Tales from the Tread: ‘This Place Matters’

The Depot Art Building helped increase the economy of Steamboat Springs in 1908 when the train first arrived. In 1968, passenger service ended and the building was deeded to the city. Carol Finoff and Eleanor Bliss saw the possibilities in the building as a home for the arts, which it became in 1972.
Courtesy photo

The Tread of Pioneers Museum, Steamboat Springs Historic Preservation Commission, Historic Routt County and Main Street Steamboat Springs celebrated Historic Preservation month throughout May by joining the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s national campaign, “This Place Matters.”

In addition to hosting notable historic preservation developer, Dana Crawford at the Chief Theater, local partners encouraged community residents to take photos of themselves in front of special places that matter to them holding “This Place Matters” orange signs. Dozens of local residents participated in the social media campaign, and many of those images and community perspectives will be featured in the museum’s upcoming exhibit, “This Place Matters: The Economic, Cultural and Environmental Power of Heritage and Place.”

The exhibit examines how historic preservation benefits thousands of communities across the nation, including Steamboat. Preservation minimizes negative impacts on the environment and yields economic rewards. The unique and rich history of Steamboat Springs and Routt County is showcased in our community’s historic buildings, and the town enjoys the benefits that preservation of these buildings has created.

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:

  • Financial Incentives: Significant state grants, tax credits, and more are available for qualifying projects. These reward property owners for their efforts to preserve community character and heritage.
  • Tourism Economy: Historic preservation is increasingly a key driver behind the state’s powerful tourism industry. Tourists report a desire to visit, interact with and stay at historic places.
  • Job Creation: Approximately 14 new jobs are generated for every $1 million spent on preservation projects.
  • Sustainability: The energy and resources involved in harvesting, processing, fabricating and transporting raw materials during original construction, paired with those utilized for demolition, can drastically outweigh the energy and resources needed to repair and reuse existing buildings.
  • Property Value Increases: Designation of local historic districts stabilizes and strengthens towns and neighborhoods, enhancing property values as a result.
  • Community Identity: Creativity, learning, identity and sense of place are fostered when a community saves its historic landscapes and buildings.
If you go

What: “This Place Matters” exhibit opening reception
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 7
Where: Tread of Pioneers Museum, 800 Oak St.

When compared to Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, and Telluride, Steamboat Springs is the only 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. The result is what we are witnessing now: as land and home values and sales soar, buildings that contribute to the identity of our community are being demolished or dramatically altered.

The good news is, thanks to the stewardship of caring property owners and the ongoing advocacy efforts of preservation organizations and dedicated volunteers, many of Steamboat Springs and Routt County’s cherished historic places, mineral springs and landmarks are still standing. Further, a local grassroots group, led by Historic Routt County and the Tread of Pioneers Museum, has formed to preserve Steamboat’s character, authenticity and charm.

“This Place Matters: The Economic, Cultural and Environmental Power of Heritage and Place” exhibit opens Friday, June 7, as part of First Friday Artwalk.

The Tread of Pioneers Museum is located at 800 Oak St. in downtown Steamboat Springs.

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