‘It’s a time capsule’
After an extended hiatus from public tours, Carbondale’s historic Thompson House museum will host a one-time open house this Saturday from 1-4 p.m.
The two-story house was built in 1885 and was the longtime home of Hattie Thompson Holland, who died childless in 1944 and passed the house on to her relatives. As a result, the contents and furnishings are all original — an unusual feature that helped place the property on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
The museum is managed by the Mount Sopris Historical Society, which also owns the contents. The building and the property were owned by developer Frieda Wallison until 2015, when the house and its grounds came under town of Carbondale ownership as part of the planned Thompson Park development process.
With the ownership transfer process and adjacent infrastructure improvements, the house has seen few public visitors since then. There are also numerous pending repairs that should be addressed with the assistance of a State Historical Fund Grant in excess of $90,000.
“We got it on the third try. I think persistence helped,” said historical society executive director Beth White. “I think it will be a great example of local and state collaboration for preservation.”
The project will include a new high efficiency boiler and accompanying asbestos abatement in the basement, a structural analysis and various other repairs. White hopes to see tours resume sometime next summer, though still on a seasonal basis.
Meanwhile, the house is already beginning to see renewed use.
Following a recent media tour of the property Colorado Tourism Office Department of Heritage and Agritourism director Laura Grey called it “an absolute jewel, and the potential is huge for education, fun and agri-heritage tourism activities centered around a unique and vibrant Colorado story.”
The property is also the new site for a heritage garden, which has attracted enthusiasm and assistance from students at nearby Ross Montessori School.
“The kids just love seeing the old things inside and learning about the type of garden that would have been here 100 years ago,” said garden curator Sue Gray. “It’s such a special place.”
Prior to the move this summer, Gray hosted a teaching garden at the Third Street Center in an effort to educate locals about local heirloom crops.
“When I first moved here, I tried to garden and wasn’t very successful,” she explained. “It made me wonder how the early settlers from the east managed to sustain themselves.”
She now has several turn of the century heirlooms to show to tours, including local varieties like the Cerise pole bean and the Ferguson walking onion, and plans to distribute seeds when things are more established.
The move means the end of her community garden space, but Gray is glad for the change.
“It belongs here,” she said. “Hattie Thompson had a garden on this very spot.”
“People will come here specifically to look at this,” she added. “I think in the future this will be an important agritourism destination.”
It’s a sought-after demographic, as are the history buffs who might visit Carbondale to see the Thompson House.
“Cultural heritage tourists spend more and stay longer,” White said. “Not all communities have those assets, but we do.”
The economic benefits, in turn, help preserve a unique resource for the community.
“It’s a time capsule,” White said. “It’s a specific story about Hattie, but it’s also a focal point for Carbondale’s history and our western heritage. It was hard, but her ability to persevere and strive is emblematic of the spirit of those times.”
White and Gray will be on site Saturday to help direct visitors and answer questions. The open house is free, though donations are appreciated.
The Thompson House Museum is located at the end of Lewies Lane just south of Ross Montessori. To get there, take Highway 133 to the north River Valley Ranch entrance, then hang a right onto North Bridge Drive. The driveway is on your right just past the tennis courts. Call 781-632-3326 for more info.
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