Noon whistle silenced
Screeching icon's perch downtown deemed unstable
October 23, 2008
Steamboat Springs — In the end, it wasn’t maddened business owners or daily-deafened Old Town residents who brought about the noon whistle’s downfall. It was the fear that it might fall down.
An emergency siren, which sounded at noon every day in downtown Steamboat, has been silenced. After receiving comments from concerned citizens about the stability of the alarm, the city of Steamboat Springs had an engineering firm review the noon whistle’s perch. The wooden pole was deemed unsafe.
On Tuesday morning, the city removed the relic, which had the historical purpose of summoning volunteer firefighters to blazes. No decision has been made about whether the siren will be reinstalled. It was in the 800 block of Oak Street.
City spokeswoman Lauren Mooney said reactions have ranged from, “Thank God,” to “Oh, no!”
“I am glad that it is gone,” said Shauna McMillion, an employee at The Epicurean Cafe. “It was annoying.”
The noon whistle sat practically on top of the cafe, and McMillion said its wail was so loud that it sometimes set off car alarms. McMillion said it was not uncommon for the uninitiated to cover their ears and race into the cafe to ask what the heck was going on. She also said some customers refused to patron Epicurean at noon.
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“Some people have come for lunch and said they miss it,” said McMillion, who said she had heard the whistle’s pole was swaying, “but I’m glad it’s gone.”
Kristi Brown, owner of the Cantina restaurant that also is near the whistle, had a different opinion.
“I love it,” said Brown, who suspects those who complained were more annoyed by the alarm than concerned for its safety.
Tracy Barnett, executive director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, said she’s not sure whether some people will miss the noon whistle, but she’s positive there are plenty who won’t.
“I think there may be some nostalgia for it,” Barnett said. “But I’m sure there are some people who are very, very thrilled it’s gone.”
As its practical purpose faded with modern communications, the noon whistle largely has gone ignored. Several officials were at a loss Wednesday when asked who was even responsible for it.
“I don’t know who’s managed it in the last 20 years,” Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Bob Struble said.
After initial uncertainty, Mooney eventually discovered the whistle is owned and managed by the city, a responsibility that involved hiring Western Security Systems twice a year to adjust the computerized whistle to keep singing at noon when the clocks change.
“There was some effort – not a big effort – to get the siren changed to a steamboat whistle,” Barnett told the Steamboat Pilot & Today in March. “It wouldn’t be quite as irritating, and it could be done with computers and using the same sound system. But it was a $10,000 project or something, and basically, it was dropped at that point because there wasn’t a big enough desire to change it. : It turned out that most people seemed to like it. It was just the ones right up close who didn’t.”
– Margaret Hair contributed to this story.