Tales from the Tread: The power of heritage and place | SteamboatToday.com

Tales from the Tread: The power of heritage and place

Tread of Pioneers Museum
The Christian Science Society at 641 Oak St., built in 1934 by local builder Ernest Campbell, is a prime example of the importance of historic preservation. The log church is both on the Routt County and Steamboat Springs Registers of Historic Places and has served as the congregation’s home for over almost 90 years.
Tread of Pioneers Museum/Courtesy photo

“Preservation is in the business of saving communities and the values they embody.” — Richard Moe

May is Historic Preservation month — a time dedicated to celebrating our history and heritage through historic places. Each May and year-round, local heritage organizations like the Tread of Pioneers Museum and Historic Routt County join together with the City of Steamboat Springs and others to honor the special places that shape the character and authenticity of Routt County, and encourage historic preservation.

Historic places not only represent our history, they also foster community pride, promote heritage tourism, and offer real social and economic benefits for today’s communities. Historic places are our community’s largest and most visible artifacts, no less deserving of care and preservation as the most treasured items in museum collections.

Similar to the landscapes throughout Yampa Valley that host modest agricultural ranching structures, the historic buildings along Lincoln Avenue and throughout Old Town provide valuable context that connects us to our past. While Steamboat Springs did not develop as a result of large mineral mining booms and does not boast the grand and ornate buildings of some other storied mountain towns like Aspen and Leadville, our built and natural environment reveal our own intriguing and modest history that is worthy of celebration and preservation.

Steamboat’s heritage is what makes our town unique, competitive and memorable in the resort marketplace, and an extraordinary place to live and visit. But historic preservation is intentional, and our irreplaceable heritage and historic places need the support of our community to ensure these resources continue to inspire and connect future generations to our shared past.

What is historic preservation and why is it important?

Historic preservation is an effort to preserve, conserve, and/or protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other features of historical significance. Historic preservation includes physical preservation (such as stabilization, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction), designation to historical registries, and documentation of a site, building or landmark that has been deemed significant to the history of the area, place, or community.

The stately Crawford house at 1184 Crawford Ave. stands as a wonderful example of the importance of historic preservation.
Tread of Pioneers Museum/Courtesy photo

Preservation of the built and natural environment contributes to neighborhood vitality, livability, diversity, and quality of life. Economic benefits of historic preservation include: financial incentives including tax credits, job creation, sustainability since the “greenest” building is the one that already exists, heritage tourism economy, and community identity.

Care of our historic resources is intentional

When compared to Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, and Telluride, Steamboat Springs is the only one of these ski towns without mandatory historic preservation protections. This means that any historic building (one that is 50 years old or more, whether identified as significant or not) is at risk of being demolished, unless voluntarily listed by the owner on the local Steamboat Springs register. The result is what we are witnessing now: as property sales and values soar, buildings that contribute to the identity of our community are being demolished or dramatically altered at an alarming rate.

Voluntary listing to the Steamboat Springs historical register is the only way to truly ensure protection of the town’s historic resources. Thanks to the stewardship of caring property owners across the county, and the ongoing advocacy efforts of preservation organizations and dedicated volunteers, many of our cherished historic places and landmarks are still standing.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum serves an advocate for historic preservation, and provides education and resources to encourage the preservation of Steamboat Springs and Rout County’s character, authenticity, and heritage that is showcased through the built environment and cultural landscapes. Historic Routt County is our local historic preservation organization that preserves and promote the historic character of Routt County communities and rural areas by saving the places that tell the story of our county and its people.

You can join the cause by supporting these organizations, cherishing our local heritage, caring for and preserving your historic property, and voicing your support of historic preservation and community character to elected officials and in community surveys. If you would like to be more directly involved in preserving Routt County and Steamboat’s special places, or listing your historic property to the local register, please contact Kelly Halpin at kelly@historicrouttcounty.org.

“In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” –John Sawhill

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