Officials look for ways to save Emma Townsite historic structures |

Officials look for ways to save Emma Townsite historic structures

John ColsonAspen CorrespondentGlenwood Springs, Colorado CO

Officials continue searching for ways to prevent the collapse of what are known as the Emma Townsite historic structures, although one public official declared this week that he hopes the buildings fall down before anything can be done to stop it.Im hoping it falls down before we stabilize it, Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield said Tuesday. I dont see where the money is coming from to save the buildings, which date back to the late 19th Century.Hatfields remarks prompted a sharp retort from Commissioner Dorothea Farris, who said she supported the attempt to save the buildings.I certainly would support at least funding the initial effort, said Farris, calling it absurd for the county to claim to be interested in historic preservation but to ignore this structure and hoping it will fall down.She said the building complex is the most prominent feature as one enters Pitkin County and deserves to be preserved.Commissioner Michael Owsley, backing up Farris, added that a complex such as the one at Emma gives an identity to a place over time. I think we really need to take positive action on this.The topic came up during a talk between the commissioners and Dale Will, director of the countys Open Space & Trails department.Will was the official mainly responsible for setting up the countys purchase of the property earlier this year. The county spent $2.65 million for the deteriorating historic store building, along with a neighboring Victorian house and 12.5 acres of land fronting the Roaring Fork River south of Basalt.The complex, which stands within a stones throw of Colorado Highway 82 in between Basalt and El Jebel, dates back to the 19th century when pioneer Charles Mather became the Emma postmaster and ultimately built the house and the commercial buildings. The house has remained habitable over the years, and was the home of former owner Owen Minney for some time.In a report to the commissioners, Will said that the countys historic preservation consultant, Suzannah Reid, is working on a plan to shore up the walls of the main building, which have been threatened with collapse since most of the roof began falling in several years ago.Reid, who is working with a volunteer committee of building and structural experts, said on Wednesday that the group has come up with a scheme to shore up the exterior walls with wooden frames that can be built against the outer walls, and then connected at the top with wooden beams to prevent the walls from falling either outward or inward.Or, the other extreme is to put a big tent over everything for the winter to keep the snow and rain from worsening the deterioration of the roof and walls, she said, although she believed the tent would be more costly than the wooden frames and connecting beams, and therefore not as likely to win county approval.Once the building has been stabilized, she said, the next step will be to look at long-term rehabilitation of the structure, including a cleanup of the roof debris and removal of the remaining roof beams, which are hanging down and putting inward pressure on the walls.She said she did not have cost estimates prepared yet, but in broad terms she said, I would think were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range.Generally, she said, the money is expected to come from a combination of local public treasuries, state and federal grants, and private foundations if any can be found that are interested.

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