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On April 15, 2002, a fire destroyed five buildings in St. Elmo, one of Colorado’s most beloved ghost towns. Thirty-five people from six agencies fought the blaze, saving the Chaffee County historic district’s remaining structures.
Philanthropist Clamency McIlvoy rarely left her Arvada home. In a biography written for Arvada Profiles—a magazine celebrating the city’s centennial anniversary—local historian Gayle Laidig says McIlvoy “loved books but knew little of the outside world.” Legend has it that she visited Denver just once in her life, though she lived within sight of it for more than sixty years. But McIlvoy was no recluse. She loved her hometown as much as her home—a fact that has enhanced Arvada’s already-progressive historic preservation efforts.
The preservation community rightly praises builders, craftspeople, and architects who marshaled capital and creativity to construct the landmarks that define our neighborhoods. Buildings or structures that are associated with significant people and are distinguished by "the work of a master" are often rewarded with eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places. Less often do we cheer the people who didn't build; the stewards who, through accident or intent, fashioned a balance between built and natural beauty.
Twenty-two miles west of Pagosa Springs in the San Juan National Forest, a pair of distinctive rock pinnacles stand guard over one of the most intriguing archaeological sites in the Four Corners region. The lofty landmarks, known today as Chimney Rock and Companion Rock, guided nineteenth-century American prospectors who were searching for silver and gold in the San Juan Mountains.
On Independence Day, 1917, ten thousand people attended dedication ceremonies for the Weld County Courthouse in Greeley. Bands stationed in the four story building's arcaded corridors played patriotic music throughout the day and into the evening as citizens toured courtrooms and offices. In an open letter to the public printed by a local newspaper the following weekend, county commissioners expressed the hope that "the future shall justify fully the work which now has been carried to a successful conclusion." Their pride was recently validated by the State Historical Fund, which supported a project to preserve the courthouse's unique pneumatic clock system and stained glass windows.