Pinwheels in downtown Steamboat are pretty, but have a greater purpose |

Pinwheels in downtown Steamboat are pretty, but have a greater purpose

Pinwheels around downtown have been positioned by the Steamboat Springs Historic Preservation Commission to draw awareness to Historic Preservation Month, the buildings that mean a lot to the community and the benefits of preserving historic buildings in the city.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Shiny silver spinners sit in soft spots along the sidewalk in Steamboat Springs’ historic downtown. While they add a cute charm, their main purpose is to make more people aware that May is Historic Preservation Month and that Steamboat has more than its fair share of celebrated old buildings.

The pinwheels are a project put on by the city Historic Preservation Commission and are the most visual way the commission is celebrating in the month of May, which City Council has proclaimed as Historic Preservation Month in Steamboat Springs. 

“I just had this idea to have some sort of visual, passive awareness that would catch people’s eyes,” said Caitlin Berube-Smith, historic preservation planner.

The flashy toys are being placed in front of historic buildings downtown and are also available at Centennial Hall for members of the public to place outside of their homes to show support for history and preservation in general.

“When you walk down the street, you not only see historic buildings, but you see the beautiful mountains and cultural landscapes and outside of Steamboat we have ranching and agriculture,” Berube-Smith said. “It’s really just a call to action to be aware of the dual aspects of our Western, ranching ski town. That’s why we all love to live here.”

The pinwheels are just the start for the commission, which recently acquired two grants to pursue two more projects, the first of which will educate and engage the community. 

The commission is still hashing out specifics of the how, but wants to let four audiences know the benefits of historic preservation. The project will work with homeowners, commercial property owners and tenants;  real estate agents and developers; tenants and partners of the city, such as the Steamboat Art Museum, which is housed in a city-owned building; and the general public.

“When it comes to historic preservation, it’s always a challenge to get the word out about how old a property is and what that means,” said Berube-Smith. “Especially for new homeowners, or for homeowners who might already live in a house that’s 50 years of age.”

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Meanwhile, a second grant will be used to create the first-ever citywide Historic Preservation Plan. The plan will function like a master plan as it helps guide policy decisions and align short- and long-term goals.

Berube-Smith said the plan will also help pinpoint where the city needs to update its code and regulations to better serve the preservation program.

Both grants allow people to learn more and participate in the preservation of the community around them. Berube-Smith hopes people will jump at the opportunity. 

“We’re going to leverage the community engagement from the first grant, to make sure the public has a voice in helping us strategically plan for the future of preserving our culture, our history, and our heritage for years to come,” she said.

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