Marble cashes in on bank restoration
It seemed like almost everyone except three small dogs received a round of applause at Saturday’s dedication of the historic Marble City State Bank Building.
That’s because the 13-year restoration project eventually involved the town of Marble, Gunnison County, the Marble Historical Society and numerous volunteers.
If there was a common theme at the dedication, which attracted about 75 people, it was that volunteer powered civic projects can work if there’s enough cooperation.
“We struggled along for seven or eight years,” said Joyce Illian, who started the restoration project in 1989. “Finally, everybody got on board and said `Let’s work together.'”
The three-story, 1,000-square-foot building couldn’t have looked much better when it was first converted to a bank in 1912. The arched windows and front door that face Main Street have been put back to their original condition. Antique lighting fixtures, with brass rods and frosted globes, hang from the high ceiling. The new floor, made of 200-year-old recycled oak, was the last project on the building’s punch list, and on Saturday the building smelled of fresh shellac. Helium-filled red and blue balloons were tethered to the bank’s black safe door.
Gunnison County acquired the building in 1925, when the owner failed to pay property taxes. The county used the building for a shop and garage until the late 1980s, when it built a new shop to the north.
At one time, Gunnison considered tearing down the building, but Illian and others protested, and it was saved. At Saturday’s ceremony, Assistant Gunnison County Manager Marlene Crosby singled out Illian and Bettie Lou Gilbert for their dedication to the project.
“There’s always someone with a burning passion, who won’t let it die,” Crosby told the crowd, which gathered in a semi-circle on the east side of the building. There were claps and whoops when Crosby said, “That person is Joyce Illian.”
Next for Crosby’s attention was Marble Historical Society member Bettie Lou Gilbert, who concentrated on corralling state and private grants and donations.
“Thank you for getting the funding,” Crosby told Gilbert, which prompted more whoops and claps.
Illian’s husband, Ron Miller, spent much of Saturday shooting pictures of folks at the ceremony. For a couple of minutes he sat down on a folding chair inside the building as Illian, Crosby and Gilbert readied champagne glasses, cake and snacks.
“We used to have (volunteer) work days,” Miller said. “We’d try to get people down to do something. … We’d have a painting party.”
One early project consisted of tearing down a shed attached to the building. “Outward Bound tore down the roof over the outside stairs,” Miller said.
One summer, the main project was tearing off the heavy, wooden garage door on the front of the building, so the original arched windows could be put back in. “I burned the door that winter for firewood,” Miller said.
Miller said that some summers during the volunteer stage, not much happened on the building. After creeping along for years, the project hit high gear when the town, county and historical society started working together, which eventually resulted in just over $203,000 in grants and donations.
Architect Joede Schoeberlein and contractor David Rippe were eventually hired to complete the project. Vince Savage, then a town council member, and Gunnison County’s Marlene Crosby worked with Illian and Gilbert on the core committee which advised Schoeberlein and Rippe.
Spirits were high Saturday as folks toured the building, and gathered in small groups outside. There were city council members, Marble Historical Society members, all three Gunnison County Commissioners, plus the county manager and people who had worked on the project.
Earlier in the day, before the ceremony, Savage said, “This is proof the people of Marble can cooperate … proof a small town can get along, which benefits everybody.”
Savage said Gunnison County is in the process of deeding the building over to the town, which it will use it for town council meetings and as a community room.
“Everyone from yoga (classes) to AA can use it,” Savage said.
As for Illian’s plans for the future, she admitted that Saturday was an emotional day, then she laughed and said, “I’m ready to move on. Twelve years on one project is long enough.”
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