June 14 editorial
This Saturday, residents and visitors will have a chance to honor some of the city’s unsung heroes the property owners, architects and contractors who specialize in restoration of historic structures. Today is the annual Park City Historic Home Tour.
Let’s face it, building a spanking new house complete with cable TV outlets and walk-in closets is a lot easier than restoring a century-old foundation-less house with one wall plug and one ceramic light-bulb outlet per room. And don’t even think about closets.
Miraculously, though, Park City has been blessed with a handful of history buffs with the patience and passion to restore some of the original turn-of-the-century structures that give Old Town its unique charm.
Don’t ask us why they do it. In addition to basic structural and building code challenges, anyone who wants to earn official Historic Register status faces strict limitations when trying to adapt an old miner’s shack to a modern lifestyle. Then there are the vagaries of the city’s complex (some would say ‘draconian’) Historic District Guidelines.
It is, therefore, remarkable that one can still walk up streets in Old Town and find homes and commercial buildings dating from the early 1900s.
The building owners, of course, deserve most of the credit. But over the years City Hall has offered incentives in the form of a grant program designed to match the owners’ investments in exterior restorations of their historic buildings.
Unfortunately, the city’s commitment to historic preservation has shown signs of slipping. A few years ago, the Historic District Commission, which reviewed demolitions, remodels and new construction in Old Town, was disbanded and replaced by the Historic Preservation Board, a group with limited authority over Old Town projects. Demolitions have become more frequent. Old Town residents recently voiced angry protests over what they saw as the callous destruction of century-old buildings on Hillside Avenue.
Saving historic buildings is more than just a sentimental gesture. In an area that relies heavily on tourism, the town’s mining history is a major draw. Visitors still ask about the Silver Mine Adventure nine years after it closed.
Today’s historic home tour is a chance to celebrate some glorious survivors of that mining area. We hope we’re still celebrating 20 or 30 years from now.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.