On October 5th, Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s Colorado’s Most Endangered Places Program Coordinator, Rachel Parris, met with Frank Reetz, a teacher at West Jefferson Middle School, and Neil Sperandeo, of Denver Water, along with 8 students, to discuss historic preservation and some of the challenges it faces.
The Westall Monument, owned by Denver Water, was erected in memory of locomotive engineer William (Billy) Westall who lost his life in his attempt to save his 450 passengers in six cars from serious injury. The site is important to the State as it commemorates Billy Westall’s loyalty and sacrifice to his passengers, and the importance of the historic Denver South Park & Pacific Railroad along the North Fork of the South Platte River from Denver to Leadville between the late 1870s and 1937.
Unfortunately, natural deterioration from continuing overgrowth and the shifting of stones due to erosion is endangering the monument. As a result, the Westall Monument was nominated in 2011 for the 2012 Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List, but was not chosen as a listed site. Though the Monument was not listed, a partnership between Colorado Preservation, Inc., Denver Water, and West Jefferson Middle School has formed with the intention of providing a learning experience for the Middle School students to be a part of the process to ultimately save the Monument.
On the first snowy day of the year, these three groups met and Colorado Preservation, Inc. and Denver Water gave an overview to the students of what their interests were in the site. We gave an introduction on ourselves, our background, and our involvements, and then the students had an opportunity to engage in some hands on documentation. We worked to sketch each side of the monument, and provide measurements including the distance of the monument from the river and the road.
We then engaged in a “round table” discussion, where students had the opportunity to ask questions, and tell us what they thought about the importance of the site. Overall, it was a great site visit! Getting the opportunity to engage students in the critical thinking of historic preservation is invaluable to the future of the preservation movement.