Historic Preservation, as a Joke, Part Two
Bill Hudson | 11/9/12

Read Part One

I finished posting Part One of this article series at about  8:15am Thursday morning. An hour later, I was on the road, headed for San Diego, California, on family business — a two-day drive. 

My route took me through the outskirts of Durango and then south through New Mexico — Farmington, Shiprock, Gallup — and on to Flagstaff, Arizona.  Much of the drive passed through the Navajo Reservation, a bleak desert landscape dotted with an occasional mobile home with a few sheep in the yard... or perhaps a cluster of government-sponsored homes prowled by skinny reservation dogs.

Occasionally, off in the distance, I could see something that looked like an old Navajo hogan, the traditional eight-sided structures built by the Navajo Indians before the coming of vinyl siding, indoor plumbing and satellite TV.

For much of the trip, I was thinking about historic preservation.  I wondered to myself, "Do the Navajo consider those old hogans to be especially valuable, and worth saving, because of their historic importance?  Or are they happy to demolish those classic old buildings, and replace them with government-sponsored modular homes?"

And I thought about the Devore Home, back in Pagosa Springs — perhaps the oldest building on Lewis Street.  The building was once known, I've been told, as the Strawn House Hotel.

strawn house hotel devore home pagosa springs historic preservation

A local Pagosa historian sent me the above photo, along with a short note:

"I believe the DeVore house was once the Strawn House - Hotel built in 1890. James Strawn served on the first Pagosa Springs Town Board and homesteaded at the mouth of Turkey Creek. The hotel has been added onto, but the old log hotel is still in there. The newer outside should be torn away leaving the original, charming and historic log building."

I compared the photos I'd taken, on Wednesday evening following the Town Council meeting, to the photo I'd received from our local historian.  It appeared to be the same building — but with a large front section added on, and the back section removed — and the whole building covered with vinyl or aluminum siding.  Even the little shed in the back appeared to be identical.

strawn house hotel devore home pagosa springs historic preservation

I looked again at the old photo.  There are no other buildings in the photo.  Apparently, the Strawn House Hotel — more recently known as the Devore Home? — was one of the very first buildings ever constructed in Pagosa Springs. According to the Town Historic Preservation Board (HPB), however, this building has  no historic value, because it's not in its original condition.  Changes have been made, and the changes are not "historic."  The best thing to do with the Devore Home, built in 1890, is to tear it down and build a parking lot.  That what the HPB told the Town Council on Wednesday evening.

Here's the exact phrase used by the HPB and the Town staff:

"... the structure is a non-contributing structure within the Historic District..." 

The Town's LUDC defines a "non-contributing structure" as "those structures that are new or not-historic construction within a proposed or designated historic district; or historic structures with complete loss of integrity due to deterioration or modification beyond recognition of historic elements."

Presumably, then, the Devore Home has suffered a complete loss of integrity.

On September 9, a gentleman named Dave Stuard submitted an application to the Town pf Pagosa Springs, requesting permission to demolish the Devore Home, located ay 480 Lewis Street.  According to the information presented to the Town Council on Wednesday, November 7, "the Applicant proposes the demolition to accommodate the redevelopment of the property into a landscaped parking lot to accommodate additional parking for the proposed restaurant at 468 Lewis Street."

So we really have two "redevelopment" projects to consider.  Mr. Stuard would like to tear down the Devore Home at 480 Lewis to build a parking lot, and he wishes to convert a former furniture store into a restaurant at 468 Lewis Street.

As I headed for Flagstaff yesterday, I felt a curious sadness... almost as if an old uncle were on  his deathbed, and I were headed off on a trip to California, and would almost definitely miss his funeral.

Read Part Three...


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