Our View: Spend public money on saving the best pieces of our history | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Spend public money on saving the best pieces of our history

Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt County’s history must be preserved to the best of our ability, but we cannot save every piece of it at any cost. When it comes to putting public resources toward saving old structures, there’s a distinction to be made between what’s truly important and what’s just old.

Right now, there is a debate in Hayden over the building at 135 S. Walnut St. The structure dates back at least 105 years and was once home to the law offices of Routt County pioneer Ferrington “Ferry” Carpenter. But its condition has waned over the years, and some residents are wondering if it wouldn’t be better to scrape the lot to build anew.

Central to Hayden’s discussions are two options. One would have the building renovated, allowing it to maintain its historic look while housing 3,000 square feet of space, including room for a new businesses incubator and one apartment. The other plan envisions a new building with 5,000 square feet, including the incubator and three housing units. The extra apartments could mean two more homes for town or school district staff. A decision is expected on April 7.

The future of the Carpenter building — or former bowling alley depending on whom you ask — is a decision for Hayden, and it’s one that the town needs to make carefully by weighing the merits of the building. It’ll be interesting to see what route town council goes here, because history and housing are both so important across Routt County. While this opinion isn’t to tell officials in Hayden what they should do or to tell residents how they should feel, we believe the conversation should focus on the building’s historic prominence and its potential.

Generally speaking, when it comes to old structures and artifacts, striving to preserve the best into perpetuity needs to be the endgame. Honoring where we came from and the history that put us here is paramount in shaping who we are as a community and where we want to go. Looking back, saving local gems, like the Mesa Schoolhouse, Portia Mansfield’s “Halfway House” cabins, or the preservation work at the Bud Werner Memorial Library, and so many others, were all strong moves to cement Routt County history in the community.

However, we also think there’s nothing wrong with letting some buildings and artifacts exist only in old photographs and newspaper clippings, through plaques and markers, and in longtime locals’ memories, because endings do make room for new beginnings.

Deciding what’s worth saving can be a hard choice, but it’s the crux of the argument in Hayden over 135 S. Walnut St. It’s unlikely everyone will agree on which pieces and places should be preserved and which ones should be razed and replaced, but the conversation shouldn’t be based only on nostalgia. Rather, it needs to focus on the historic prominence and the building’s potential.

We believe the most important, iconic pieces of our history must be preserved, so they can inform and educate us and future generations. But these places and pieces are local gems that also need continuous upkeep and polishing. We can’t stop all the tides of time, and letting old buildings fall into disrepair does no good for our history or our future.

Many of the best historic preservation projects mix present-day function with preservation. Other projects will pay homage to the past by incorporating pieces of the old into a new building. It could mean adding onto a historic building, moving it or taking lumber from the demolition to use for new construction.

The dictionary makes a distinction between the words “historic” and “historical” that’s not always apparent in conversation. Calling something “historical” can mean it’s old or of history. However, saying something is “historic” signifies importance. When putting resources into keeping up the past, it needs to be an important piece of history.

At a glance

At issue: Hayden is debating the future of an old building downtown and whether the town should maintain the historic look of the structure or construct a new, larger building.

Our View: The decision should focus on the historical significance of the structure and what the town might be able to do with the building going forward as Hayden Town Council weighs the options.

Editorial Board

• Bonnie Stewart, publisher

• Eli Pace, editor

• Cuyler Meade, assistant editor

• Ana Gomez, community representative

• Kelly McElfish, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or epace@SteamboatPilot.com.

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