Colorado’s pacesetting role in historic preservation and gentility began with town founder George Griffith, who brought his wife and family to “George’s Town.” Griffith encouraged other families to settle by offering free town lots to respectable women. The ladies fancied and encouraged painted houses, gardens, churches, schools, an opera house, and other refinements. Georgetowners established four fire-hose companies to protect their buildings.
From a peak population of some 3,300 in the 1880s, Georgetown dwindled to an all-time low of 301 in 1950. A private preservation group formed in 1970, Historic Georgetown, Inc., worked with the town to enact one of Colorado’s first and toughest local preservation ordinances. To keep development from creeping up the surrounding mountainsides, the town in the 1980s bought out a condominium developer preparing to build on the south side of town. Since 1970 Georgetown has lost few of its 211 19th-century structures in the downtown historic district and matched nearly $3 million in SHF funding to remain Colorado’s preservation queen.
Georgetown projects that have received State Historical Fund grants include the Hamill House, the Hotel de Paris, Alpine Hose No. 2, the Mahany House, Grace Episcopal Church and the Snetzer Building, among others. Grace Episcopal Church received a Stephen H. Hart Award from the Colorado Historical Society in 2006 for their outstanding work in restoring the neighboring Snetzer Building. The Snetzer, now used as a public meeting space and parish hall, was an enormous project for the very small congregation which consists of 15 people on most Sundays, and 24 during summer months.
The neighboring town of Silver Plume, part of the Georgetown/Silver Plume Historic District, has received more than $402,000 from the State Historical Fund to restore their Small Town Hall, Large Town Hall, the Blanton Building and Silver Plume Schoolhouse. People for Silver Plume, Inc. also received a Stephen H. Hart Award this year for its outstanding commitment to preserving the town’s historic resources.
The SHF has also provided funding for the Georgetown Loop Railroad, to preserve and restore the railroad cars and locomotives and replace the famous truss bridge.
Snetzer Building/Grace Hall
414 Taos St.
Built: 1867, Cassius Clay, builder
Grace Episcopal Church matched the SHF’s $74,940 to remove the stucco skin and restore the wood siding and false front, and glass storefront underneath, even recovering the old parapet sign, “Jacob Snetzer, Tailor.” Snetzer resided in this building from 1876 to 1913, followed by a family who stored and sold antiques. More about the Snetzer building
Silver Plume Schoolhouse/George Rowe Museum
139 Main St.
Built: 1894, William Quayle, architect
One of Denver’s, and later San Diego’s, leading architects designed this Romanesque monument to public education. After its closing as the Silver Plume School in 1959, town mayor George Rowe purchased the five-room school and converted it into a museum in 1960. Thirty-five years later, People for Silver Plume, Inc., matched $50,000 from the SHF to restore the exterior masonry and portals, install an alarm system, update the electrical system, install a water tap, clean and repair chimneys, and repair interior water damage.
Georgetown Loop Railroad
10 Mountain St.
Built: 1884, Jacob Blickensderfer, engineer
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a 1984 reconstruction of the famed Georgetown–Silver Plume narrow-gauge line. The Colorado Historical Society, which reconstructed and owns the line, used $154,990 from the SHF to remove a stressed girder narrow-gauge railroad bridge and to replace it with a replica of the original truss bridge. Besides addressing a safety issue, the new bridge is more historically accurate. A cash match of $175,000 from ISTEA (Intermodel Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) further facilitated this replica of the 1884 truss bridge. More than 100,000 visitors a year take this trip into the past, and a million more have seen it while stuck in traffic jams on I-70.