Old Town Park City goes Technicolor
July 29, 2006
When Vincent and Benetta Zabarti came to America from Spain in the early 1900s, they landed at Ellis Island and headed west, eventually ending up at 187 Daly Avenue in a white house with green trim.
The miner and his wife ultimately left the home to their son, Alfonco Martinez, who continued in his step father’s footsteps by becoming a miner himself and by repainting the house white and with a green trim.
It was Martinez’s son, Richard, who finally broke the chain. He became a miner, as did Richard’s son and grandson, but when he and his wife Leona repainted the home they wanted something a little different purple.
"Our house was always green and white, so when we started to remodel Leona said she wanted something bright," Richard said. "The city said they didn’t want any odd colors, but when we took it to them they just said ‘Well, we certainly don’t think they’ll be another house on the street with that paint job.’"
Richard said he was surprised at how easy it was to get the color approved, but was also surprised at the other regulations on homes in Old Town.
"The city has criteria they use when you have an old miner’s house," he said. "The windows have to be wood. The doors have to either be 6-pane or 9-pane. The paint was actually the only thing they didn’t object to. But the code is a good thing because it keeps the architecture so you can see what the old miners’ houses looked like."
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With the regulations Park City has had on house color in the past, Richard said it was likely the public’s desire for more color that prompted the change in philosophy. Park City Senior Planner Brooks Robinson said the city was just tired of being the paint police.
"We like color," he said. "We take kind of the general philosophy that you’ll have to repaint it in a few years, so if you don’t like it, or your neighbors don’t like it and they complain, then you can change it. We’ve kind of changed from wanting only wanting earth-toned, monotonous colors to wanting more variety.
"At a city level there was a feeling that we were being too much of the taste police. With all the browns and tans everything was starting to look the same."
Any construction in Old Town still requires a Historic District design review, but Robinson said it’s rare that the board rejects a project based on color, although it happens.
"We have rejected colors if it’s too much, too bright on a large building," he said.
He said that if a large building, such as the Summit Watch building, were to be painted a bright, outstanding color that they might kindly suggest something else.
"Larger buildings you probably want to have toned down with a color that’s not as bright," he said. "Plus, if you put a bright color on, it fades quicker with the UV rays we get at this elevation."
In Old Town, the Planning Department "strongly suggests" bringing in a sample of a house’s paint, partly so if someone wants to copy the color they know what it is. Also, Robinson said the department wants to make sure there is not a string of houses painted with the same color.
"We prefer to not have houses of the same color one right after another, we kind of discourage that so we can get a change to the rhythm and pattern along the street," he said. "I let people try to paint what they want, but we will give suggestions if someone is trying to decide between three colors or something. You usually don’t want to have more than three colors on a house, but there’s no hard and fast rule on that either."
According to Robinson, the Planning Department is united in wanting to celebrate variety and color in Park City’s homes.
"I think it’s important for the town," Robinson said. "Is it a big deal? No, but celebrating the diversity of our people and our houses and our color is just part of who we are."
Lynn Fey, who owns three homes in Old Town, said the change to color over the last 12 years has been progressive.
"I think I’m one of the first to add color, and when I did that The Park Record put a story in calling it the new face of Old Town, and that one of the reasons the philosophy has changed," she said. "People liked that house."
She also said adding color to homes brings back the style of when the houses were originally built.
"Basically we’ve gone back to the way they were," Fey said. "If you go back and scrape the paint off some of these houses you’ll see that they had a lot of color. It makes it vibrant and alive, more exciting, and historically accurate. I think the Historic District is the heart and soul of Park City and that we preserve the architecture and the paint shows it off."