Let’s preserve Dillon’s historic structures (letter)
May is Preservation Month and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) outlines it as a monthlong task to communities. As in years past, the trust encourages preservation and Main Street organizations to use this monthlong opportunity to showcase how they are celebrating and saving historic places year-round. It is a great opportunity to excite their current supporters and introduce new audiences to the work they are (or are not) doing to enrich and preserve the places that make your community special.
In my 35-plus years as an architect within the sphere of historic preservation, I have found there is far too much misunderstanding as how resources are officially designated as “historic.” Case in point is Ivan Ottoborgo’s quote in the May 7 Summit Daily News article titled “Developer looks to bring hotel-condo to Dillon.”
“Once you’ve modified the building externally, it is no longer a historic building,” Ottoborgo said.
That is just not true. And, it indicates the public’s lack of knowledge and misunderstanding as to how resources are designated.
The process for listing a resource in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is a very linear, albeit complex, process. The NRHP is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s NRHP is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.
To be considered eligible for listing in the NRHP, a property must meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, which the National Park Service defines as: quality of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:
A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
B. That are associated with the lives of significant persons in the past; or
C. That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
D. That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory.
Drilling deeper into the evaluation of the resource involves examining the property’s age, integrity and significance. Age and integrity: Is the property old enough to be considered historic (generally at least 50 years old) and does it generally (additions don’t automatically dismiss listing) still look much the way it did in the past? Significance: Is the resource associated with events, activities or developments that were important in the past? Is the resource associated with the lives of people who were important in the past? Is the resource associated with significant architectural history, landscape history or engineering achievements? Does it have the potential to yield information through archeological investigation about our past?
The two Dillon resources in question, in my opinion, are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. These resources are humble structures and that alone should not be cause to remove them. Conservation/preservation/rehabilitation of our past resources sometimes can be selective but we shouldn’t confine the community’s efforts to the unique and monumental achievements or large architectural wonders. Preserving monuments can present a distorted view of our community’s history. We need to reveal that which is ordinary and more typical of an era, or to reveal an era in which there were no monuments.
David J. Garner lives in Silverthorne.
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