Project Update: Temple Aaron

Temple Aaron Awarded State Historical Fund Grant

History Colorado awarded a $50,000 State Historical Fund grant to Temple Aaron, one of the oldest continuously operated synagogues in its original location west of the Mississippi. This grant will help fund roof investigations, construction documents, and emergency roof repairs. The Temple will match the funds with $29,250 for a total project of $79,250.

Colorado Preservation, Inc. listed Temple Aaron on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places in 2017. Since then the Temple continues making great strides in re-constituting as a regional synagogue, hosting lively and engaging services and programs to attending supporters from Albuquerque to Boulder and beyond.

In September, the Temple hosted both in-person and virtual Rosh Hashanah services on Zoom, led by Rabbi Robert Lennick of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico. Rabbi Lennick engages as the Temple’s first Rabbi since the 1970s. He commented on the feeling of generations past that permeates the building by noting how “the past, present, and the future come together here at Temple Aaron … it’s like a Jewish vortex or something.”

Temple Aaron, opening its doors in 1889, is a contributing historic property in the El Corazon de Trinidad National Historic District. Prolific architect Isaac Hamilton Rapp designed the Temple in the Exotic Revival Style, making it one of the few synagogues of its type in the United States. Elements of the Exotic Revival style include such Oriental motifs as Turkish (Onion) domes and Moorish minarets, both evident on Temple Aaron. The synagogue’s many geometric colored glass windows are reminiscent of the first colored glass windows found in other Eastern mosques. The Temple’s distinctive pressed metal patterned roof has a complex structure featuring many peaks and valleys. It features two towers on the east façade of the building, which sits high on a hill overlooking Trinidad. The Temple was built primarily by Jews of German descent who played a prominent role in the town’s early development, including its first mayor Samuel Jaffa and prominent merchants such as Maurice and Isaac Wise.

For more information, contact Colorado Preservation, Inc. or Temple Aaron.

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Update: Cultural and Historic Resources Task Force

2020 in Colorado? Then there were the Wildfires …

Update provided to Colorado Preservation by Carl Stewart, Colorado Cultural and Historic Resource Task Force

Upon hearing about a fire, a small group from Colorado Cultural and Historic Resources Task Force (CHR-TF) activates to determine if the fires threatened or damaged cultural resources. We mine zip codes, databases, email networks and the web for information. Contacts are made, winds blow and perimeters change. This important work takes place in the background while frontliners first address life safety, firefighting and property protection. We provide our information to the State Emergency Operations Center, especially after recovery begins. In the event of unmet expenses and needs, we may be able to help.

Through the State Archeologist’s office and State Historic Preservation Office, History Colorado retains a database of built cultural assets mapped statewide. Depending on the jurisdiction (private, State, BLM, or US Forest Service), sometimes we transmit this information to the firefighting front lines. The hope is that an obscure historic site is not, for example, needlessly used as a staging location by firefighting crews.

The 2020 fires destroyed some historic cabins. Rocky Mountain National Park, especially around the west entry, experienced the most severe loss in structures and sites. Since these structures are under federal jurisdiction with National Park Service (NPS), they are outside our State group’s scope. In addition to structures, an NPS-run cemetery in cooperation with the town of Grand Lake sustained damage from downed trees and is closed.

Grand Lake Cemetery (closed) near Rocky Mountain National Park, November 2020. Photo credit Carl Stewart.
Grand Lake Cemetery (closed) near Rocky Mountain National Park, November 2020. Photo credit Carl Stewart.

Amazingly, despite the historic size and intensity of the fires this year, it seems at this point we escaped extensive loss or damage to cultural resources, except those in Rocky Mountain National Park. But that does not mean we did not have some close calls. Collections were evacuated by Pioneer Village Museum in Hot Sulphur Springs in advance of the East Troublesome Fire. YMCA of the Rockies, both at Winter Park and Estes Park, evacuated some collections. Other collections were placed in safer storage, as some organizations discovered gaps in their emergency planning. The collecting community joined to support each other. For instance, the Greeley History Museum accepted some of the evacuated collections from the mountains.

Evacuation of threatened collections before potential floods in Lake City, CO, 2019. Photo credit Carl Stewart.
With the assistance of CHR-TF, evacuation of threatened collections before potential floods in Lake City, CO, 2019. Photo credit Carl Stewart.

It is important to remember that extinguishing the flames of these fires is often only the emergency’s beginning. The danger of landslides and floods from precipitation and runoff from fire scars extends the fire emergency. The CHR task force will continue monitoring these issues and serve as a resource for individuals or organizations needing assistance in preserving our state’s cultural resources.

To get involved and be a part of our network, sign up for the CHR-TF email list.

Cultural and Historic Resources Task Force is a 2017 Colorado Preservation, Inc. State Honor Award Recipient.

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Project Update: Harry C. James Residence

The James Residence (Dana Crawford House) Now Listed on National Register of Historic Places

The Harry C. James Residence received its official listing on National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 15. Colorado Preservation, Inc. and Historic Denver partnered to nominate the James Residence located at 685 N Emerson Street in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, aka Dana Crawford’s family home, to the National Register. Grants from the State Historical Fund and National Trust for Historic Preservation support this project. Deon Wolfenbarger of Three Gables Preservation led the task and successfully drafted the nomination.

The James Residence was built in 1900 during the beginning of Denver’s City Beautiful movement and is exceptional for its representation of the late 19th and 20th century Revival/Italian Renaissance residential style architecture. The James Residence was first home to Harry C. James, an early Colorado banker and smelter magnate, who commissioned the home’s construction but was later sold to Dr. John H. Tilden in 1933. The home cycled through other prominent Denver owners, the most notable being Dana Crawford. Dana, with her husband, John W.R. Crawford III, as life and business partners along with their four sons, lived in the home starting in 1967. The house was a family home for them until John’s death in 1985 and has stayed in the family since.

Crawford is nationally recognized because of her successes and ethos related to the development and preservation of Denver’s historic downtown core, including saving Larimer Square, Denver’s first historic district. Dana is also the namesake of Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s annual Dana Crawford Awards. We are honored to have that affiliation with her and to aid in the special recognition of her long-time family home here in Denver. Due much to Dana’s long-term care, the home retains a high degree of historical integrity both on the interior and the exterior. Congratulations, Dana!

For more information on this and other Colorado Preservation, Inc managed projects, contact Jane Daniels, project manager, and preservation services director at Colorado Preservation, Inc.

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Historicorps’ Founding Executive Director and CEO Announces Retirement

January 2021 marks a transition in leadership for an organization Colorado Preservation, Inc. is incredibly proud to play a part in forming. HistoriCorps’ first executive director and CEO, Towny Anderson, will retire, marking a new chapter in his and HistoriCorps’ future. HistoriCorps began as a program under Colorado Preservation, spinning off to become a stand-alone nonprofit in 2013. Towny joined HistoriCorps in 2011 as a consultant, bringing his unique background accumulated over a career spanning 48 years. He has been a restoration carpenter, preservation contractor, historic property re-developer, historic downtown revitalization consultant, and State Historic Preservation Officer. Towny moved to Steamboat Springs in 1999 to open the western regional office of the Vermont-based Orton Family Foundation, which seeks to strengthen the social, cultural, and economic vibrancy of communities through its now trademarked “Heart & Soul” program. Although he expected to be here for three years, historic preservation and back country powder skiing kept him enchanted with Colorado to this day.

Colorado Preservation Executive Director Jennifer Orrigo Charles virtually “sat down” with Towny to discuss this vital organization and his decade-long impact.

Why is HistoriCorps a critical organization, and how does it help advance preservation in Colorado and beyond? 

HistoriCorps was founded to assist federal land management agencies (specifically USDA Forest Service) in addressing its obligation to preserve its thousands of historic resources that deteriorated over decades of deferred maintenance and repair. Federal land management agencies were experiencing budget and staffing cuts. It was clear that they were going to rely more and more on volunteers. HistoriCorps is the first preservation organization to programmatically engage volunteers in rehabilitating historic buildings and structures on public lands with a hands-on, experiential learning approach. We specialize in small budget maintenance and repair – historic preservation at its root – mostly remote single-story structures. Combine this with an outdoor adventure experience. We have struck a chord with thousands of volunteers, students, and conservation corps. We are reaching people who may never have thought of themselves as preservationists.

What first drew you to the organization, and how has your experience shaped HistoriCorp’s early forming? 

I will never forget, in the mid-’80s, having a conversation with my attorney about my company, HouseJoiner, Ltd., and reorganizing it as a nonprofit preservation school. He thought I was nuts and dissuaded me. The theme that runs through my preservation career is a passion for historic preservation’s hard skills and field practice. I admire and respect the skilled carpenters, masons, and tradespeople who do the work. I was drawn to HistoriCorps because it created the perfect vehicle to fulfill my passions and give back to the preservation community, knowing this would probably be my last job before retirement. At the time, some advisory committee members saw HistoriCorps’ growth to be in the role of “broker,” bringing together the fundamental components for preservation projects: property/ building owner, funding source, project management, and preservation expertise and workforce. I had a conversation with one of the founders, Terri Liestman from the Forest Service, and she made it crystal clear that the USFS would have no use for that service. They needed “boots on the ground, step on – step off” service, a partner who could execute. We have never looked back. 

What has been your vision for HistoriCorps, and what elements of its success are you most proud? 

We envisioned HistoriCorps as a unique and effective gateway for introducing people to the principles and practice of historic preservation, inclusive and accessible regardless of experience or skill. All that matters is a good attitude and willingness to learn. A measure of our success is folks leaving a HistoriCorps project with not only a sense of accomplishment but a newfound preservation ethic. I wanted to build HistoriCorps into an organization that offered career opportunities for the up-and-coming generations of preservationists. I also wanted HistoriCorps to become the provider of hands-on preservation education for students across the country. Hands-on instruction is well known to be life-transforming for many participants. After a few faltering starts, I believe we have everything to achieve that goal in the next 24–36 months, including a strategic plan and new board members aligned with this vision. What I am most proud of is the relationships that we have built over the years. We have returned to multiple forests two and three times – one forest nine years running now. We have diversified our partnerships to include other federal land management agencies, state parks, counties and municipalities, and nonprofit stewards of historic properties. 

Do you have a story from the field that you would like to share?

In September 2015, I drove up to Dubois WY to do a conditions assessment for Simpson Lake Lodge in the Fitzpatrick Wilderness of the Shoshone National Forest. Our local contacts were the former manager and the CM Ranch owner. Their founder built the lodge and guided fishing expeditions to Simpson Lake in the ’30s and ’40s, one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. The manager knew my brother, who owned the Paradise Ranch outside of Buffalo, WY, so I guess she assumed I learned how to ride a horse. I didn’t, but once they found that out, these two expert horsewomen were gracious and patient on the four-hour ride in and back out the next day, though they had more than a few laughs at my struggles to stay in the saddle. I ended up walking the horse for the last mile out, and it was all I could do to walk over the next two days.

What advice do you have for Colorado preservationists? How do we as a field remain relevant in 2020 and beyond? 

Oh my. I have been involved in historic preservation as a craftsman, contractor, developer, bureaucrat, and policymaker. I have engaged in battles over decisions to preserve or demolish historic buildings from both sides of the table. One of the most influential voices in preservation for me has been Donovan Rypkema, who I first met in 1994. He was the first person to quantify the economics of historic preservation and has been tirelessly writing about and lecturing and consulting on the subject to this day. To continue to be relevant, we have to demonstrate the economic value of saving old buildings, again, and again, and again! This is the most effective and necessary path to “mainstream” historic preservation. You may ask, where does HistoriCorps fit into this equation? Much of the work that we do with the Forest Service rehabs fire lookouts, ranger stations, and many structures from the CCC era is repurposed for the cabin rental program. The Forest Service did a study and found that historic cabins consistently had the highest occupancy. These days, and in the future, we also have to demonstrate the social and environmental value of preserving these resources.

What would you like to see from the organization and the preservation community moving forward?

What I want to see is for all of us, from practitioners to advocates to grantors to educators, to open our arms and transform a historically exclusive club into an inclusive community. It is beginning to happen. I am proud to say one of six core values written into HIstoriCorps’ recently approved Strategic Plan is “Community: Accessibility, Inclusion, and Diversity.”

Anything we did not cover that you would like to share?

I don’t think I have ever engaged in a discussion about, or reflected upon, historic preservation without quoting the great economist, John Kenneth Galbraith. He noted in 1980, “The preservation movement has one great curiosity. There is never retrospective controversy or regret. Preservationists are the only people in the world who are invariably confirmed in their wisdom after the fact.” Juxtapose Galbraith’s observation with Joni Mitchell’s lament for the ages, immortalized in song,

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

Preservationists do know! Before it’s gone! Our Sisyphean task is to help our communities, our world, to know, too. 

Thank you, Towny and HistoriCorps, for leaping forward – we celebrate with you the 10th Anniversary of the program!

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Project Update: Iglesia de San Antonio-Tiffany Catholic Church

Work Now Progressing

Project team at kick-off meeting

Following an initial site visit with the project team and State Historical Fund staff in early fall 2020, work now progresses at Iglesia de San Antonio/Tiffany Catholic Church in far southwestern Colorado.

The Hispano residents of the settlement of Tiffany, located along the old Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) line to Durango, lovingly constructed the modest yet beautiful Iglesia de San Antonio/Tiffany Catholic Church in 1928. Colorado Preservation, Inc. listed the church as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places in 2019 and La Plata County added it to its Register of Historic Places later that same year.

Efforts to restore the church received much favorable publicity recently and the site caretakers and project partners are excited about the progress so far! Recent efforts include a meeting with architect Barbara Darden of Scheuber + Darden Architects and consulting engineers Jedidiah Williamson of Logos Structural and geotechnical engineer Dave Trautner Geotech LLC, to complete fieldwork designed to prepare construction documents to set the stage for preservation work on the church.

Wendy Allen of SEAS provided archaeological monitoring in conjunction with trenching work next to the foundation of the building, determining the condition of the poured in place foundation and the presence of sub-surface water that might be impacting its condition.

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Project Update: Slayton Ranch Work Center

Phase One of Slayton Ranch Work Center Nearing Completion

Slayton Ranch House

Slayton Ranch Work Center consists of four historic buildings (the House, Shop/Warehouse, Garage and Root Cellar) and is listed on the National Register. The site functioned as the headquarters of the Land Utilization Project (LUP) during the New Deal era, housing government program staff and demonstration projects for soil conservation and agricultural techniques following the environmental crises of the 1930s in northeastern Colorado.

Colorado Preservation, Inc is managing this first phase of work, which entailed rehabilitating the roof of the House and exterior rehabilitation of the Shop/Warehouse including roof, siding, doors, and window. A final meeting and walkthrough took place in September 2020 with the U.S. Forest Service (owner representative), the State Historical Fund, Form + Works Design Group, and A&M Renovations.

Slayton Ranch House roof
Slayton Ranch Shop/Warehouse
Slayton Ranch Shop/Warehouse, north and west elevation

Colorado Preservation, Inc. serves as the fiscal agent and grant/project administrator in partnership with the Forest Service to preserve and develop the reuse for this unique property.

The project team hopes to continue its close and important partnership into the future. This collaboration would lead to rehabilitating the interior of the main house as a visitor and interpretive center, telling the history of the New Deal Era Land Utilization Project, and to Slayton Ranch Work Center becoming a major attraction along the adjacent Pawnee Pioneer Trails Scenic Byway.

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Project Update: Homestead Meadows

Hidden Homestead Meadows

Laycook Homestead

Historic places and the people who cherish them are all around us. Sometimes they are in plain sight, and other times one must travel long, bumpy rounds to find them! In early October 2020, Colorado Preservation, Inc. was introduced to the unique and out-of-the-way conglomeration of historic homesteading sites located between Lyons and Estes Park in Larimer County, called Homestead Meadows National Historic District.

Owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, a partner with Colorado Preservation, Inc. on the Briggsdale Work Center project, Homestead Meadows consists of eight historic homesteads first settled in the late 1880s, connected via low, original wagon roads. Today exhibit original homesteading wooden cabins, barns, outbuildings, and hidden artifacts, providing information and evidence of early pioneer life in this mountainous landscape. Most visitors to Homestead Meadows hike, bike, or come by horseback via a network of easy to moderate trails to this little-known area of the National Forest System in north-central Colorado.

Barn at Irvin Homestead
Lumber house at Irvin Homestead
Log cabin at Irvin Homestead

The rich and unique history of homesteading in this area inspires preservation from the Forest Service and local community members. Last summer, HistoriCorps assisted in reroofing an annex to the main house at the Laycook Homestead. Local volunteers have also since worked hard this past summer to completely reroof and stabilize the main house and other site features to hopefully preserve through another winter. In addition to their efforts and preservation skills, these volunteers and the Forest Service seek ideas and other partnership opportunities on how to best preserve the plethora of nationally significant historic resources in Homestead Meadows.

Main House and Laycook Homestead. Roof rehabilitated in summer 2020 by local volunteers.

Colorado Preservation, Inc. is excited to have had the opportunity to travel the long, bumpy roads to see Homestead Meadows in person (imagine being an original homesteader in the 1880s!) and to begin brainstorming ways to assist the Forest Service and local community members on historic preservation of Homestead Meadows into the future. For more information or ideas on how to help, contact Jane Daniels, director of preservation services,

Larry Fullenkamp (U.S. Forest Service) and Drew Webb (local volunteer) in front of Brown Homestead cabin.
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2020 Technical Training Workshops

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