The Preservation of Historic Buildings in Colorado

Preservationists are in a constant race against time to save historic places at risk of being lost not just to the wrecking ball, but also to neglect and the elements. Each year, Colorado’s Most Endangered Places, a program of Colorado Preservation, Inc., adds new sites to the list.

“History is not just museums,” says Katie Peterson, director of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places. “It’s living, you know, just driving by all of the places that my great-great grandparents or my great-great-great-grandparents did. Feeling and reliving your ancestors’ past is truly what history is about.”

Colorado’s Most Endangered Places works with communities and partners to raise both awareness and money to try to save sites at risk of being lost. In the past 25 years, it’s highlighted 135 historical sites in Colorado. Fifty-five were saved and eight were lost.

Junita Martinez lives in the town of San Francisco, Colorado in the San Luis Valley. She is working to save a small one-room adobe structure called the Feminilas Building which was spearheaded by the women’s auxiliary in the 1920s. “The building has gone into disrepair, disarray. It’s because I don’t think people understood the significance of it even though it was the community’s aunties and grandmas and mothers that belonged to it,” said Martinez. “It brings our community together and we can actually see a building that’s part of the roots of our community, part of the heart of our community, which I like.”

The one-room adobe building is at risk of collapsing due to the elements. Colorado Preservation, Inc. says the building preserves the unique traditions, language, and culture of the San Luis Valley and the contributions of Hispanic women.

The Garcia School is another adobe building, constructed in 1913. It is on the State Register of Historic Properties and is one of the last structures of Plaza de Los Manzanares, the site of the first European settlement in Colorado. The Centennial School District has received a Colorado Department of Education and Connecting Colorado Students Grant for $3.2 million to create an internet and remote learning center in the Garcia School.

The Koch Homestead was critical to the settlement and development of Aspen. Also known as the Adelaide Ranch, the remaining structures are deteriorating. The Koch Homestead provided services like meat, produce, dairy, lumber, and fresh water to the first miners and settlers in Aspen beginning in 1887. The U.S. Forest Service owns the property which is near hiking trails.

The South Platte Hotel in Jefferson County was built in 1913 after the original, constructed in 1887, was lost to arson. It is the only building left of the South Platte community and represents Colorado’s narrow gauge railroad history. The building has been owned by Denver Water since 1987 and while it is slated for demolition, there is growing interest among the community and historic organizations to work with Denver Water to find an adaptive reuse of the building.

The R&R Market, now known as the San Luis Peoples Market in Costilla County, had been family-owned since 1857 and was in danger of being lost to the ravages of time. It was the oldest business in the state. Dr. Devon Peña has since purchased the building and has opened a store that provides fresh produce to the region and will soon offer a hardware store.

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