Far View Visitor Center at Mesa Verde leads list of endangered places
Built in 1967 and opened to the public in 1970, the Far View Visitor Center at Mesa Verde National Park told the story of the Ancestral Pueblo people for more than four decades. Now the building, which closed in 2012, has the potential to tell a newer story: its own.
But the visitor center, along with five other building sites in Colorado, is in danger of being lost, according to Colorado Preservation Inc., a nonprofit organization that released its annual list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places at an event on Thursday afternoon.
CPI works with local Colorado communities to “save threatened or endangered historic buildings and sites” and provides “advocacy, awareness and technical assistance,” Most Endangered Places director Katie Peterson said in a statement. “In 25 years, the program has highlighted 135 historic sites throughout the state; 55 sites have been Saved and only eight have been lost.”
There are another 50 sites that are currently in the process of being saved in some way and 22 that are still under “alert status,” the organization said.
Designed by Colorado architects Joseph and Louise Marlow with input from the National Park Service, the Far View Visitor Center was part of a push in the 1950s and ’60s to “enhance and expand visitor experience and services at National Parks nationwide,” CPI writes.
The one-of-a-kind circular-shaped building is also “architecturally important” as it incorporates both mid-century modern design and references to the ancient kivas that are part of the park.
“Since its closing in 2012, the National Park Service has identified several uses for the Far View Visitor Center, but due to the building’s current condition, none have come to fruition. By listing [it] on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places, CPI hopes to partner with the National Park Service to begin a formal process to explore adaptive reuse options,” the organization said.
Here is a rundown of the other four sites from the 2023 list (information provided by CPI).
Feminilas Building, Costilla County in the San Luis Valley
Located near San Francisco Creek in the San Luis Valley, the Feminilas Building is the only known structure separately owned and operated by the women’s auxiliary of men’s labor organization, La Sociedad Protección Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos (SPMDTU). The Feminilas provided aid to the afflicted and bereaved, similar to the Penitentes, a men’s group associated with the Catholic Church. Constructed around 1920, the small adobe building, complete with vigas and latillas popular in the region, is in poor condition. It suffers from natural weatherization and deterioration and is in danger of collapse. Preservation of the Feminilas Building would help preserve the unique lifeways, language, and culture of the San Luis Valley and the traditional contributions of Hispanic women. CPI will work with the property owners and local stakeholders to stabilize, rehabilitate, and highlight the role of women’s auxiliaries in Colorado history.
Garcia School, Costilla County in the San Luis Valley
Constructed in 1913, the Garcia School was one of 11 adobe schools built in Costilla County in the San Luis Valley before the consolidation of Centennial School District R-1 in 1963. Listed on the State Register of Historic Properties, the building is one of the last structures of Plaza de Los Manzanares, the site of the first European settlement in Colorado. The Garcia School retains many historical elements but suffers from weather exposure, deterioration, lack of maintenance and funding, and an isolated setting. The Centennial School District has received a CDE and the Connecting Colorado Students Grant (CCSG) in the amount of 3.2 million to build out internet in nearby San Luis and establish a remote learning center at the Garcia School. CPI will help the school district develop partnerships and access technical assistance to preserve the building and create an accessible location for rural students.
Koch Homestead, Pitkin County near Aspen
Also known as the Adelaide Ranch, the Koch Homestead consists of five relatively intact but deteriorating buildings in the Hunter Creek Valley near Aspen. Today, only a few know of the origins of these historic structures, even though they played a significant role in the early settlement and development of Aspen. Beginning in 1887, the Koch Homestead provided local meat, produce, dairy, lumber, and freshwater to the first miners and settlers in Aspen. It also was the first hydro plant in the area. Now owned by the U.S. Forest Service, the Koch Homestead sits along popular trails and has been determined preliminarily eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The 60-acre site is a treasure that was the impetus for founding the Hunter Creek Historical Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to stabilizing and preserving historical resources to enhance the public’s awareness, enjoyment, and stewardship of the valley for future generations. The Foundation recently partnered with Historicorps and stabilized the Shop building. There are plans for the Road House and Dam Keepers Cabin in the coming years. CPI believes that it is essential that historic structures on the Koch Homestead remain intact as a testament to those early settlers for the public to understand and appreciate.
South Platte Hotel, Jefferson County
Constructed in 1913 after the previous 1887 hotel caught fire during a tragic homicide, the South Platte Hotel symbolizes Colorado’s narrow gauge railroad history, early tourism, and summer cabin communities. Located in the North Fork Historic District, the hotel is the only remaining building left of the South Platte community. Abandoned and left to the elements, the South Platte Hotel has been owned by Denver Water since 1987 and is slated for demolition. Strong support lies in the local community, and the building has the potential to support nearby recreational activities, which now define the region. CPI hopes to partner with Denver Water, the Jefferson County Historical Commission, and other local nonprofits to develop a plan for the adaptive reuse of the building.
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