Brooklyn home makes Steamboat historic register
River Road house is 1st private residence to receive designation
January 24, 2010
Steamboat Springs — What Kate Rench wanted most from a second-story addition to her Depression-era home in Brooklyn was a master bedroom suite. It was a bonus when she learned that going through the city's historic register process would save her tap fees and allow her and husband, Craig, to build closer to their property line.
"I just wanted a master bath and a walk-in closet," Kate Rench said.
She got what her heart desired — a 120-square-foot bathroom with room for a large tub right off the bedroom where previously there had been two tiny second-story bedrooms and a half-bath.
Along with the added living space under the pitched roof of their house, the Renches received a handsome brass plaque making it official — their home on River Road is the first private property to be added to the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places.
Additionally, the 1891 Bourguin House, which houses the office of Mountain Architecture Design Group, also will bear a plaque signifying its place on the local historic register.
Steamboat's historic register is less than a year old. It was created in February 2009 along with the passage of a historic preservation ordinance.
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Eligible properties are 50 years of age or older and must have importance in terms of history, architecture or geography.
"It's important to note that 10 of the 12 properties approved for designation on the Steamboat Springs Register of Historic Places last year are owned by the city of Steamboat Springs," said Sally TeStrake, of the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee.
"These two houses, the Savage House at 270 River Road and the Bourguin House at 634 Oak, were the first privately owned structures to be listed on the local register."
For historic purposes, the house at 270 River Road is known as the Savage House after its original owner, Erastus "Doc" Savage.
The Brooklyn neighborhood is recognized as having been built originally as a separate town from Steamboat between 1902 and 1914 with a specific purpose in mind. The original town of Steamboat Springs was created as a dry community. Brooklyn was the locale for saloons, pool houses and a red light district.
Only one structure from that era remains in Brooklyn. The Savage House was built decades after statewide prohibition in 1916 brought an abrupt halt to illicit commerce in the little community across the river from Steamboat Springs proper.
Property owners such as the Renches can modify their buildings after being added to the historic register as long as those changes comply with the city's design standards and Secretary of the Interior Standards, which give design direction to ensure the historic character of the property.
In exchange, the Renches saved about $900 in tap fees, and the shed dormer on the north side of the house was allowed to intrude on the lot setbacks called for in the city code.
They did not have to pay the planning fees usually associated with a setback variance.
Property owners who are approved for the historic register also may qualify on a rebate of city sales tax on building materials purchased locally. Property owners also can be eligible for state income tax credits.
The Renches' home is modest in design — what stands out most to passers-by is a second-story window that has been rotated off axis into a diamond shape.
City historic preservation planner Alexis Casale said the primary architectural quality that had to be preserved was the apex of the roofline itself. That dictated that the new shed dormers that add space to the second floor of the home begin 1 foot lower than the roofline.
The contractor for the project was Dan Vargas, of Vargas Construction. Carpenter Matt Townsend was involved on a daily basis.
Architect Jan Kaminski, of Mountain Architecture Design Group, said altering an 80-year-old wood-frame house is a balancing act.
"Structurally, there's a balance of what you can and can't do," Kaminski said. "You have to be very careful."
Structural engineer Craig Frithsen, of Engineering Designworks, consulted on the project, Kaminski said.
The Bourguin House, where Kaminski and his colleagues keep their professional offices, also was added to the historic register this week.
Craig Rench said Brooklyn still feels like a neighborhood to him, a place where people know one another. He likes the quick access to Howelsen Hill and downtown Steamboat.
"We were excited when we heard our house had some historical value and that it will be pressed as an active example of the community we live in," he said.