CARBONDALE — A local business has given a new lease on life to a building that has been around for a more than a century and has housed everything from a saloon to a grocery store to a meat market and more.
There are even indications that part of the second floor was at one time a brothel, although that particular tale could not be confirmed, according to the current occupant of the building.
Once known as the Sheridan Saloon, and believed to date back to the 1890s, the venerable structure at 55 N. Fourth St. is now home to Equus Private Wealth Management LLC, and over the past six months or so has undergone a $400,000 renovation, according to Equus President and CEO Ron Speaker.
“It was worth it,” Speaker said. “We’ve got this thing solid for another 100 years or more, we think,”
Speaker, 49, is married with three children, and he said that he and his landlord, billionaire Thomas H. Bailey, have a relationship going back more than a quarter of a century.
Speaker, who was raised in Greeley and got his degree in finance from the University of Colorado at Boulder, worked for 21 years as a researcher and analyst for the Janus Capital Group, a division of Janus Funds, which Bailey founded in Denver in 1969.
In 2007, Speaker said, he left Janus to found his own company in Carbondale, and stayed close to Bailey, who by that time had retired to a horse ranch near Carbondale and in 2001 bought the old Sheridan building on Fourth Street.
Speaker’s company — which he runs with two partners, Matt Owings and Mark Spidell — focuses on the bond market and manages what are known as “separate accounts” for wealthy investors.
Keeping it together
Speaker started out in a suite of offices at the corner of Second and Main streets, above the space formerly occupied by Russets restaurant, and over several years he and Bailey came up with the plan for Equus to lease the old Sheridan building after restoring it and repairing it.
Skimming over photos of the renovation, Speaker pointed out a variety of cracks in the brick work and other problems that threatened to cause the building to disintegrate.
As he describes the work, Speaker rattles off the names of a wide range of local contractors and specialists involved in the project, from architect Dan Muse to contractor David Fischer, from structural engineer Ernie Kollar to Robbie Williams of Distinctive Board and Beam, and others.
Using structural steel and lengthy tie rods to “clamp” the walls into place, and huge wooden beams cut whole from trees in Idaho to traverse and support the floors, his team of renovators went through the building from top to bottom. Most of the current flooring for the first story is not original but features planks that are both wider and longer than typical wood flooring.
Jeff and Scott Carter of Carter Electric rewired the entire building, and a new heating plant was installed in the basement, acting on advice from the Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) and Garfield Clean Energy organizations.
When he needed bricks to plug in a couple of basement windows, Speaker went to the Denver area to Mendoza’s Brick Yard, where he procured ancient bricks that matched the building’s exterior but were in better shape than the bricks laid down in Carbondale 115 years ago or so.
Mystery wear spots
The offices where Speaker and his partners do most of their work are upstairs, where the flooring is much as it was originally, including some mysterious worn spots that Speaker (and others) believe indicate considerable movement and weight from ancient bedposts.
“Wouldn’t that be great to know about?” enthused Speaker as he imagined the traffic up and down the old stairs (he has installed new staircases, inside and outside) after customers worked up their courage at the downstairs bar.
Also upstairs is a fair-sized conference room that he hopes will provide needed meeting space for other businesses than just Equus.
Downstairs, Speaker redesigned the ground floor to become a retreat of sorts, shopping at thrift shops around the valley and the state, and finding a lot of his amenities at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore outlet in Glenwood Springs.
“It’s a private tasting room,” he said, pointing to a custom-built bar, where a former fireplace from a home once owned by Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar (purchased at ReStore) now functions as the back bar. The shelves are stocked with liquor, mainly bourbon and mainly Colorado whiskies. He toured distilleries around the state recently, Speaker said, and liked the function of the tasting room for visitors so much he brought it back home.
“This is a place where we could have a private tasting, or a luncheon for our guests,” he remarked, adding that he views it as a relaxing setting to talk business with clients, as well.
At the back of the ground floor is a kitchen equipped with a massive Sub-Zero freezer/refrigerator, purchased at a quarter of what it costs new, once again from shopping for consignment deals, and a dishwasher that, from the front, has the appearance of a wooden-faced cupboard.
Part of the inspiration for certain historic aspects of the renovation came from a chance encounter at a historical gathering in Carbondale last year, with Guido (pronounced “geye-do”) Badgett, who is 101 years old.
Badgett grew up in the building, above the Badgett Store, which was founded by Guido’s father after Prohibition caused the old Sheridan Saloon to close.
Speaker, describing the enjoyment he got from the encounter, recalled that Badgett told him a few tales of what it was like in the old days.
In a nod to those times, the back door to the building, opening into the kitchen, is in the style of the old “speakeasy” entrances from Prohibition days, complete with a small trap-window protected by iron bars so that the door guard could peek safely at those seeking entry.
Bailey, who said he was happy to provide Speaker with a long-term lease in exchange for saving the old structure, said that after the departure of Crystal River Meats last year the building seemed in danger of standing empty and crumbling to greater ruin.
“As you know, there’s a horse rail out there [in the yard south of the building],” Bailey noted, explaining that he built the rail to provide a place to tie horses, in the manner of the Old West.
“A few times a year we use that when we ride into town,” he said during a telephone conversation.
But generally, he said, “there are no grandiose plans” for the future of the building now that Equus has fixed it up and moved in.