719 Grand Avenue renovation turns pages of history
A bit of Glenwood Springs’ storied past has been unmasked with the recent strip-down and ongoing renovation of the 719 Grand Ave. building that formerly housed the Candlestick Maker shop.
Steve Davis bought the building in March from longtime owners and shop keepers Tom and Joni Weir, who also lived in the back part of the main floor and rented out a pair of upstairs apartments.
Since then, the building restoration project has turned into a family affair for Davis. His wife, Marilyn, has been doing historical research on the 1890s structure, and their sons Ryan and Michael have been instrumental in the renovation work.
A home-building contractor and Glenwood Springs City Council member, Davis said they have been keeping an eye out for a location where Ryan could set up a fly-fishing shop in conjunction with his fishing guide business.
The heightened potential for downtown businesses once the new Grand Avenue bridge is complete late next year made the 719 Grand building an obvious choice when the Weirs decided to sell, Davis said.
“The parking lot in back is the pedestrian gateway into downtown, and there’s just a lot of potential for what this building can be,” he said.
Plans for the fly shop include a dual entrance from both the alley and from the Grand Avenue side, and the 2,500-square-foot store will cater to the river lifestyle, Davis said.
The building’s upstairs is being totally redone into two new residential apartments, one of which will have a second-floor deck looking toward Red Mountain.
Davis also sought and obtained approval to rebuild the roof to accommodate a rooftop deck that can be rented out for events, including weddings.
“We also wanted to rebuild it with the future in mind, in case someone wanted to do a rooftop restaurant or something, it’s ready to go,” he said.
In the meantime, tearing apart the old place has been an interesting endeavor.
The building was home to several businesses during the 20th century, including the Burdge family mortuary for about 40 years up until the early 1960s, and the Parkison Drug Store before that.
Inside the walls that were stripped down to the original brick were old Denver Post newspapers from the 1930s and a catalogue for mortuary supplies, including embalming fluid.
“The last time this building was even touched was 1939, from what we could uncover,” Davis said. “And I think everyone who owned this building left their stuff here.”
The basement was full of relics, including old jars and tools of various sorts.
A lowered ceiling in the main store area was removed to reveal what had been empty space for more than half a century, and several layers of wallpaper were revealed when the walls were stripped.
Another surprise was a pair of glass-block windows above the main entrance that had been hidden behind wood paneling. The walls on both levels have bricked-in windows that were part of the original stand-alone construction before neighboring buildings went up.
Old doorways also passed between the buildings, likely harkening back to Glenwood red light district days when the chain of buildings on that side of Grand Avenue probably served as a brothel.
Davis said he decided to keep the original storefront intact after it was uncovered.
“It would have been easier to take that down, but we thought it was important to maintain that history and character,” Davis said.
“Anytime you strip a building to the bones like this, you find all sorts of challenges,” he said. “It’s certainly been interesting uncovering the history of this old building and trying to guess how things happened over the years.”
The Davises are working on the restoration project “as time allows” between their other contract jobs. Son Michael is also the manager on a job at 10th and Cooper where they are busy turning another turn-of-the-20th-century structure into a nine-unit apartment building.
They hope to have the two apartments at the 719 Grand building ready to rent out by next summer, and Ryan said he is looking to open the fly shop soon after the Grand Avenue bridge project is finished.
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