Historic Boulder, Inc. saves important places and buildings through advocacy, education, alliances and action.
The History of Historic Boulder
The year 1971 was one of many changes in the cityscape of Boulder. Citizens began to realize that buildings were being proposed for demolition with no thought as to their historic or architectural value. By the end of the first year, three important building were threatened with demolition: the Boulder Railroad Depot, Central School and Highland School.
Historic Boulder, Inc., Boulder's first permanent preservation organization was formed and incorporated in March, 1972. Money was raised for the purchase of Highland School, which was subsequently sold to private developers. With Historic Boulder's help in acquiring the depot, the Boulder Jaycees found a site, moved, and renovated the building. Central School - perhaps Boulder's most important building - was demolished.
Out of the destruction rose the urgency for a legal mechanism which would evaluate historic sites. In 1974, the Boulder Landmarks Preservation was passed and shortly after, the inventory of significant sites began. As a result of this, Historic Boulder successfully petitioned the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board for the downtown commercial area to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Hannah Barker House Rehabilitation a Labor of Determination, Love, and Patience
Hannah Barker was one of Colorado's most prominent pioneer women- a civic leader, businesswoman and philanthropist in an era when women's contributions were often unacknowledged and later lost to the historical record. By the early 2000s, though, the once grand home she had lived in for more than 40 years had deteriorated so far that it was nearly demolished and would have been condemned had Historic Boulder not stepped in to save it. After many failed attempts to reach out to the property owner at the time in the mid-2000s, Historic Boulder ultimately submitted an application for landmark designation in 2007, accepted ownership of the property at the end of 2010, and began emergency protection in 2011. Over the next five years, the organization embarked on a robust education, public outreach, fundraising and rehabilitation project that resulted in a stunning rehabilitation of the home and historic fence. Additionally, a book about Hannah, her home and neighborhood was written by local school children and an interpretive sign about her importance to Boulder's history that will soon be placed on the property.
Historic Boulder has been saving places that matter for almost forty-five years; this project extended that legacy by acquiring an important but threatened building, rehabilitating it, and returning it to service in the community.
The project succeeded thanks to thousands of hours of volunteer time, the financial and in-kind support from many local, regional, and national partners, and local professionals with knowledge, experience, and passion for preservation. Grant funding from the State Historic Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation were essential, as were the more than 50 fundraising and "hands on" preservation events sponsored by Historic Boulder.
Now completely rehabilitated to its former distinction, the house recalls to mind a woman whose significant contributions to Boulder might otherwise have been lost.
In the 1960s, many historic buildings in downtown Boulder - including some dating back to the city's roots in the last quarter of the 1800s - were demolished in the name of progress, in the name of expansion, in the name of economic development.
But in the early '70s, a group of local residents rose up against that tide and drew a line in the sand when it came to three particular properties.
The upstart preservationists succeeded in saving two of those structures, the Highland School at 9th Street and Arapahoe Avenue and the city's original Union-Pacific train depot, which has been relocated more than once and now stands at what is expected to be Boulder's Transit Village.
Unfortunately, the third building, Central School, erected at the site of Colorado's first schoolhouse, was demolished. And that loss, even more than the two preserved structures, may have cemented the activists' place in history.
The group quickly became known as Historic Boulder. The group's first board president Joyce Davies helped organize a standing-room-only meeting at Boulder's public library in the early 1970s to save the three threatened structures.
Davies recalls what it was like during Historic Boulder's infancy. "We had no money, no reputation, we had nothing at that time," she tells Boulder Weekly. "The first few years there, we were so busy we couldn't think."
Davies, who would later be hired as the group's first executive director in 1977, says there were both public and private buildings that succumbed to the expansion of the downtown business district in the 1960s between Pine and Canyon streets.
"At that time, nobody was giving them any thought at all, it was just, 'We need a bigger building there,' so down they went," Davies says.
Saving the Highland School was one of their top priorities, she explains, and seven preservationists secured loans of $20,000 each from local banks to keep the historic structure from being torn down. About $70,000 was paid to the school district to secure the building, and the other half was used to renovate it, Davies says.
It still stands today as an office building, thanks in no small part to its owner, Sina Simantob, who by most accounts has taken good care of one of Boulder's oldest structures.
"It's a wonderful example of how a good caretaker can take an old building and give it new use," Davies says.
When city officials wanted to open 14th Street to traffic between Spruce and Canyon, threatening the historic train depot, the fledgling organization helped save the station with the assistance of the Jaycees, which secured money from the city to have it relocated to 30th and Pearl, according to Davies.
The activists weren't as lucky with Central School, since the school district was set on selling it to a developer who tore it down - but not before one preservationist got wind of the wrecking ball's approach and affixed a sign to the structure saying "Historic Boulder protests and regrets the destruction of this historic building."
"That's really when people started to take us seriously," Davies says.
The demolition of the Central School seemed to create a sense of urgency. Historic Boulder went on to bolster its reputation by spearheading the city's historic preservation ordinance in 1974 and making its influence felt on the Boulder Landmarks Board, which has designated more than 163 individual landmarks and 11 historic districts.
Today, Historic Boulder and its members are credited with saving dozens of structures that would have otherwise been razed, including the Boulder Theater and the Arnett-Fullen House at 7th and Pearl.
- Jefferson Dodge, Boulder Weekly article, September 27, 2012