Monday, April 16, 2012

Grain Elevator

Every time an old building is torn down, a little piece of our heritage dies.

Or so they say. On a basic level I agree with that, but the sentiment is so corny it makes me cringe.

Yet it brings me to the topic of a 109-year-old grain elevator in my town. This grain elevator ceased operations back in the 1950s. Today it's a rickety old thing; ramshackle is too polite a word. It is said to be structurally unsound, and inhabited mostly by bats and raccoons.

People here like it, though. It's one of those curios you point out to visitors. It sits alongside railroad tracks that pass through our little berg. Experts say it has a "high degree of historical integrity" because there are no additions to the original structure, and it's had few alterations since it was built in 1903.

But alas: we are hearing unhappy reports that it may not last through the coming summer. The grain elevator sits on land owned by a family that wants to sell, but the dilapidated old building is holding up the sale. Demolishing it may be the most cost-effective way for them to proceed.

In March, city officials issued a stay on demolition. The stay expires in July. Prevailing sentiment appears to lean toward saving the thing.

A recent newspaper article said my town is "one of the more aggressive cities in Colorado when it comes to preserving its historic buildings." That may bode well for the grain elevator. It didn't do anything for a local middle school, though, when the school district ignored a public outcry over plans (now completed) to replace the school's old facade.

The grain elevator is "an iconic link to our agricultural past," according to a guy on the local Historic Preservation Commission. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It does not, however, have historic landmark status. I'm not sure what that distinction means, and in the end it may not make a difference. They'll do what they want to do.

No matter how this plays out, the building obviously won't last a whole lot longer in its present state. I do hope we're able to hang on to this bit of the past for a few more years. As one of the building's advocates said, "Voters clearly want the historic character of the city to be preserved."

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