Frisco’s century-old Excelsior Mine Office, the town’s first source of electricity, moved for preservation
Bulldozers have come for many of Frisco’s old cabins over the years, but on Wednesday morning, a crane showed up for the humble red house at 208 Galena Street.
It wasn’t the first time the old Excelsior Mine Office was picked up and moved since its construction in 1895 at the mouth of Ten Mile Canyon, and it may not be the last. For developer Larry Feldman, who paid to truck the building off the lot to make way for new townhomes, the little red cabin is worth fussing over.
In the 1890s, the Excelsior Mine ran a power line down from its small hydroelectric dam on Ten Mile Creek, delivering electricity to Frisco for the first time. After the mine ran dry in 1913, the town went nearly two decades without power.
“It was the first time Frisco’s residents enjoyed Edison’s benefits,” Feldman said while his crews fitted a custom-welded frame under the cabin to lift it up by. “When Excelsior shut down, Frisco was powerless until the 1930s. That’s the part I think is really cool, and it’s why I want to preserve this thing.”
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Feldman bought the property on Galena Street a little over a year ago. He didn’t have a clue about the cabin’s history until he started doing some research, learning about its connection to the Recen brothers, a trio of pioneers said to have lived extravagant lifestyles until their mining luck ran out.
“I’ve heard Andrew and Daniel were kind of playboys,” Feldman said. “They would hook up a private rail car to trains and run around partying — but I’m still looking for more evidence of that.”
A hiking guide published in 1996 says “the brothers tarried with 1880s silver magnates such as H. A. W. Tabor and celebrities such as songbird Jenny Lind” and “hired private rail cars for bachelor parties and consumed champagne and oysters with extravagant regularity.”
Henry Recen founded the town of Frisco in 1873. He would later bring it electricity when he and his brothers owned and operated the Excelsior, near what is now an exit on Interstate 70.
Andrew and Daniel Recen’s graves are up the Gore Creek Trail near the site of a cabin where they used to hunt and fish. When Daniel died, a nephew who lived in Frisco hiked his body up to the spot, but he was caught in a fierce storm on the way down. He took shelter in the Excelsior Mine office.
The cabin was moved to Galena Street in 1938, one of many historic buildings shuffled around Summit County as Dillon Reservoir flooded the Blue River Valley and new developments sprang up in the place of old cabins.
“We’ve watched over the years as a lot of these cabins here were bulldozed,” said Claudia Kreumelmeyer, a neighbor who came out to watch the building get lifted onto a tractor-trailer. “It was very nice of Larry to do this.”
Feldman expects to end up paying around $50,000 to save the cabin. He’ll be handing over ownership to the town after dropping it off at the Frisco Adventure Park.
“It’s a big part of Frisco’s history,” said Kreumelmeyer’s husband Jon. “They had to move it down from Ten Mile before, and that must’ve been a chore. They didn’t have equipment like this.”
Over the past two decades, a handful of Frisco’s original buildings were picked up and moved to the Frisco Historic Park and Museum on Main Street. Some of them had been moved before, as Summit County went from boomtowns to bust towns to ski towns.
Frisco has a hands-off approach to historical preservation, preferring to offer incentives to keep old buildings rather than mandate their protection.
Recently, the town has extended historic overlay zoning deals to a pair of developments, offering code waivers in exchange for preservation. But the notion of horse-trading density allowances to keep the bulldozers away has made some on the town council uncomfortable with the process, called historic overlay zoning.
Feldman initially wanted to keep the Excelsior where it stood and turn it into a museum sandwiched between residential buildings. It was one of the first historic overlays ever proposed, but the Planning Commission nixed the project because of its size, Feldman said.
His new project will be a small cluster of townhomes, totaling 13 units in a mix of single-family homes and duplexes.
Frisco hasn’t yet decided what to do with the old red cabin that kept the lights on in town for nearly two decades. More than a century of wear and two relocations have taken their toll, and it will likely need some restoration work.
“A lot of different people have lived in this house,” Claudia Kreumelmeyer said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens with it. I hope they fix it up and make it into something cute.”
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