support of the community for whatever happens.”

The possibility of pursuing historic designation for the old high school, also called the old junior high, was discussed by the School Board at its meeting last week.

Arianthe Stettner, executive director of Historic Routt County, described the process through which the School Board could nominate the property for historic designation. Such a designation could help the district attain grants for preserving the building.

Superintendent Donna How–ell said she thought it was not prudent to decide whether to pursue historic designation until the district had discussions with the community about its facilities.

Board member Michael Loomis agreed, saying that he hoped to see the old high school preserved, but that historic designation could influence some residents before public discussions are held.

At the meeting, Stettner also encouraged the School Board to document with photos the old playhouse before it is demolished. She also said it would be a good idea to recycle the building materials, including wood flooring and glass windows.

Later, Stettner said that Historic Routt County wants to focus its efforts on helping to preserve the old high school building. The old playhouse building, she said, seems to have been compromised through various structural changes, such as the removal of the second story.

Denney said that photos of the building have been taken. As for saving materials, the contractors own any salvageable materials, he said. He said he couldn’t imagine how the district would use materials such as the building’s old cement blocks, with a stucco finish.

Trying to restore the building basically would mean rebuilding it, Denney said.

The history of the old playhouse is unclear. It was built between the 1900 and 1920. In 1921, it was the Colorado Apartment Building, and it was converted into a hospital, Stettner said, reading from “The Historical Guide to Routt County.”

In 1951, the school district bought the building for a band room for the old high school, which had been built in 1920. Later, the high school became the junior high school. Ultimately, the junior high was moved to the Strawberry Park campus. More recently, the building was the Seventh Street Playhouse.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail

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