Discover Steamboat Springs history through National Historic Preservation Month event Saturday

Audrey Dwyer
If you go: What: The Sternberg Stroll: historic walking and biking tour When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 27 Where: Starts at Tread of Pioneers Museum and ends at the old Yampa Valley Electric Association building

History holds an identity. It tells a story of the past and answers the question of character and place.

“History tells us who we are, whether we read it, see it or visit where it happens; it helps us define ourselves,” said Arianthe Stettner, Steamboat Springs Historic Preservation Commission chair.

May is National Historic Preservation month and it’s a time when communities across America celebrate their unique history and culture. The National Park Service said historic preservation “is a conversation with our past about our future.”

To ignite conversation about Routt County’s past and remember the people and places that have made Steamboat Springs what it is today, the city of Steamboat Springs Historic Preservation Commission will shed light on notable historic and culturally significant buildings and landmarks through its Sternberg Stroll tour from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.

The two-mile biking and walking tour will begin at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, at Eighth and Oak streets, and end at Mountain Tap Brewery in the old Yampa Valley Electric Association building, at 10th and Yampa streets. The commission will be honoring and featuring the award-winning architect Eugene Sternberg and the buildings he created specifically for Steamboat Springs.

“There are more buildings designed by him than any other mountain community, and I think that’s part of what makes him and his affinity for Steamboat Springs so interesting,” said Stettner.

Not only will the tour shed light on notable historic and culturally significant buildings in Steamboat, it will introduce the history and story of Sternberg’s legacy here.

Sternberg, the Czech-born American architect, traveled to the U.S. after World War II and soon established his architectural practice in Denver. Stettner said he was known for his mid-century modern “usonian style” of architecture.

According to the Steamboat Springs’ National Register of Historic Places nomination for three buildings featured on the tour, Sternberg expressed his affection for Steamboat throughout the 1950s and ’60s by helping to create a planning department within the city. He also designed some of Steamboat’s most identifiable buildings, such as the Methodist Church, the Yampa Valley Land Trust building and the old Yampa Valley Electric building.

Katie Adams, Tread of Pioneers Museum curator, said his design of the Yampa Valley Electric building on Yampa Street was widely acclaimed, and it’s largely because of this building and its recent renovation and designation on the local historic register that prompted the commission to plan a tour of Sternberg’s architecture.

“I think people underestimate the sheer number of historically significant structures in our town, particularly in the downtown area,” Adams said.

The Yampa Valley Land Trust building, for example, has a nearly flat, inverted pitch roof that gives the visual impression of a butterfly in flight. Locally, the building is known as the “Butterfly Building.”

“Sternberg’s unique modernist international style fits right in and shows the continued development of Steamboat over time,” said Erica Hewitt, the city’s historic preservation consultant who works directly with the Historic Preservation Committee.

Aside from the tour this weekend, Stettner said she will be hosting a Historic Routt County Nomination Workshop to help provide information about nominating historic structures to the registers as well as resources to get started. The workshop will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 30 at the Depot Art Center.

“Providing artifacts for people to see and study (like what I do at the museum), and also historic buildings, homes and open spaces is what preservation is all about,” said Adams. “The month of May is about celebrating those places and things but also the many entities across the nation that help make preservation possible.”





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