Summit Daily letters: Preserving what’s left of Frisco’s historic past
Preserving what’s left of Frisco’s past
This letter is meant to comment on the article written by Jack Queen for the Summit Daily News concerning the historic Staley house on Main St. Frisco that was published on Sunday, Nov. 13. I hold a special interest in the status of the house because I’ve lived in Frisco for 22 years and consider my community very special. When Jack Queen called me, and asked me if I knew the status of the house, I told him what I knew about the potential of the building being removed from its original location. More importantly, I told him about my passion for the building and the desire to keep the building in its original location. I had hoped that he had heard me talk about the fact that I’d been asking town officials for a formal public forum to include the Frisco community in a conversation about historic preservation in our town before any decisions were made to sell the property and move the house. I wasn’t granted an opportunity to include the community in an organized manner. In fact, the town council meeting held on Nov. 8, 2016, was indeed the first public hearing for people to voice their opinions. The agenda for that meeting was not published on the town of Frisco’s website until Friday, Nov. 4. In my opinion, that was not enough time for residents of Frisco to include themselves or decide to attend. It was also the day of our national election. That was a day where most citizens were already scheduling their time to get to local polling stations to vote. For many people, it was already a day with civic responsibility. To add a town council meeting to their personal agendas was not something many people could accommodate. The town council moved ahead and passed the first reading of the ordinance to sell the property at 518 Main St. While there will be one more reading on Dec. 13 for the public to voice their opinions, I feel discouraged by the process to say the least. My initial interest in this building’s future came from a notice hanging in the Frisco post office about a public hearing that was to take place in early Oct. I’ve been trying to get a community conversation since then. A conversation that asks the community what they think should happen to one of the last pieces of authentic history located on Main St.
I feel discouraged because I believe the town council of Frisco has already decided to move the building. I feel as though there is nothing that can change that. I thought that if I could include the public maybe there would be enough interest from the Frisco community to decide as a local group what should happen to one of the last remaining, town-owned, authentic pieces of Frisco history. The building is on the state register of historic buildings. That status is in part due to the input of Foote family, who are interested in purchasing the property now. They contributed information to get the building’s status on the state of Colorado’s register. The building has been on the register since 2001.
Why does this matter to me? Why should it matter to anyone? In my conversation with Jack Queen, I told him that one person had commented that while the Frisco Historic Park and Museum is a delightful place, they felt like it was a petting zoo for historical buildings. The quote didn’t quite come out properly in the article published in Sunday’s edition of the Summit Daily. I am glad to clear it up here because people do notice that there is still one piece of authentic history remaining on Main St. Frisco and they have commented to me that historic preservation certainly is not something to procrastinate on. There are not many structures or remnants available to speak about the identity of the town of Frisco as it started out. The Staley house is a place that is already owned by the town of Frisco. It is, considered by me and maybe others, a true amenity to Frisco history and culture. The passion I have for trying to keep this building in its original location means that years from now, people will still be able to look down Main St. Frisco and visualize what it looked like in the past, in a way to establish themselves, if even for a moment, inside of the same history. The identity of Frisco could carry forward to the newest of visitors. While I hear the situation, the town is making a choice between one historic building or making a deal for the Footes to keep their historic structures, my issue is that the Staley house is already owned by the town. So many places usually need to fight to retain that sort of history and have a public place to share with residents. The Footes’ structures are not public places or public-owned places to visit history with a status that is entirely inclusive of all. The Staley house could be used for many new creative entities and is a local amenity to the residents of Frisco. If the community was given an opportunity to consider these ideas, I am sure there would be enough input to collaborate and make something special out of that building in its original location. I am not necessarily advocating for another “house museum.” There are wonderful ideas to utilize the building for other purposes. It could be a venue for history with one of the renowned state of Colorado’s historians such as Patricia Limmerick or Charles Wilkinson talking there in an intimate environment. I see an artist’s place. I keep visualizing someone like John Hudnut blowing glass and doing demonstrations on Main St. and a crowd of people gathering around to see art made. I see a need for another type of daycare center or Montessori school for children being located there. I can only imagine the ideas other people in the community can come up with if we gave them the chance to be included in the conversation. Most importantly, I see something that belongs to the community happening there. I believe there is enough creativity and intelligence in our community to come up with some amazing ideas that can keep the historical building where it stands and be used for the benefit of culture.
I don’t want to see any historical buildings moved, demolished or changed, but I can only worry about the building that is not privately owned. I can’t suggest to the Foote family what to do with their property. I can only advocate for the Staley house. I am not against their ideas of development. I wish our ideas were aligned better. I only can pursue the passion of retaining authentic Frisco history that is already available to the public. I don’t know if the Frisco town council has considered alternatives for the building as a community amenity. I get the sense that development is their priority. The town seems to list economics and tourism as their highest priorities. While that makes sense to some degree, when is culture, history and a community identity besides tourism and recreation a priority? So many of Frisco’s historic structures have been hauled off to develop Main St. I wonder if anyone ever visualized an end to it or if moving history will always be the end-all until every piece of history is relocated. As far as I can see down Main St. Frisco, there is not much left to worry about.
As the town of Frisco develops itself further into a tourist town, it is nice to think briefly, for a moment, that there is more to our identity as a town than developing away our history and identity as a rugged mountain town. Visitors in fact do ask to see examples of original places that are historical. In the article on Sunday, there is no mention of who built the Staley house or that it has stood in its location since 1909. We have over 100 years of history already logged in that building, in the history of our rugged western town. I suggested to Jack Queen that he could visit the Frisco Historic Park and Museum to learn more about the house, Ben Staley and his family, but from the article published, there is no mention of the unique architecture or stories about the family who lived there. This building is in fact on the historical walking tour through Frisco. The Historic Park and Museum in Frisco holds wonderful archives and smart staff who are available to deliver these stories. The history of the building and the story of the Staley family is untold even as the fate of the building is heavily considered. Is that a sign that history is indeed undervalued in Frisco?
Preserving this historic structure, where it stands, need not be a backward-looking endeavor. The Staley house can be a seen as a true mark of the stages of confident growth the town of Frisco has taken. In preservation, the building tells a story that has always pointed to towards the future. Why preserve? What is the principle behind saving one building rather than another? The Staley house is an authentic piece of Frisco, Colorado’s history. It stands original, unmoved and accurately tells about our town. The Staley house will lose authenticity if it is moved. The power of the structure only exists because the building remains where it was originally built. The community of Frisco has an opportunity to keep a historic structure on Main St. that belongs to the community. I can only hope that cultural sustainability is a priority and available to all residents for all time. I hope that residents and visitors can enjoy an authentic piece of history where it stands for a very long time. How do we know that the buildings on the Footes’ property won’t one day be moved also? It seems easy to bargain away history for development already. There seems to be no end to it.
Hometown is an intimate place. It is a place where every day is multiplied by all the days before it. History has depth, and time bestows value. Objects, like the historic Staley house on Main Street, Frisco, anchor time. It is an object that is also an image of our town’s identity. Where this building stands represents our being in time. It shows who we still are. This building carries memories, personal and intellectual history. This building is an authentic association with the town of Frisco’s identity as a historic mining town. It continues to tell the story accurately because it stands in the original location where Ben Staley built it for his wife and family.
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