Honoring Historic Eagle
Ryan Summerlin August 14, 2013
One of the great things about Eagle’s history is that you can literally touch it.
Many of the buildings where the community’s pioneers worked, worshiped, played and resided are still standing. And now a new project called Honoring Historic Eagle will share those landmark stories with a new generation of residents and visitors.
“I haven’t talked to anyone who hasn’t thought what we are doing is a great idea,” said John Bronn, a stalwart member of the Eagle County Historical Society who is the brains and brawn behind the project. “I have gotten really pumped up about this.”
His idea to put historical markers on some of Eagle’s most prominent buildings was born after Bronn and his wife, Earlene, took a cruise tour of harbor towns in Maine. On that journey, they walked around several villages that had large directional maps and history placards on the sides of existing buildings. If it worked in Maine, it could surely work in Eagle, thought Bronn.
He came back to Colorado and set to work tracing down the history of Eagle architecture and eventually came up with around 50 good candidates for a walking history project. At that point Bronn decided he wanted some help.
“I realized it was unwise for one person, or even for the historical society, to choose the properties because there are so many good candidates,” said Bronn. So he formed an advisory committee and the diverse group’s members weighed in on what buildings should be included. They also named the project and Honoring Historic Eagle was a born.
Early on in the process, the Honoring Historic Eagle group opted to announce the included properties in waves. Eventually 25 or 30 properties will be included, but 11 have been identified for this week’s launch.
“We slanted the project this year toward properties in the commercial core of town, which means more commercial properties were chosen,” said Bronn
As he moved forward with this plan, Bronn was treated to a happy surprise. The Honoring Historic Eagle project wasn’t going to break the bank. The building placard signs could feature a historic photo of the building, or of people who occupied it, and local company Signature Signs could produce the placards for about $35 a piece. That means signs can be changed easily if conditions warrant and it will be affordable to add properties to the program in future years.
This Friday, Honoring Historic Eagle will unveil not only the individual building placards, but also the directional sign/map located in front of Wells Fargo on Broadway. The directional sign will call out each of the properties included in the overall project. A duplicate sign also will be installed at the Eagle Visitor Center/Museum at Chambers Park. The town of Eagle chipped in $3,200 for the map signs.
“It (the Chambers Park sign) will give people a reason to check out Eagle. We think we will be bringing more tourists downtown,” said Bronn.
Bringing history to life
Bronn believes Eagle is a fortunate community because its history is preserved and on display daily. For example, he noted the historic buildings along Second Street tell the story of how early Eagle was shaped by train traffic.
Eagle had the water tower where they refilled the train tanks and loaded up with coal. As a result, passengers had a half-hour to get off and walk around town. That’s probably why there we so many saloons along Second Street during Eagle’s early days.
“Second Street was probably more important than Broadway in the early days,” said Bronn.
There are little mysteries about Eagle that the community’s history buffs would love to solve. For instance, was A.A. McDonald inspired by New York City when he named two of the main north/south roadways Broadway and Wall Street when he purchased the town site back in 1895? The Hitching Post Bed and Breakfast building is one example of cement block house construction in town. Where did the mail-order machine that built those cement bricks end up? Why hasn’t a historic photo of that 1908 building ever popped up?
It’s those tidbits — glimpses of a bygone time — that fascinate Bronn. And now, by unveiling the Honoring Historic Eagle project, he hopes the community’s history will keep unveiling itself.
“It is really wonderful, the continuation of the history we have here,” said Bronn. “I have not run out of new discoveries.”