Haunted by history

City: Renovating historic properties not as hard as people may think

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
Lincoln Jarrett, a musician and carpenter, wants to restore his rental at 262 East Third Avenue, but he worries he may be stymied by historical-preservation rules. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald Lincoln Jarrett, a musician and carpenter, wants to restore his rental at 262 East Third Avenue, but he worries he may be stymied by historical-preservation rules.

A musician and carpenter, Lincoln Jarrett beats the high costs of modern life by renting historic properties, but the downside is that he is often a prisoner of the past, bound by a perception that preservation rules discourage simple upkeep and maintenance, he said.

In Hartford, Conn., Jarrett lived on the same street, Farmington Avenue, as the Victorian mansion where Mark Twain worked on many novels such as Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

In Telluride, he shared a house that was one of the city’s original medical buildings. Its basement served as a makeshift morgue during a plague in the early 1900s.

Jarrett currently lives in a local landmark at the southern end of East Third Avenue. Built in 1898, the home is representative of “simply designed” homes of the time period with a steeply pitched gable roof, a paneled and glazed door, and double-hung windows, according to city records.

Because large historical homes are often subdivided into smaller apartments, their rents are affordable, but Jarrett also must put up with ghosts and a past resistant to change.

Ed Kruse, the owner of Jarrett’s current home at 262 E. Third Ave., said residents have often told him the house is haunted, but Jarrett said living above a morgue in Telluride was much creepier.

The Third Avenue home has a less macabre history as a home for railroad and smelter workers and a pool hall owner named Todocia Dominguez, according to Kruse and city records.

Jarrett, the singer and bass player for a “Rocky Mountain reggae band” called A-Dub Rock, said he loves the house and location overlooking Smelter Mountain. Its lack of side windows allows his band to practice without disturbing the neighbors.

The 23-foot-wide house almost fills up the 25-foot-wide lot. It “almost touches the house to the north,” according to a description by the Colorado Historical Society.

As a handyman, the native Jamaican would be happy to make simple repairs around the house, but he said he was discouraged by preservation rules intended to protect the buildings’ original character.

“In my country of Jamaica, we like where we live to be nice. I look at this place, I think it needs a paint job, (I should) redo all this stuff,” he said.

Tree roots appear to be pushing up the pavement in front the house, but he was told by another tenant he would have to “inform some people” before he started any work.

So he did not bother, although he realizes his attitude was formed by his experiences on the East Coast rather than any interaction with the city of Durango.

“I went through this in Connecticut. In Connecticut, it’s a real process,” he said. “You can’t do nothing. So I just used my imagination, and I didn’t even pursue it (in Durango).”

As one of the residents of Jarrett’s old Hartford neighborhood might have put it, the stringency of preservation regulation is greatly exaggerated.

“I think in most cases, perception of the process is much different than the reality,” said Vicki Vandegrift, a senior planner for Durango.

“I can tell you that the Historical Preservation Board would certainly allow work on a property to repair the foundation, also to remove the cause of the problem,” she said.

Vandegrift said much work can be done “administratively” and approved at the counter at City Hall.

“This may be the case with the foundation work,.It will depend on what they need to do to fix the problem,” she said. “There is no fee associated with a (historic preservation) review, and the one-page application form is very simple.”

In his dealing with the city, Kruse, the property owner, he said he was frustrated when he wanted to a put a metal roof on the house, “but metal roofing is not approved in the historic district, even though every house on that last block of Third Avenue has metal roofing.”

“If I was doing it myself, I would have just done the metal roofing,” Kruse said. “Since I hired a contractor, he did not want a mark on his license.”

The city’s concern was that the snow from a metal roof would slide onto the neighbors’ property given the proximity, Vandegrift said.

Because historic guidelines do not support a modern style of roofing, these projects cannot be approved in-house or administratively, but certain kinds of metal roofs might be allowed after a review process, Vandegrift said.

Because asphalt shingles were preapproved for the house, the contractor could begin work immediately. The applicant did not “apply for a different roofing material,” Vandegrift said.

The house also has some unoriginal “aluminum siding. Underneath it is shingle siding. It really would be prettier if you took all that stuff off,” Kruse said.

Overall, though, “the house is solid, a lot more solid than you would think,” Kruse said.

If there is major work to be done, it is “possible for the property owner to receive tax credits for rehabilitating a historic home,” Vandegrift said.

It’s a 20 percent credit on state income taxes up to $50,000, Vandegrift said.

Since 1995, 21 historic property owners in Durango have taken advantage of the incentive, including three homeowners on East Third Avenue who are currently rehabilitating properties. One of the homeowners is removing asbestos.

Vandegrift encourages people to apply for the tax-credit incentive. The preservation board “loves to approve them,” she said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
Damage to the front steps of a historic house at 262 East Third Avenue may be from tree roots. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald Damage to the front steps of a historic house at 262 East Third Avenue may be from tree roots.

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
The historic front entrance to the house. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald The historic front entrance to the house.

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
The roof of the historic house is close to the neighboring home. The proximity snuffed out an earlier effort to replace the shingle roof with a metal one. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald The roof of the historic house is close to the neighboring home. The proximity snuffed out an earlier effort to replace the shingle roof with a metal one.

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