Saguache's 4th Street Business District Named to Colorado's Most Endangered Places List.
Recognizing Downtown Saguache on a Grand Scale
This February the Saguache Downtown Revitalization Partnership made an important step in reaching their goal for statewide exposure to help find funding to revitalize and strengthen the local community. They did this by having the 4th St Business District named to the Colorado’s Most Endangered Places 2009 List. The list is a part of the Endangered Places Program, that is a program of Colorado Preservation, Inc. The Endangered Places Program’s purpose is to empower local communities to build awareness and provide assistance for Historic Preservation. The formal announcement was made at this years annual Saving Places Conference that is hosted by Colorado Preservation, Inc.
Producing the annual list of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places begins with those who nominate the sites. (Download Saguache 4th Street Business District Nomination Application) Nominations from across the state are reviewed by preservation professionals on a regional and statewide basis, evaluating the significance and level of endangerment. Ultimately, a short list is presented to CPI’s board of directors, and the final list is determined. At this point in the process, the sites have been evaluated by more than 75 preservation professionals from across the state. This is certainly no easy task – every year there are many deserving sites, but ultimately we can choose only a few!
In order for the 4th Street Business District to make the list it had to make it through three different reviews. The first review started with thirty-nine nominations and was broken down by region. A committee that is made up of citizens from around the state then reviews each region. Since Saguache falls under the southwest region, Tawney Becker from the Alamosa Uptown River Association visited and performed the site review for Saguache. After all site reviews are conducted, a meeting is held to narrow down the list by region. This year each region had only three to move on to the next stage; state review. The state review started with twenty-one places and only eight made it to the final review. On October 31, 2008 the Board of Directors of the Colorado Preservation, Inc reviewed the final eight. From this eight only four made it to Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list of 2009. Downtown Saguache had made the list and had proven to a large audience what the group of citizens already new, Saguache is important to the history of Colorado and deserves to be honored.
What made Saguache and the 4th Street Business District stand out, besides the strength and determination of its citizens? Several of the buildings that anchor the 4th Street Business District date to the towns incorporation date of 1874. Serving as the trade and business center for much of the historic San Luis Valley, the town represents both in history and in architectural detail an example of an early Colorado frontier town. The building stock of this district includes; two banks, a newspaper office which operates the last “hot metal press” in Colorado, a hotel, two mercantiles, a mercantile warehouse, a saloon, a theater, and the County Courthouse. A striking feature of these buildings is the variety of architectural styles that are used include; Italianate, Classical Revival, Art Moderne, Nineteenth Century Commercial, and Twentieth Century Commercial influences.
Due to a slow continual economic decline some of these businesses have had to board up many of the floors and rooms in the buildings that they occupy. In addition, a handful of the buildings have been abandoned, neglected and have begun to decay. There are severe structural issues with many of the sites including facades that are crumbling, brickwork that is falling off, and windows that are broken or damaged. Additionally, several of the “Main Street” businesses have been converted into residences further threatening the economic development aspects of the 4th Street Business District.
The Endangered Places Program provides the Saguache Downtown Revitalization Partnership with technical assistance to help in the revitalization efforts of 4th Street. One of the ideas that will be playing out in the next few months is an indepth study of the 4th Street Business District to record the current and past history of the town. A representative of the Endangered Places Program will be visiting the town to record historical and architectural information so that it can be used to determine if the area is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. If determined to be eligible then this will further open up financial resources to help strengthen the towns built fabric and economic vitality, while at the same time preserving the historic character that has recently brought it statewide attention. So if you happen to hold any good historical information regarding the town please feel free to contact Saguache County Public Library.
To see the video clip of the project visit Colorado Preservation Inc. website.
To download the Front Range Research Associates, Inc., Denver, Colorado report: