Read Part One
As we learned at the end of yesterday's installment, architectural expert Michael Bell recommended that the Devore Residence "should be allowed to be demolished in order to make way for new development," following his inspection of the house on October 10.
But that was not Mr. Bell's only conclusion in his recent report for developer Dave Stuard. His report ends this way:
Therefore, my conclusion is that the Devore Residence should be allowed to be demolished in order to make way for new development. With this conclusion I would recommend the following suggestions to the Historic Preservation Board.
1. A photographic history of the residence should be created including floor plans and a site plan of the current property and residence. This history could be stored at the local library for future reference.
2. If this property is to become a parking lot that a new and well landscaped and lighting site plan should be submitted to the Town of Pagosa Springs for review and approval.
3. If the existing storage shed is to remain on site that a new and appropriate remodeled exterior in keeping with the historic vernacular of the neighborhood should be required.
This concludes my observations and recommendations of the Devore Residence. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask. I thank you for this opportunity to contribute my opinions to this interesting but unfortunate historic structure.
Apparently, this interesting but unfortunate historic structure has been listed for sale for about two years. A Google search this morning brought up this real estate listing, showing the property available at an asking price of $199,900.
Following the receipt of Mr. Bell's report, members of the Historic Preservation Board (HPB) toured the Devore Home and came to a similar conclusion: the Devore Home was not a "contributing structure" in the historic landscape of Lewis Street. That conclusion was likely influenced by the appearance of the Devore Home's interior, which might be classified as "1950s Working Class Vernacular". Another photo from this morning's web search, showing the living room appointed in plywood wall paneling, acoustic tile ceiling, and shag carpeting. The original wood-framed windows have been replaced with aluminum-framed windows:
The Historic Preservation Board, however, disagreed ever so slightly with Mr. Bell's recommendations, concerning the "historic preservation" of a demolished building. Where Mr. Bell had proposed three steps to preserving a modicum of historic meaning — a photographic history, a well landscaped parking lot, and a remodeled storage shed — the HPB took things a bit further, and recommended to the Town Council that developer Dave Stuard, in return for permission to demolish the Devore Home, be required to meet the following conditions... at his own expense:
1. Document the history of the Devore Home as it is now and during demolition and findings of the former historic structure with mapping, plans and photographic records.
2. Provide an interpretive space to highlight the history of the site, preferably in the planting area along the sidewalk where the building once stood.
3. Archive oral and written history to be produced and made available to the public at the Public Library and San Juan Historical Society Museum.
4. Adaptive re-use of historically significant materials from the demolished building and of the previous adobe structure foundation to be undertaken and materials be reused and retained on site.
I'm certainly not an expert on "historic preservation" by any stretch of the imagination... but I might suggest I've become reasonably familiar with government decision-making over the past eight years as an investigative reporter for the Daily Post. In my experience, government boards and commissions in Archuleta County occasionally overstep their authority in an well-meaning effort to achieve certain economic and social goals. From that perspective, I would have to classify the Historic Preservation Board's recommendations, regarding the Devore Home demolition, as an inappropriate expansion of the HPB's mission.
Apparently, developer Dave Stuard had a similar reaction to the requirements with which the HPB hoping to saddle him. According to what I heard at last Wednesday's Town Council meeting, Mr. Stuard offered to pay up to $1,500 if the Historic Preservation Board wanted to spend that money on photographic records, oral and written histories, and informational signs — but he wanted the HPB to handle all the documentation work.
The Historic Preservation Board reacted to that offer by reaffirming to the Town Council that Mr. Stuard ought to carry out the documentation work himself — or else pay up to $25,000 if he wanted the volunteer HPB to coordinate the proposed documentation and display effort.
The Town Council, upon hearing the two sides of the argument last week, wasn't quite sure how to proceed. They approved the demolition of the Devore Home, but asked the HPB to continue negotiating with Mr. Stuard concerning the proposed historic documentation and signage.Surely, they could come up with an agreeable number, somewhere between $1500 and $25,000?
According to the documents presented to the Town Council, it appears that Mr. Stuard will be paying about $122,000 for the Devore Home. He will then spend some money demolishing the old house, and more money constructing and paving a parking lot with tricky access problems. On top of those expenses, Mr. Stuard is planning to spend a rather large sum remodeling a former furniture store at 468 Lewis into an upscale restaurant — not an inexpensive proposition.
On top of that, our volunteer Historic Preservation Board is now asking that Mr. Stuard be required to spend up to $25,000 documenting and celebrating a run-down building that everyone agrees has no historic value whatsoever.
Photo of the 400 block of Lewis Street as it now appears, with the pink-and-white Devore Home left of center, and the proposed "Lewis Street" restaurant building right of center. Photo courtesy HTI Builders.
Artist rendering of the street with the parking lot installed in place of the Devore Home. Drawing courtesy HTI Builders.
I've lived in Pagosa Springs for about 20 years, within about three blocks of the Devore Home. In those 20 years, I have never come across anyone wandering down Lewis Street with a "Walking Tour" map in their hands, remarking on the historic quality of the streetscape. Fact is, Lewis Street has no historic quality to speak of. Most of the buildings are architecturally unremarkable and date from 1940 or later. The architecture is a total mishmash, including everything from "Brick Postal Service Vernacular" to "Two Story Adobe Vernacular" to "Metal Sided 1990s Vernacular". Although the street was once filled with buildings dating from the 1890s, they were all torn down long ago, except for the three noted in the Downtown Historic District documentation. No one was ever asked to "document" the old buildings that were demolished, or to place historic markers at their former locations.
So what the Historic Preservation Board is demanding of Mr. Stuard has no precedent in Pagosa Springs, and has no relationship whatsoever with the way Lewis Street has evolved over the past 20 years. In other words, what the HPB is asking of Mr. Stuard is — to put it simply — non-historical.
Why, then, did the Town Council accept the HPB recommendations?
Read Part Five...