Four historic sites have been nominated for the 2012 list of Colorado's Most Endangered Places. Chris Miller, executive director of the Western Colorado Interpretive Association, has submitted applications for Capt. Smith's Cabin, the Walker Cabin and the water wheel, all in Escalante Canyon, as well as the Hotchkiss Barn.
Colorado Preservation Inc. provides staff time and resources to raise funds and rally concerned citizens so the historic sites can be saved.
"Demolition, neglect, natural forces, land value fluctation, and unsympathetic owners are forces that typically threaten historic buildings and significantly increase the danger to the unique places that link us to Colorado's past. These are the special places that define our communities and form the foundation for our collective identity as Coloradans in the future.
"I have a strong sense that we need an awakening regarding historic preservation in our area," Miller explained. "We had a nice push back in the late '80s and mid '90s, but nothing of significance since then."
The community has already rallied around an effort to save the Hotchkiss Barn, which was seriously damaged in a macroburst that swept through Hotchkiss in August 2010. High winds tore the roof off the west side of the structure; bricks collapsed and support beams fell. A gaping hole at the southwest end leaves the remainder of the building susceptible to further damage from rain, wind and snowstorms.
The barn was built by Enos T. Hotchkiss — the man who founded the town bearing his name — and has remained in the Hotchkiss family since 1886. The "Save the Hotchkiss Barn" committee has raised nearly $18,500 to match a survey and planning grant from the Colorado State Historic Society. The barn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Hotchkiss Homestead, which is now in a conservation easement, has been designated a Colorado Centennial Farm because it has remained in the same family for more than 100 years.
"This structure is so well known, and of such historic importance locally, that when speaking to a local, one need not give an address when referring to this unique brick structure — it is truly a local landmark," said Nathan Sponseller, president of the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce.
The Walker Cabin, according to Muriel Marshal's book "Red Hole in Time," was built by homesteader Harry Walker and his sons in 1911. While the cabin is now situated just off a county gravel road, when the cabin was occupied access into the canyon necessitated a long and difficult wagon ride across rugged terrain.
The structure has already been threatened with demolition and vandalism is a genuine concern. Miller would like to see Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the current owner, exchange the property with BLM.
"BLM has a policy of preserving historic structures," Miller explained. "We are very fortunate that the Walker Cabin has survived this long without a clear management plan."
The same applies to Capt. Smith's Cabin, a popular attraction in Escalante Canyon. Because it is so accessible to the public, vandalism is an ongoing concern. In addition, the elements have taken a toll. Mini landslides in the interior walls have moved rubble into the main floor of the cabins. Major cracks in the exterior wall continue to expand. Again, Miller proposes a property exchange with the BLM, coupled with a site management plan to address the continued vandalism and a restoration budget to take care of damages to the structures.
The water wheel is accessible only by the river and a foot trail from the original road into Escalante Canyon, so public visitation has been limited. As a result, the water wheel is in fairly good condition, considering its age. Built of steel, it has 30 buckets that delivered water to crops on the north side of the river. This property is also owned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
For all three historic sites in Escalante Canyon, Miller hopes to conduct historical assessments to document the condition of the structures, then formalize a plan for the future.blog comments powered by Disqus