By Ed Fincher
The DeVore House, the two-story white and pink building located at 480 Lewis St., situated within the Pagosa Springs Historical District, was found to be a “non-contributing structure” by the Historic Preservation Board at a special meeting held Oct. 31, clearing the way for a potential developer to demolish it and turn the site into a parking lot for a proposed restaurant next door.
The structure itself is not a designated historical building; it just happens to be located within the historic district and, according to section 8.6.3 of the town’s Land Use and Development Code, a building within the historic district can be considered non-contributing if it has a, “complete loss of integrity due to deterioration or modification beyond recognition of historic elements.”
During an earlier on-site inspection conducted by the HPB on Oct. 3, Tor Hessman, president of HTI Builders and the representative for potential buyer David Stuard, showed board members the crawl space where the original rubble foundation could still be seen, and the one small section of fired adobe brick wall in a closet under the staircase — all that remains of the original construction.
According to a report by R. Michael Bell, an architect from Durango who specializes in historical restorations, and who was hired to provide the HPB with an impartial third-party assessment of the existing physical condition of the building, “While the DeVore Residence is old, historically constructed about 1890, it may not be historically significant any longer due to the many updates, remodels and changes to the original structure.”
Jill Seyfarth and Donna Graves, in a historical buildings survey prepared for the Town of Pagosa Springs in May 2002, reported, “This residence was originally an adobe structure, probably built in 1893 by H. C. Cooper. Cooper was a cowboy who worked as a blacksmith for the Ute Agency in Ignacio, CO, though he also had a shop in Pagosa Springs. After a series of owners it passed to Charles and Richard DeVore (formerly of Lamar, CO) in 1945, who had a grocery store downstairs, and lived upstairs. Richard DeVore married Violet Anderson in 1947 and this residence became their home. Richard (Dick) was the postmaster from 1951 to 1989, and Violet taught school in Pagosa Springs for 34 years.”
In a letter to the HPB, Violet DeVore wrote, “Dick and I thought we would spend the rest of our lives in this home; however, our plans were changed in 2010 when our grown daughter, Christine, was diagnosed by the Mayo clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, with a fatal illness and could no longer live alone.”
Mrs. DeVore ’s letter went on to describe the hardships the house has caused her — no offers to buy, no renters, and $6,700 spent on property taxes and maintenance — and concluded, “Dick passed away Aug. 6, 2012, leaving me the sole owner of the property in Pagosa. This is creating quite a financial hardship and we ask that you please give great consideration in allowing the demolition of the property.”
Pam Barsanti, of Jim Smith Realty, explained to the HPB how long the property has been on the market, how much its value has been reduced over time, and how no offers have been made on the property until now. In July 2009, it went on the market for $364,900 but currently the county has it appraised at $122,210. It has remained vacant since the DeVore Family moved to Arizona.
Hessman explained Stuard’s plan for the property. “The DeVore home located at 480 Lewis Street has been identified as a potential asset to the development of the proposed ‘Lewis Street Fine Dining and Spirits’ restaurant, to be located at 468 Lewis Street.”
The property next door to the DeVore house, 468 Lewis St., is the old San Juan Supply Building, and it is designated as part of the Pagosa Springs Historic Walking Tour. Redeveloping that structure into a fine dining establishment involves a separate permit process.
“The high caliber of this new restaurant will draw to the downtown area visitors, tourists and locals alike, from a wider geographic area and a higher income demographic,” Hessman continued. “The business owner recognizes the need for parking in the immediate downtown area and the lack of required parking for his restaurant per the LUDC. He has proposed a visually stimulating parking area through the use of trees, landscaping, and lighting to accentuate the atmosphere of downtown.”
At the Oct. 31 meeting, HPB member Andre Redstone, after an hour’s worth of discussion and exploration of various aspects of the issue (mostly centered around the need to make sure this was recognized as a special circumstance and could not be pointed to as a precedent in future cases), finally made the motion to approve, “a recommendation for town council to approve the demolition of the DeVore Home located at 480 Lewis Street, finding that the structure is a non-contributing structure within the Historic District, with the following conditions.”
Redstone’s motion, which was seconded and then unanimously approved by HPB members Chrissy Karas, Judy James and Wendy Sutton (Twila Brown and Jeff Greer were absent from this meeting) went on to contain the following five conditions for the developer:
1). Document the history of the DeVore Home as it is now and during demolition and findings of the former adobe structure with mapping, plans and photographic records.
2). Provide an interpretive space to highlight the history of the site, preferably in the planting area along the sidewalk where the building once stood.
3). Archive the oral and written history to be produced and made available to the public at the Public Library and the San Juan Historical Society Museum.
4). Adaptive re-use of historically significant materials from the demolished building and of the previous adobe structure foundation be undertaken and any such materials be reused and retained on site.
5). Implementation, retention and maintenance of approved redevelopment landscaping (enforceable under the LUDC).
This week’s town council meeting was moved from Tuesday night to Wednesday at 5 p.m. because of the Nov. 6 election, so it occurred after the SUN’s deadline but before press time. However, the DeVore demolition and the HPB’s recommendation were on the meeting’s agenda.