Pitkin County hoping to save Redstone powerhouse
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
A hydroelectric plant built more than a century ago along the banks of the Crystal River near Redstone has been nominated as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, which owns the property containing the crumbling powerhouse, is seeking the endangered designation from Colorado Preservation Inc., which each year compiles a list to bring attention to sites in the state that are of historic significance and in danger of being lost.
The designation is a good first step to securing a State Historic Fund grant to help rehabilitate the structure, reasoned Dale Will, Open Space and Trails director.
A grant application for the powerhouse has not yet been made, but the county program has successfully sought state funding to restore the historic Emma Store and, most recently, the small powderhouse behind the store.
While the Emma buildings were in danger of collapse, the Redstone powerhouse already is in a state of ruin.
“It is soon to be gone,” Will said.
The Victorian structure dates back to 1902, when it was built to provide electricity to Cleveholm Manor (now known as the Redstone Castle), the stately home of coal magnate John Cleveland Osgood. It supplied power to the town of Redstone as well, according to Will.
The county’s application to Colorado Preservation Inc. compares the Redstone building to other early hydroelectric plants in mountain towns around Colorado, including the Hunter Creek plant that is now home to the Aspen Art Museum, the hydro plant at Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride and the Fall River plant at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
“In that era, there were a lot of Victorian hydroelectric plants in Colorado,” Will said.
The power-generation machinery was removed from the Redstone building in the 1950s, and the ravages of time have taken their toll on the quaint structure itself. The powerhouse survived, remarkably intact, until 1993, according to the county’s application, but a combination of heavy snow, falling trees and high runoff on the Crystal have caused considerable damage.
The former owner of the property received permission in 1992 to place a large boulder in the river to help divert the water from the building’s foundation, but in 1994, snow collapsed the roof and most of two walls.
The rest of the structure looks like it might collapse at any time.
Pitkin County purchased the property containing the building in 2009. It sits within the Redstone Historic District, which includes 31 buildings and other structures, including the coke ovens at Redstone, which have been the focus of restoration work this year.
“We now need your help in highlighting the significance of this building,” reads the county’s Most Endangered Places application. “Without prompt intervention, the original building materials will continue to deteriorate, making an accurate restoration increasingly difficult.”
“This historic jewel cries out for help,” Peter Martin, president of the Redstone Historical Society, wrote in a letter supporting the county’s application.
A number of other organizations have written letters of support, as well, including the Aspen Valley Land Trust, U.S. Forest Service, the Redstone Historical Society, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association and the West Elk Loop Scenic and Historic Byway Steering Committee.
If the building can be saved, a trail from Redstone to the site is possible, according to Will. There is no plan at present, though, to resume the production of hydroelectric power there.
“It would make a real cool, riverside interpretive spot,” Will said.
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