Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Denver (February 8, 2022)—Colorado’s Most Endangered Places, a signature program of Colorado Preservation, Inc. which works with communities across the state to save threatened or endangered historic buildings and sites, turns 25 in 2022 and kicked off a year-long celebration with a breakfast announcement of 2022 sites at the annual Saving Places Conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Denver on Tuesday, February 8, 2022. 

The Most Endangered Places program provides advocacy, awareness and technical assistance to significant historic sites throughout Colorado that are in danger of being lost.  In 24 years, the program has highlighted 130 historic sites throughout the state; 54 sites have been SAVED and only seven have been lost, with 49 actively in progress and 20 still under alert status. Rather than announcing new sites for the Endangered Places Program (EPP), Colorado Preservation, Inc. is pausing in 2022 to focus on five key existing listed sites that reflect the heritage of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and rural sites over the coming year. 

These five important sites and their status include:

  1. Dearfield Farming Colony (listed 1999, Weld County) in rural Weld County is one of the most important early 20th century African American farming colonies that sought to provide opportunities, self-sufficiency and freedom to Black homesteading citizens migrating into the Western United States.  Dearfield was inspired in part by Booker T. Washington and founded by pioneering entrepreneur O.T. Jackson on the plains of eastern Colorado.  The colony thrived until climatic challenges and the ravages of the Great Depression led to its gradual demise.  Today only a handful of buildings remain at the site owned by the Black American West Museum, but the museum and its Greeley-based partners, the Dearfield Preservation Committee, have diligently fought to document, interpret and save the site and several recent developments bode well for its future.  In 2021, Dearfield received a $498,000 National Park Service (NPS) African American Civil Rights Program grant, to be administered by the University of Northern Colorado.  Recent legislation was also introduced by Senator Michael Bennett and Representative Joe Neguse to study the possibility of designation as a National Historic Site. CPI supports these efforts and looks forward to working with project partners to continue this important progress in 2022.
  • Iglesia de San Antonio/Tiffany Catholic Church (listed 2019) located along the old Denver & Rio Grande Railroad line in far southern La Plata County, represents the early Hispano settlement of the riverine valleys in the area.  Constructed in 1928, the tiny church was lovingly built by local labor utilizing adobe and stucco materials that have badly deteriorated over time.  However, the building has high historic integrity, including its beautiful interior, and is still used during an annual pilgrimage and mass each year in June.  CPI helped facilitate the development of detailed construction drawings and recommendations for foundation and wall stabilization, funded in part by a State Historical Fund grant, and will work with local site caretakers and stewards to build partnerships and raise matching funds for a full rehabilitation of the building over the coming years.
  • The Southern Ute Boarding School Campus (SUBSC, listed 2020), located in Ignacio on the Southern Ute Reservation in far southwestern Colorado, epitomizes the difficult reckoning going on nationally about the dark and traumatic board school era when Indigenous children were taken from their families and forcibly assimilated into Anglo-European culture.  At the same time, the mostly intact campus of buildings provides opportunities for possible adaptive re-use while also enabling tribal members to tell their own story of perseverance and self-determination in the face of genocidal policies adopted by the United States government.  The Southern Ute Tribal Council has surveyed tribal members and received positive feedback and support for preservation efforts and has carried out a Brownfields Program environmental assessment in the Head Start School Building and Gymnasium and Dining Hall.  A study was also completed by May & Burch Conservation, Inc. to determine options for preservation of the culturally significant WPA-era murals in these buildings, which were completed by tribal member Sam Ray in the 1930s. CPI will work with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to support these efforts in 2022.
  • Stranges Grocery in Grand Junction (listed 2001) helps to tell the story of a once thriving, multi-block Italian American community that existed on the southern edge of downtown near the railroad depot.  Today, the early-20th century building is nearly all that remains of Grand Junction’s “Little Italy.”  Listed in 2001, it has recently been purchased by a new owner who plans to carry out a preservation sensitive adaptive re-use project in an area that is experiencing rapid new development.  Plans include retail and office uses and rehabilitation of the beautiful stonework completed by Italian stonemasons in 1909.  CPI plans to support these efforts, as well as help with mitigation of the impacts of a CDOT highway widening project in front of both the depot and the former grocery store in 2022.
  • Union Pacific Pumphouse in Kit Carson, Colorado was listed on EPP in 2005 but has remained in limbo due to liability concerns by Union Pacific Railroad and lack of funding for rehabilitation.  The late-1870s Pumphouse supplied water for steam engines and today stands as Colorado’s only surviving stone railroad pumphouse.  The building was closed when UP discontinued the use of steam engines through Kit Carson in 1956.  The Pumphouse was donated to the Kit Carson Historical Society by UP, but the railroad still maintains ownership of the land and is concerned by the building’s proximity to the railroad tracks.  CPI will work with UP, Kit Carson Chamber of Commerce, Kit Carson Rural Development, and the Kit Carson Historical Society to determine how these obstacles can be overcome and preservation of the historically significant Pumphouse can move forward in 2022. 

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Preservation for a Changing Colorado

Historic preservation has a direct economic benefit to communities and Colorado! Take a look at the 2017 study, which considered the ways adaption of historic places has a direct financial effect on the state.

This updated, most resent study, was the result of a partnership between Colorado Preservation, Inc and History Colorado, funded by a grant from History Colorado's State Historical Fund. Prepared by Clarion Associates, the new report document the economic benefits of rehabilitation projects, analyzes property values and neighborhood stability in local historic districts, and summarizes the increasing impact of heritage tourism, private preservation development and the success of Colorado’s Main Street program.

In a key finding, researchers determined that for every $1 million spent on historic preservation in Colorado it produced $1.03 million in additional spending, 14 new jobs, and $636,700 in increased household incomes across the state!

The 2017 report also considers the important role preservation plays in helping Coloradans provide new spaces for creative communities and co-working, create and sustain meaningful places, responds to the state’s changing demographics, and addresses climate concerns.

Click Here to see download and read the full report, "Preservation for a Changing Colorado".