Fort Collins’ Mountain Avenue Historic Home eschews Historic Landmark status

Fort Collins City Council on Tuesday voted against the unintentional historic designation of 528 W. Mountain Ave. – paving the way for its owners to demolish the besieged 136-year-old house.

The fate of the house was on the line for most of this year after Fort Collins residents Jason and Misha Green – who bought it last May – began pursuing plans to demolish the house and replace it with a new construction.

After securing a planning and zoning waiver for the steep roof slope of their new home’s design in March, the Greens’ waiver request initiated a historical review of the existing home on their lot.

By that time, after 136 years in the Old Town, the Little Green House had become one of the oldest houses still standing on Mountain Avenue, as well as a remnant of Fort Collins’ folkloric Victorian architectural style.

Previously:Inside the historic battle for a methamphetamine-tainted home on Mountain Avenue in Fort Collins

As the longtime former home of Fort Collins’ early educators and sisters, Pearl and Jessie Moore, it was also historically significant, the city’s historic preservation commission ruled this summer when it voted on the unanimity in recommending the house to the city council for the designation of a landmark.

Had the house been designated as a landmark, it would have marked the city’s first non-consensual landmark designation of a single property since 1985, when the old Fort Collins Post Office building at 201 S. College Ave., was saved from demolition by an emergency city order.

The historical designation of 528 W. Mountain Ave. also reportedly gave the Greens access to state tax credits, a zero-interest loan program, and grants to make home improvements. However, any exterior alterations, demolition, or new construction on the property should have been reviewed and met national standards for historic properties, going against the family’s plans to build a new home on the land.

To complicate matters, the Moore House had fallen into disrepair over the decades since Pearl and Jessie’s deaths – eventually plagued by foundation and structural issues, sagging floors, rotten walls and an electrical system. dangerous, according to a property disclosure the Greens signed as part of the house’s 2020 sale.

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Although it was not specifically disclosed during the sale, the home tested positive for various levels of meth earlier this year, Jason said during his presentation to council on Tuesday.

“We want to live here and build memories here and celebrate the holidays here. Someday we want our grandchildren to visit us here, ”Jason told council on Tuesday, noting that his and his family’s main concerns were about the potential unknown health risks of living in a home without methamphetamine.

“The more research we have done, the more afraid we are of being forced to live in this house,” he added.

Pearl Moore’s great-granddaughter Joyce Schwarz told Colorado this summer she was shocked to learn of the home’s methamphetamine presence, assuming it could have been from one of the many tenants of property over the years. The house remained in the hands of Pearl Moore’s descendants until 2020, when the Schwarz sisters sold the property to the Greens for $ 425,000, according to Schwarz and Larimer County property records.

Following public comments from 14 people – three in favor of the designation of the house and 11 against – the council voted 4-2 to rescind the designation.

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The house at 528 W. Mountain Ave.  has been closed for months pending a decision on its status as a possible historic building.

Citing health concerns, the structural condition of the house and fears that an unintentional designation may discourage people from buying potentially historic homes in Fort Collins, Mayor Jeni Arndt and council members Julie Pignataro, Shirley Peel and Emily Francis voted against the historic designation.

Board members Kelly Ohlson and Susan Gutowsky voted in favor of his appointment. Board member Tricia Canonico was not present for Tuesday’s meeting.

Almost every council member has spoken of making historic preservation a council priority going forward – hopefully identifying more historic properties before they fall into disrepair and avoiding point designation battles. non-consensual benchmarks like the fight for 528 W. Mountain Ave.

“After nearly two years of considerable worry, expense and delay, we are very pleased with the outcome and look forward to building our home and being a part of the Mountain Avenue community,” Jason and Misha Green said Wednesday in an emailed statement to Coloradoan.

The couple declined to answer further questions from the Coloradoan.

Go ahead past 528 W. Mountain Ave.

Tuesday’s city council decision was disappointing but not surprising for the group of four community members who nominated the house for landmark designation earlier this year, one of the house’s proponents said, Gina Jannet.

“I think what this revealed is that the way the system is set up (…) surveys and people can find out from them about the history or eligibility of a property, many Fort Collins residents are unaware of a home’s potential historical significance until its owner applies for a demolition permit and initiates a City Historical Review of the property.

“That’s what set up this unintentional spotting process,” Jannet said, adding that she didn’t know anything about 528 W. Mountain Ave.

“We just want to keep the old one in Old Town, and we think everyone appreciates the historic homes on Mountain Avenue and across town,” Jannet added. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.”

While admitting that the presence of methamphetamine at 528 W. Mountain Ave. presented more of a “gray area” than other attempts to designate landmarks, Ohlson spoke on Tuesday about the importance of historic preservation to the fabric of Fort Collins.

“There was a frenzy of demolition and destruction in the ’60s and’ 70s where key building after key building fell, and I think we’re about to enter another of those phases,” Ohlson said. .

Following Fort Collins’ wave of historic building demolitions in the 1960s and early 1970s, Ohlson recalled working to preserve a dozen historic properties in and around Old Town in over the decades since – while painting their exteriors in historically accurate styles. end up waist-deep in bat poo after demolishing a ceiling in an old grocery store on rue Magnolia In the 1980’s.

When Ohlson was on Fort Collins City Council in 1985, he recalls learning of plans to demolish the city’s old post office building on South College Avenue.

To save the structure, which was built with great fanfare in 1912 and 1913, the council called an emergency meeting and unanimously adopted a non-consensual landmark designation for the property, according to the minutes. of the second reading of the ordinance on October 15, 1985.

If the council had not acted, Ohlson estimated the building would have been razed within 24 to 48 hours.

“You can still see where they had already started carving out its cornerstone,” he said.

Over the past decade, Ohlson said he has seen a good chunk of the Old Town’s homes demolished in favor of new, modern reconstructions.

“People are now moving to the old town and paying huge sums for existing houses to get the lot. And that’s their right, but because of the concentration of wealth, I think we’re about to see a lot more. It doesn’t make people mean, it just makes it real, ”Ohlson said.

“We need a new game plan in order to preserve part of our architectural history and avoid as many surprises and conflicts as possible,” Ohlson said, alluding to the recent attempt at a non-consensual designation of the 528. W. Mountain St. “We can and must do better.”

Learn more about the Moore

The popular Victorian Cottage at 528 W. Mountain Ave. was built in 1885 at what was then the edge of Fort Collins. By 1900 Samuel and Edith Moore had bought and moved into the house with their two daughters, Pearl and Jessie, census records show.

Edith died in 1904 and Samuel followed in 1927, but the couple’s daughters remained in the house for decades. Pearl and Jessie both became teachers, and the elder Pearl served as the county school superintendent from 1906 to 1913. As part of her work, Pearl toured all of the 55 county schools on horseback each year, her great-granddaughter Joyce Schwarz says Coloradoan.

Pearl worked as a vice-principal of Fort Collins elementary schools and lived at 528 W. Mountain Ave. until 1924, when she married widowed father and cattle breeder Clyde Bartels. In the years following her husband’s death in 1937, Pearl returned to both her career and to 528 W. Mountain Ave., where she lived with Jessie until her death in 1961, according to the obituary of Pearl. Jessie died in 1970. Moore Elementary School, which opened in 1956, was named after Jessie. It carried its name until 2010, when the school closed and merged with Bauder Elementary School.

Erin Udell reports on current events, culture, history and more for Coloradoan. Contact her at [email protected]. The only way she can keep doing what she is doing is to have your support. If you subscribe, thank you. Otherwise, get a Coloradoan digital subscription today.