Survey evaluation process begins for Meeker Historic District proposal

MEEKER I The survey and evaluation nomination process for the Meeker National Historic District designation has begun and will continue for the next 24 months.

Carl McWilliams, a renowned historical consultant from Fort Collins has been contracted by the Town of Meeker in cooperation with the Rio Blanco County Historical Society (RBCHS) National Historic District Task Force (NHDTF) to provide a turnkey evaluation, research, consulting and nomination effort. The project will eventually result in a nomination and designation of the historic downtown Meeker area as a National Historic District.
McWilliams recently arrived in Meeker and began collecting data on the approximately 48 structures, including private residences, businesses and government-owned buildings that have been identified as eligible by History Colorado’s Office of Archeological and Historic Preservation (OAHP) for designation on the State of Colorado and on the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service register of National Historic Places.
McWilliams met with NHDTF members Jan Oldland, Brian Conrado, Ellene Meece, Avis Loshbaugh, Kay and Bob Bivens and Bob Amick for a detailed oral history interview and discussion (which was recorded on video) on the origin and evolution of historic structures and their owners within the proposed district.
Future meetings will involve many Meeker citizens and members of pioneer families who were a part of the origin of Meeker dating back to the 1880s. Anyone wishing to participate on the NHDTF is most welcome. See contact information below.
History Colorado’s State Historical Fund Director Steve W. Turner, AIA, announced in January that the Town of Meeker, in collaboration with the RBCHS National Historic District Task Force was awarded a grant of $21,262. The grant provides funding to commission McWilliams to initiate an extensive evaluation of historic Meeker structures located within the identified boundaries of the proposed district and to subsequently prepare a nomination for creation of a National Historic District to be submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.
The Freeman E. Fairfield Charitable Trust has also generously provided the required 25 percent matching funding in the amount of $7,088 for the total sum of $28,350 necessary to initiate the evaluation and nomination process.
Due to the extensive number of detailed evaluation documents, oral interviews and research of historic records necessary to corroborate the origin and subsequent lineage of the structures, it is estimated that the full process culminating in a historic district nomination will require approximately 24 months with the Town of Meeker and the NHDTF to develop milestones and comply with the strict guidelines and deadlines for such documentation required by History Colorado and the National Park Service.
In 2009, the Town of Meeker commissioned the University of Colorado at Denver College of Architecture and Planning to conduct an extensive evaluation of potential historic structures within the city limits, funded by a History Colorado State Historical Fund grant. The university contracted the architectural firm of Susannah Reid Associates to document and complete that study.
The study will serve as a basis for the current evaluation process. Acting on that information, History Colorado’s OAHP conducted an evaluation of the downtown historic area in 2013 and identified an eligible potential historic district, which commences from Third Street on the east through Eighth Street on the west, bounded by Park Street on the north and Main Street on the south.
Future steps will include setting up meetings with property owners of eligible private residences and commercial or government-owned historic structures to discuss the benefits and advantages of designating their property as historic places within the proposed historic district.
Participation is totally optional and at the discretion of the property owner.
 There are significant benefits and opportunities such as State Historical Fund and other philanthropic foundation grant funding for restoration of the exterior of such structures to their original historic appearances as well as tax credits and national recognition on websites and travel publications that can enhance property values.
The project also comports with and enhances the Better City’s downtown redevelopment and improvement efforts now underway.
Due to the strong interest of domestic and international tourists from Asia, Europe, Australia, et al, in Old West Heritage Culture Center, a greatly increased attraction to such visitors is highly likely with significant revenue generation possibilities.
Tourism is the largest economic engine in Colorado, and heritage tourism is a substantial part of such revenue generation.
These and many other details will be presented to interested property owners once the project commences with the consultant and task force members. It should be noted that eligible historic structures outside of the boundaries of the proposed historic district may also be eligible for designation as a state and/or national historic place with similar advantages.
An allied interest is evaluating historic agricultural structures such as barns and ranch homes or other historic structures which may also be eligible for designation as historic places with resultant eligibility for grant funding for historic restoration.
There are currently three historic structures designated as National Historic Places within the city limits of Meeker which include St. James Episcopal Church, the historic Meeker Hotel and, most recently, the old IOOF Hall (Odd Fellows Building), now owned by the Mountain Valley Bank.
The historic Coal Creek School on County Road 6 was designated as a National Historic Place in 2014 and is the recipient of a History Colorado State Historical Fund grant to the RBCHS for $132,728 along with 25 percent matching funds from various local organizations to renovate and restore the structure, a project now underway. Other designated National Historic Places in Rio Blanco County may be seen at: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Register_of_Historic_Places_listings_in_Rio_Blanco_County,_Colorado
There are approximately 110 National Historic Districts in various Colorado cities and towns that have been shown to enhance heritage tourism and, thus, improve  economic development and related  benefits to those rural and urban communities.
For more information please contact the RBCHS at 970-878-9982 or email amick@colorado.edu.