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Preservation Grants Bring Brighter Future to Colorado’s Rural Communities
By preserving historic places we can lift up community spirits and the economy. We definitely need more of both as we face the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways it’s changing our lives every day. During these uncertain times, History Colorado's State Historical Fund continues to serve Colorado communities—particularly rural communities.
Because we understand the power of investment from the State Historical Fund, we fast-tracked a number of our grants to meet very real needs across the state. On May 1, after an expedited 30-day review period, 25 historic mini-grants (requests of $35,000 or less) were awarded, totaling $618,234. These awards leverage an additional $316,779 in matching funding provided by grant applicants and their community partners—for a total project impact of $935,013.
“With so many challenges to our economy right now—especially in rural areas of our state, where more than 75 percent of our grants are currently allocated—we are eager to unleash the powerful economic and social impacts made possible by these awards,” says State Historical Fund director Tim Stroh, AIA.
The awarded projects illustrate unique and significant resources from rural communities around the state. The Garcia Ranch Potato Cellar in Conejos County is an excellent example of Hispano adobe construction, which is increasingly rare today. The owner of the ranch has been working to restore the site, and its unique cellar, which is in poor condition, is the next area of focus. Once restored the cellar will serve as an interpretive element on the ranch, illustrating its connection to the San Luis Valley’s agricultural legacies.
Another important resource is the Iglesia de San Antonio Catholic Church in rural La Plata County. Completed in 1928, the church is built of adobe bricks and the exterior walls are covered with wire and stucco plaster. The church is unique for its association with early Hispano settlement in the town. As Dr. Ruth Lambert from the San Juan Mountains Association puts it, “One of the needs that’s broader than the church is the recognition in our community of the contribution that Hispanics have made to our county, La Plata County, and this is the last building that really represents that Hispanic component.”
In 2019 Colorado Preservation, Inc., listed both of these sites as among Colorado’s Most Endangered Places, a program dedicated to bringing advocacy, awareness, and technical assistance to significant historic sites throughout Colorado that are in danger of being lost. This recognition has not only helped increase the appreciation of these resources, it’s also helped raise awareness of the importance of saving them. That urgency played a role in the grants just awarded to both sites for construction documents that will set the stage for the physical work needed to restore them.
On the Eastern Plains, another historic site will also be receiving a grant for construction documents for future physical work. The Truxaw & Kruger Grocery store, in New Raymer, was listed as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places in 2017. New Raymer is one of the few towns still standing on the former railroad line from Sterling, Colorado, to Cheyenne, Wyoming. While the community is small, the support for this project has been impressive—with the $9,140 cash match for the project coming from local fundraisers. The building is significant as one of the few remaining historic buildings that represent the town’s commercial development.
Another treasured resource is in Holyoke, in Phillips County. There, the town library has been housed in the historic Heginbotham Home since the 1960s. Built as the home of local banker Will E. Heginbotham, the building was designed in the Late Craftsman style. The library today offers wonderful benefits to its community through its resources and educational programs. This most recent grant from the State Historical Fund is one of several that have been given to the property. The funds will go toward the creation of construction documents that will address Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, drainage, and structure and roof load capacity.
As with the Holyoke Library, the State Historical Fund supports many projects through multiple phases of work. And it’s also wonderful to see new projects come to the fund for support. That’s certainly the case with the Sugar City gates project in the town of Sugar City—once home to the National Beet Sugar Company Factory. (For a look at the prominent role the sugar beet industry has played throughout Colorado’s agricultural past, take a look at this State Historical Fund–supported PBS film.) While the factory building no longer exists, the impressive brick and wrought iron gates are a local landmark and stand as a reminder of the factory’s role in the founding of Sugar City. The awarded grant will create design documents and fund a complete restoration of these monumental brick entrance gates.
In addition to awarding these projects, the State Historical Fund continues its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March 20 and April 20 it distributed $1,124,626 to ongoing grant projects throughout Colorado. The fund has maintained its regular technical support for previously awarded projects, allowing construction and other activities to move forward.
The State Historical Fund currently oversees more than 280 grant projects in 52 Colorado counties and provides technical assistance to all 64 counties. Seventy-six percent of all current projects take place in rural communities. As a catalyst for both ongoing and new projects, the State Historical Fund is helping communities preserve their unique identity and generate economic activity through work on the historic and cultural resources that are the most meaningful to the people of Colorado.