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

Read Part One

"Ralph Morgan constructed this building in 1918 and opened the Electric Garage. The property was purchased by C.O. Dunagan in 1925 and later sold to the Schoonover family.  In the 1930s, Paul and Virginia Decker became partners with the Schoonover family and operated San Juan Supply into the mid-1980s.

"The business was family owned for more than 30 years. San Juan Supply also owned semi trucks that transported cattle in and out of the area.  The store gained fame with the song, 'Wolf Creek Pass', written and recorded by C.W. McCall."

We were listening to a recording and a PowerPoint slide show in the darkened Council Chambers, upstairs in the Pagosa Springs Town Hall.  The show had been assembled by some folks hired to promote a proposed development project at 468 Lewis Street — a new, upscale restaurant to be named, appropriately enough, "Lewis Street".  468 Lewis has been vacant for some time now, as have so many other commercial spaces in Pagosa.

devore home pagosa springs lewis street

The Town Council meeting, Wednesday, November 7.  Torry Hessman presents a slide show about the proposed "Lewis Street" restaurant.

The restaurant, if approved, would "enhance the downtown district," according to an "extensive financial feasibility study" commissioned by the project developer, businessman Dave Stuard.  According to the PowerPoint show we watched, Mr. Stuard hopes his "Lewis Street" restaurant will "draw to the downtown area visitors and locals alike, from a wider geographic area and a higher income demographic."

Pagosa already has one "upscale" restaurant in the downtown area: the Alley House Grille, at 214 Pagosa Street.  I ate there once, on a lark — and found the food excellent, and the prices well beyond the normal contents of my wallet.  But I often see a fair number of luxury cars parked outside the Alley House when I happen to drive by during the evening, so I am guessing the restaurant is popular with Pagosa's "higher income demographic."

How many "upscale" restaurants can Pagosa support?

And perhaps an equally interesting question, considering the "historic preservation" issues facing the Town Council last Wednesday: how does the Alley House Grille continue to thrive — without a parking lot?

468 Lewis is one of the 16 shops, churches and homes listed in the "Downtown Historic Buildings Walking Tour."  The tour includes downtown Pagosa's most architecturally significant "historic buildings" — but only nine of those buildings were built prior to 1920, and several were not built until after 1935.

devore home pagosa springs lewis street

The walking tour includes only three buildings in the 400 block of Lewis Street, even though that whole block is considered part of Pagosa's "Downtown Historic District."  So it might seem that very few of the buildings, up or down the street from 468 Lewis, are historically important.

One of the buildings that is not historically important sits next door to 468 Lewis: The Devore Home, at 480 Lewis.

In Part Two, on Friday, I shared a quote from a local historian who claimed that the Devore Home had previously been known as the Strawn Hotel, and had also been home to an early political figure in Pagosa's history.  I also posted a photograph he'd sent me, supposedly showing the original log structure that was later sided with more "modern" materials.  Further research into the history of Lewis Street suggests to me that the Strawn Hotel was located farther east on Lewis Street, possibly at the location of the present day Momentum 24/7 exercise studio.  My historian friend, who sent me several additional photos of the Strawn Hotel, admits to some confusion on the matter.

So we ask ourselves: was the Devore Home an historically significant structure, worthy of preservation?  Or is it best to simply tear it down and build a parking lot?

History can certainly be baffling, and bewildering.  As the recent Presidential election has shown us, there is considerable confusion about what, exactly, Barack Obama accomplished between 2008 and 2012.  How much more complicated, then, to try and determine if any significant events took place in the very modest Devore Home during the late 1800s?

What is less complicated, perhaps, is to determine if the general architectural character of the Devore Home "contributes" to the overall historic allure of Lewis Street.  That's how government preservation boards make their decisions nowadays, I've come to understand. 

"Is the Devore Home a 'contributing building'?"

The simple answer is, "No," according to a report by Durango architect Michael Bell.  Mr. Bell has been involved in several historic preservation projects in the Durango area, including the Rico Courthouse, the Hesperus Library, and the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Roundhouse.

Mr. Bell inspected the Devore Home on October 10 and submitted an "Historic Assessment" to HTI Builders, the Pagosa company representing Dave Stuard in Mr. Stuard's attempts to demolish the Devore Home as part of his proposed restaurant project.  Mr. Bell noted that the home was built circa 1890, but found that nearly every detail of its original (presumably "historic") architecture had been replaced with more modern features, or else simply removed.

You can read the full five-page Assessment by clicking here.

This, from the conclusions in Mr. Bell's report on the Devore Home:

In my opinion the possibility of this structure ever being restored to its original state would be economically improbable.  My guess is that it would take several hundred thousands of dollars that would have to be invested to restore this structure and I do not believe anyone is going to make such an investment.  I believe the residence is not selling today because a buyer would have to invest too much additional new money in order to bring the residence into code compliance and make it aesthetically attractive to rent or be occupied by the owner.
Therefore, my conclusion is that the Devore Residence should be allowed to be demolished in order to make way for new development...

Read Part Four...


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