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The Bunce School
You have already read elsewhere in these pages and perhaps in the Boulder Daily Camera about what one of my friends called the “uproar du jour,” the Bunce School, used from 1888 to 1946 and one of just two remaining one room log school houses in Boulder County. At one time, of course, they were typical. The Allenspark Area Club, headed by David A. Fausset, wanted to move ours from its present location near the Hilltop Guild to a lot across the street from the Allenspark Lodge.
Fortunately, cool heads prevailed and the school will stay where it is, for the moment at least.
But there are questions. Here are some of them:
What was the point of the proposal to the Historic Preservation Advisory Board? The purpose is very vague, as stated in the proposal: to preserve it? By all accounts it’s in good condition. The few repairs that need to be made could more easily and cheaply be made at its present site.
Was the point to use it? The proposal refers to its future use as a “community center.” I suppose that’s reasonable, except we already floated a huge bond issue for our new community building, which isn’t used very much since the Fire Board laid down a huge bunch of rules and procedures designed to keep ordinary taxpayers from using it. But the Bunce School? It would need a few things, like light, heat, bathrooms, a new foundation, sidewalk, parking area. Pretty soon we’ll be talking about real money. Just ask the folks in Estes Park who moved the old National Park Headquarters building.
The proposal also mentions using it as a museum or library. What about the Allenspark collections at Estes Park and in the Carnegie Library in Boulder? Who is going to staff it? How are artifacts to be conserved? We can add humidity and temperature control to our list of renovation needs.
Was the point to safeguard it? The proposal says that even though it’s never been vandalized its remote location makes it vulnerable. This is nonsense. It isn’t any more vulnerable than any other structure in the valley. There’s never been a problem at that site and there’s been plenty of trouble with vandals in Allenspark over the years. If we are going to move it into town and keep valuables in it, with appliances as a community center or with books or valuable artifacts, this old log building would be a sitting duck for thieves.
So none of these reasons seems to make much sense, and we are left to speculate about what the real motive was. Was it, as some have suggested, just the urge to do something good for the community? That’s a very charitable point of view. Maybe too charitable. The fact is that if it were moved, it would be eliminated from the National Register of historic buildings.
If the urge was to do something good, why was the Fire Board, which owns the building, not consulted? Why was the owner of the proposed new site not consulted before the proposal was made? The result was money, yours and mine, spent by the State and County to produce a 20 page staff document which recommends, even without input from the Fire Board or the land owner, that the request be denied. The Advisory Board agreed, 6 to 0. You can blame this waste of time and money on the government if you like, but you would be incorrect. The government is required to respond to proposals, be they good, bad or indifferent. You can draw your own conclusions on the merits of this one.
I have more questions, but they are probably better left unasked. It would be unfair to speculate further about why Mr. Fausset wanted to move the old Bunce School to a lot just across from the Allenspark Lodge. Let’s just say it’s very puzzling.
It’s time to move on. While this idea may have been a lemon, we should nevertheless thank the Area Club for bringing it up, because it gives us an opportunity to make lemonade. The staff at the Land Use Department recommends that the Fire District pursue local landmark designation. The building is full of history even though it stands empty. So, if the Area Club wants a project, why not set about restoring the building, tracking down or replicating furniture, recording the memories of some of its students, etc.? There are still a number of its students about who can tell us what it looked like, including the mayor of Estes Park. Restore it to about 1935, or maybe 1946, when it finally closed. The nearby Hilltop Guild has many skilled members who might want to help. We have a number of people who can help replace the few logs that have deteriorated.
All of us, once a list is compiled, can look for the items for the interior. The WIND will be happy to publish such a list and to publicize any aspect of the project. The Estes Park Museum would be glad to give us advice -- they have experience with this kind of restoration. Once it’s done, we can put up a sign during the tourist season and staff it with volunteers to show it to travelers on the Peak to Peak highway. Total cost? Not very much, especially if we get a grant (up to $100,000) from the Colorado Historical Society. Total return? Priceless.
I hear people complain that this community can’t get together on anything. Well, here’s our chance.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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