Tales from the Tread: This Place Matters

For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Dana Shellhorn and Noah Starling at the Diamond Window Cabin near Stagecoach State Park.
Tread of Pioneers Museum/courtesy

May is Historic Preservation Month. To celebrate, the Tread of Pioneers Museum and our local heritage partners will join the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s national campaign, “This Place Matters,” that encourages people to share the places that are meaningful to them and their communities.

Using social media and the hashtag #thisplacematters, the museum and local heritage partners Historic Routt County, Steamboat Creates, Main Street Steamboat Springs and the city of Steamboat Springs will feature local historic buildings and residents who have submitted photos of themselves in front of special places that matter to them holding “This Place Matters” bright orange signs. 

All of the participating organizations will demonstrate the power of place, heritage and historic preservation. In addition, the Tread of Pioneers Museum will debut its new virtual Downtown Historical Walking Tour and other historical content primarily on Facebook and its Youtube channel. 

“The unique and rich history of Steamboat Springs and Routt County is showcased in our community’s historic buildings, and our heritage makes our community a memorable and desirable place to live and visit,” said Candice Bannister, Executive Director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. “We benefit greatly from the preservation of these historic assets through heritage tourism, sense of place and identity, financial incentives, and more.” 

Two organizations in our state, History Colorado and the statewide nonprofit Colorado Preservation Inc., have been studying and documenting the economic benefits of historic preservation since 2001. Findings include the following.

  • Financial incentives: Significant local and state grants, tax credits and more are available for qualifying projects. These reward property owners for their efforts to preserve community character and heritage.
  • Job creation: Approximately 14 new jobs are generated for every $1 million spent on preservation projects. 
  • Sustainability: The greenest building is the one that already exists. The energy and resources involved in harvesting, processing, fabricating and transporting raw materials during original construction, paired with demolition, can drastically outweigh the energy and resources needed to repair and reuse existing buildings. 
  • Community identity: Creativity, learning, identity and sense of place are fostered when a community saves its historic landscapes and buildings. 
  • Property value increases: Designation of local historic districts stabilizes and strengthens towns and neighborhoods, typically enhancing property values as a result.
  • Tourism economy: Historic preservation is increasingly a key driver behind the state’s powerful tourism industry. In 2015, heritage tourist spending in Colorado was $7.2 billion, while all other tourist spending was $6.9 billion. Tourists report a desire to visit, interact with, and stay at historic places. Meanwhile, heritage tourists stay longer, spend more money and ensure economic stability regardless of snowfall levels or recreational interests.

At this point in time, any historic building in Routt County — one that is 50 years old or more — that is not on the Steamboat Springs Historic Register is at risk of being demolished. The result is what we are witnessing now: as land/home values and sales soar, buildings that contribute to the identity of our community are being demolished or dramatically altered.

The good news is that thanks to the stewardship of caring property owners, and the ongoing advocacy efforts of preservation organizations like Historic Routt County and the Tread of Pioneers Museum, many of Steamboat Springs and Routt County’s cherished historic places and landmarks are still standing.

We hope you will join us in celebrating Routt County’s heritage and our storied historic structures and landscapes during the month of May and beyond, because #thisplacematters.

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