Colorado and nation celebrates 50 years of National Historic Preservation Act
The State Historical Fund has given out grants in all 64 counties in Colorado. According to a document posted on History Colorado’s website, Summit County was awarded 24 grants for a total of more than $592,000 from the fund’s inception in 1992 (state fiscal year 1993) through the end of fiscal year 2015. A total of 4,210 grants were given out in Colorado, equaling more than $273 million. The town of Breckenridge was awarded the highest grant in Summit County for the Fuqua Livery Stable, with $9,200 awarded for historic structure assessment, and $129,000 for interior and exterior rehabilitation. Other grants were awarded to the Summit Historical Society for the Dillon Schoolhouse, Rice Barn and Montezuma Schoolhouse, as well as the town of Frisco for the Staley-Rouse House and Frisco Historic Park, among others.
Standing at the doorstep of 206 S. French St., the cream-colored home with its white gingerbread trim and Victorian-style architecture is a classic example of a treasured home from Breckenridge’s beginnings in the mining days. The original front door from the home’s construction in 1882 still graces the entrance, as do the hinges and knob. Down to the original single-pane windows, the front of the charming home facing French Street in the Breckenridge Historic District looks much like it did over a century ago.
The inside, however, has gone through a major transformation for modern-day living. Owners Tony and Annie Harris spent a year updating the historic home, more than tripling the 1,100-square-foot structure into three floors with three bedrooms and four bathrooms. The now 3,800-square-foot house incorporates an attached two-car garage, while an original shed and small outhouse sit in the backyard. All the original wood that was in the walls of the house is now on the ceiling. Working under the town’s design standards for historic homes in the district, the restoration maintains its mining-days charm while incorporating modern features inside this upscale home in the heart of downtown.
Although the Harrises purchased the home in October 2005, it had been a part of their own history for much longer. Living two doors down in the late 1970s, early 1980s, the Harris’ children played in the then-vacant field next to 206 S. French, and the family was friends with the owners at the time. The Harrises even hung on to a board from what used to be the former owners’ kitchen door trim, which is lined with notches reflecting the neighborhood children’s heights through the years, a nostalgic reminder of their early days in Breckenridge.
“John and Betty Jo Ballard, the owners at that time, were like surrogate grandparents to our kids,” Annie said. “The Daytons’ — who still live across the street — kids were friends with ours and they would all play in the field, and they would congregate in this house.”
“There’s lots of good memories in this house,” Tony added.
Formerly known as the Christmas Tree House due to the red, green and white gingerbread trim that decorated the house for decades, the Harrises rented out the home for several years before deciding to undergo the project to turn it into their own full-time residence. Tony, a contractor, had put in a foundation under the house for the previous owners in the 1980s. In order to add to the home, the Harrises had to move the shed and outhouse from their original location, which cost them points under the town’s strict design guidelines. To make up for that, they had to earn points back by scoring a 60 on the Home Energy Rating System, which increased the project’s cost significantly, but also makes the home much more efficient.
“You don’t give up too much to live here, everything is brand new,” Tony said.
PROTECTING OUR HISTORY
This year the nation celebrates 50 years since the passing of the National Historic Preservation Act, established in 1966 to preserve historic heritage for future generations. It provided federal legislation that established the National Register of Historic Places — an official list of the nation’s places worthy of preservation — which includes Breckenridge’s Historic District and the Harris’ home.
The act also incorporated the federal process for taking into consideration historic buildings and sites when federal monies are spent on a project, said Amy Unger, survey and education grant coordinator with History Colorado’s State Historical Fund (SHF).
“So say for instance, if I-70 is expanding, they have to take into consideration — if they are using federal monies for that — how that expansion would impact Georgetown and other historic sites,” she said. “It’s a really important way to ensure the federal government is always considering historic properties whenever their money is being spent.”
The Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) serves as Colorado’s State Historic Preservation Office and assists property owners with listing historically and architecturally significant buildings, structures and sites in the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties, as well as coordinating federal and state tax credit programs. The SHF works closely with the OAHP.
“Some communities are really lucky, like Breckenridge, that recognize very early on the significance of protecting its historic buildings, and what an impact it had on the character of the town, the vibrancy of the town. Some towns don’t see it until they start losing those buildings,” Unger said.
There are more than 90,000 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the state, properties listed in the National Register are automatically placed on the Colorado State Register. Listing in the state register provides the eligibility to compete for the grants from the SHF, as well as eligibility to apply for state tax credits for restoration, rehabilitation or preservation. Properties must be listed in the national, state or local register to be eligible for SHF funding.
As private property owners, the Harrises weren’t able to apply for a grant, but they did receive a state income tax break, which amounted to about $50,000, helping out with the overall total cost to restore the historic home. To receive the credit, they had to record the restoration process and make every effort to abide by state guidelines.
“Colorado is pretty unique in the amount of incentives that we have,” Unger said. “Not all states have state tax credits, some have them, but they are much more limited. Colorado is a forerunner and a leader.”
The house is a drastic change from the home the Harrises first lived in together — a small mining cabin up Boreas Pass without running water or electricity. It’s the fifth home the couple has either remodeled or built to live in themselves, and it’s one of many historic homes that Tony has worked on in his role as a contractor. Even though the project had to follow very strict town guidelines to complete, the couple said they are staunch supporters of historic preservation, and are glad the town works to preserve its historic character for future generations.
“It’s what drives people to town, it’s what makes us unique. At one time, years and years ago, people just wanted to knock down the old buildings,” Annie said. “(Our house) has more character than a new house.
“I love this house, and I love it being historic,” she added. “Stuff goes in and out of style … but the outside of this house is truly timeless.”
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