Steamboat Art Museum expands into old Brandywine restaurant space |

Steamboat Art Museum expands into old Brandywine restaurant space

Vintage building gets a new life

The Steamboat Art Museum is undertaking a major remodel in order to expand into the rear of the First National Bank/Rehder Building where the Brandywine restaurant once flourished.

— The Steamboat Art Museum and Calcon Constructors have begun an ambitious remodeling project on Eighth Street in the heart of the downtown historic district that will both resurrect an almost-forgotten landmark building and allow the museum to up its game.

The dramatic expansion of the museum's exhibition space that will be achieved by the remodeling of the former Ford automobile garage will allow the museum to take on larger, more prestigious art exhibits. Its board of directors is looking forward in early summer 2018 to hosting the national exhibit of the Oil Painters of America. And, in 2019, the museum will host the national Show of American Women Artists.

"For 30 years, the artistic community has been seeking recognition for the arts here as an economic driver, and I'm thrilled to be at the tipping point, because I think that's where we are," museum Executive Director Betse Grassby said.

She credits museum co-founder and longtime curator Shirley Stocks with building the museum's credibility through time with organizations such as the oil Painters of America. The museum observed its 10th anniversary in December 2016 with an exhibition of works from prior shows.

This summer's remodel on the Eighth Street side of the historic First National Bank/Rehder Building, which was bequeathed to the city of Steamboat Springs by Henry and Helen Rehder in 2004, is transforming a 1920 addition to the original 1905 bank building.

Whether you know it as the gone, but not forgotten Brandywine Restaurant or as the "old for garage" it's a significant piece of local history. Its construction includes native stone quarried on Emerald Mountain, as well as bricks made in a brickyard where Fish Creek Mobile Home Park is today.

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Subtle stained glass windows from a more modern era add to the period feel of the old garage.

"You have this 5,000-square-foot open space, and we're taking it back to its period of historic significance," Grassby said.

In 2009, the city undertook a $400,000 restoration of the bank facade with the help of a $150,000 grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund. The work included restoration of windows and brick on the Lincoln Avenue elevation of the building. During that period, restoration of the building was a source of budget stress for the city.

This time around, the museum conducted a capital campaign to help fund the $700,000 project. So far, $625,000 has been raised, including $125,000 in historic preservation tax credits. But Grassby aims to raise another $200,000, which would free up the $125,000 for a maintenance fund.

More than one restaurant has succeeded the Brandywine since its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s — more recently, it was Antares. But for a Steamboat generation now fending off senior citizenship, the Brandywine was the place to be on New Year's Eve. It was traditional to launch wine glasses and shot glasses into the stone fireplace.

Or, as Grassby recalls, "I had one hell of a wedding reception there 43 years ago!"

When the remodel is complete, the former dining room will be linked to the current main gallery, but it won't be one "giant space" Grassy promised. The intent is to allow the museum to host more than one art exhibit at a time through the use of movable walls. Through contacts developed by a member of the museum board, the lighting designer for the Birmingham (Alabama) Museum of Art is consulting on the installation of $65,000 worth of LED lighting in the new exhibit space.

There will also be an educational room and artists' workshop space to the rear of the building. The plan is to host more artist lectures, workshops and demonstrations.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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