Breckenridge’s old CMC building begins next chapter
Summit Daily News
Become a founder
As part of the fundraising effort for the restoration, membership in the Harris Street building founders’ circle are now available. The membership, which requires a $100 donation, includes:
A limited edition south branch library card
A commemorative book bag
Two for one passes to any historic tour offered by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance
A Speakeasy concession stand 10-punch pass
An invitation ot the VIP ribbon cutting ceremony
A founder’s certificate signed by the Breckenridge mayor and county commissioners
Those interested in making a donation to the Harris Street restoration project or becoming founders should contact Marsha Cooper by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (970) 453-1236.
In 1942, George Enyeart began classes as a first grader at a large, stately brick building on Harris Street in Breckenridge, the county’s first K-12 schoolhouse. He would graduate from the same building in 1954, one member of a class of only 16 seniors.
Nearly 60 years later, Enyeart was among several dozen locals, elected officials and historians who gathered on the front lawn of the old schoolhouse Saturday to watch Breckenridge Mayor John Warner and County Commissioner Thomas Davidson swing sledge hammers to mark the start of a renovation project on the historic building and the next chapter in its now more than 100-year life.
Crews are breaking ground today on a $7.4 million restoration of the aging structure, which will be redesigned to house community center, movie theater and the south branch of the library.
It is the largest redevelopment project in Summit County’s history.
“Just over 100 years ago, our forefathers built this building, a dedication to public education,” Davidson told the group who gathered for the project kick off ceremony Saturday morning. “We’re lucky we have the opportunity to give this building a rebirth for the next 100 years. (It was) built in the last century, but it’s really going to be a 21st century facility.”
The interior of the building will be almost completely redone, with the exception of certain historic aspects of the structure, such as the original gymnasium floor, which will be preserved. In the basement, the Speakeasy, Breckenridge’s only movie theater, will be remodeled and updated facility to allow the cinema to continue to operate with digital projection. There will also be a kitchen facility on the bottom level of the building, as well as community meeting space.
The upper levels will house the new library — which will feature a children’s room, quiet reading space and a coffee shop — as well as an area showcasing local historic artifacts.
The town of Breckenridge is partnering with the county government, the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, the Summit County library board and private partners and donors to cover the bill for the renovation. A fundraising committee has so far come up with close to $700,000 to help pay for the project.
“It was built in 1909, and it was a community venture. Miners, shopkeepers and business owners got together and created this school, this multi-purpose building,” Warner said Saturday. “I think we’re doing that again here in 2013.”
Former CMC campus
In 1977, Colorado Mountain College purchased the building for $300,000 and remodeled the interior. The project revealed several hidden gems, including a pressed-metal ceiling and arched windows with original glass and hand-carved woodwork. The gym was divided into classrooms, the basement became a movie theater and eventually students returned to the old schoolhouse.
The building continued to serve as the CMC Breckenridge campus until 2010, when the college relocated to its current facility on the north side of town.
Breckenridge officials again purchased the building in 2010, calling it a community treasure that needed to be preserved.
But it was an aging treasure, buried under needed improvements that were anticipated to cost millions of dollars. In the meantime, town leaders were unsure what to do with the building.
“There was a lot of thought that went into what was going to happen with this building,” said former Breckenridge Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron, who spoke at Saturday’s ceremony. “There was thought bandied about maybe a town hall, there was thought bandied about condominiumizing it early on, we thought maybe local housing. But I don’t think there’s a better use for this building than a library.”
Last year, the county government was preparing to construct a new library building off Airport Road to replace the current facility, which officials say is no longer large enough to meet the community’s needs.
They approached the town to ask for financial support with the project and received an unexpected response.
Members of the town council at the time were willing to help build a library, but they didn’t want a new building. They wanted to recover an old one and place the library there. Town officials saw it as an opportunity to restore the old schoolhouse on Harris Street, make it a hub for the community and to split the cost of the project with the county government, which was already prepared to invest a few million dollars in a new facility.
There were some in Breckenridge who opposed the project due to the steep cost, but the county approved the plan.
The project is slated for completion by the fall of 2014.
Structurally, the building has weathered the years well, and is eligible for inclusion in the state and national historic registers, according to documents from the BHA.
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