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Cabins with a history will see new future

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Zupancis structures get concrete foundations, consultant’s input

Structures dating to the 1880s that were moved from their original location on Main Street to the outskirts of town are being placed on new foundations, as the Aspen Historical Society explores how to best interpret what will eventually become the community’s newest historical exhibit.

A house, shed and barn came with the Zupancis property at 540 E. Main St. when the city acquired it in 2005. A new 18,000-square-foot home for the Aspen Police Department is under construction on the site and is expected to open in the spring.

As the police project was ramping up, officials decided that the best way to preserve the historical structures would be to move them to a new location. They determined that city-owned land around the Holden-Marolt Mining Museum would be the best place to land the structures, and they were moved there in December.

Crews working for Shaw Construction have been digging new foundations for the buildings this summer and poured the concrete this week. The goal is to have the structures sited on the new foundations and ready for winter before the snow starts to fall.

The Aspen Historical Society is working with a historical-buildings consultant on determining how much work the interiors need to ensure safety for a museum exhibit. Another task is to determine what historical stories the society wants to tell as it brings the cabins on line as an interpretive exhibit, said Lisa Hancock, vice president and curator of collections for the historical society.

Craig Turpin/Aspen Daily News

A construction crew works on a concrete foundation for one of the Zupancis structures. The Aspen Historical Society is exploring how best to display buildings that date to the 1880s. A house, shed and barn were moved from their original site on Main Street to the outskirts of town, and the historical society is planning to make them an interpretive exhibit.

“There are several stories to tell,” she said. “When you see an original cabin from 1885, that is one of the coolest aspects.”

The house was first built in 1888 and later expanded, Hancock said. The sites serve as examples of how Aspenites of the late 19th and early 20th centuries lived. When the Zupancis family sold the land to the city in 2005, the historical society inventoried and took possession of many of the items inside the buildings. Some of those items will be “repatriated” into the restored structures, she said.

In the mid-1880s, the property at the north end of Hunter Street, then owned by the McMurchy family, was considered the outskirts of town. The site was on a bluff overlooking a mining-ore processing operation, which was across the Roaring Fork River near what is now the Oklahoma Flats neighborhood.

Preservationists generally frown upon moving historical structures from their original location. However, in this case, it is fitting that the buildings that were once on the outskirts of town on a bluff overlooking an ore-processing site have been moved to a new site with similar characteristics. The new location of the cabins, chosen in consultation with the city of Aspen’s historic preservation officer, Amy Simon, overlooks the Holden Lixiviation Mill site.

The city and historical society are still awaiting an estimate on restoration costs for the buildings’ interiors. Hancock said she had initially hoped to have the site open in summer 2018, but conceded that might be optimistic.

The last new site the historical society converted into an interpretive exhibit was the Holden-Marolt Mining Museum, located next to the cabins, which came online as a historical society exhibit in 1991, Hancock said.

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