An effort to better recognize and highlight the historic buildings remaining from Golden’s time as Colorado’s second capitol city is gaining momentum — although the leader of that effort says …
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An effort to better recognize and highlight the historic buildings remaining from Golden’s time as Colorado’s second capitol city is gaining momentum — although the leader of that effort says it likely will no longer involve the creation of a new formal historic district.
Local historian Richard Gardner was the first to go to the Golden Landmarks Association, a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving and highlighting Golden history that he is a board member of, with the idea of creating a new historic district to highlight the buildings.
Golden served as the Colorado territory’s capital from 1862 to 1867, and there are at least 29 buildings in the city remaining from that period (there is some dispute about when three other buildings were constructed and whether they also date back to the period). The GLA later brought the idea to the city’s Historic Preservation Board, which has the authority to initiate the creation of new historic districts.
“This was an era of high status for Golden, when we were a leading city helping shape the state we now know,” wrote Gardner in an email to the Golden Transcript explaining his idea. “These remaining places represent what a territorial capital of Colorado was like, dispersed throughout the living city they helped create in the state they helped give rise to.”
Gardner says Golden is unique among the three cities that served as capitals of the Colorado territory prior to it becoming a state in 1876. The other two cities (Denver and Colorado City, which is now a neighborhood in Colorado Springs) have few buildings left from their territorial capital periods in comparison.
Earlier this year Golden conducted a formal study of what it considers the 32 buildings dating from the territorial capital period to begin to look into whether the creation of a historic district would be appropriate.
That study found that many of the buildings lack “historic integrity,” a requirement for the creation of a historic district that refers to the buildings ability to convey its historical importance through qualities like its design and workmanship. Many have been “significantly altered over time.” the study found that all but four of the buildings are part of one of Golden’s three historic districts and are subjected to protection rules as a result. GLA President Bill Litz said he is unsure what protections apply to those four buildings but said he believes they also have at least some protections.
Following that study, the city conducted an online survey about the public’s interest in the creation of a historic district or other preservation steps. The survey, taken 26 times, showed that nearly 80.7% of respondents were in favor of creating a new district. The survey also found that three of the four respondents who said they own a building in the district were also in favor.
The most popular protection measure listed by the survey respondents was to have the city create an overlay district that would apply additional zoning and preservation standards to the 32 capitol-era buildings.
A majority of property owners in the proposed district would need to OK its creation.
A third question about how to best provide opportunities to learn about the properties found a majority of respondents favored the creation of a published walking tour.
During a Historic Preservation Board meeting on Jan. 4, a majority of the board’s members expressed support for taking steps to highlight the district but said they did not feel it made sense to start the process to formally create a new district. They also expressed support for taking steps to get the four buildings not already in a historic district listed for historical preservation individually if such protections are still necessary.
Following the meeting, GLA President Bill Litz told the Golden Transcript that while the GLA may still consider options for creating an official district that would be recognized by the state rather than just the city, his organization has turned its attention toward efforts to highlight the buildings and the history of the territorial capital era in Golden through the creation of a walking tour that will be accessible via a mobile phone app.
Those efforts, he said, are ultimately what matters to the GLA, not getting hung up on district designations.
“A lot of historic districts are just historic districts because (of) its 12 historic homes,” he said. “In this particular case, this is more of a story of what Golden was, and the fact that Golden has more structures left of its territorial days which leaves us in a unique situation to tell a story. And if it doesn’t quite fit the district nomenclature then it doesn’t but this about the idea and the story more than having nine houses in a two-block area.”
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