The Eagle County Historical Society is a lot like that children’s book title “The Little Engine that Could.”
The group isn’t flashy, but it definitely gets things accomplished. From operation of the Chambers Park museum, to presentation of programs in local classrooms to preservation of historic documents and photographs, the stalwart members of the ECHS are work to keep local history alive. For all these reasons and many more, the Eagle County Historical Society and Eagle Valley Library District have been awarded the prestigious 2014 Dana Crawford Award from Colorado Preservation, Inc.
“Colorado Preservation, Inc. is the premier historical preservation organization for the state,” said Mike Metcalf of Eagle, who serves of the CPI board of directors.
Through his involvement with the state organization, Metcalf has reviewed many historic preservation award nominations. Through the process of considering other applications, Metcalf realized the significant contributions of the local group.
“The impressive thing about the Eagle County Historical Society is they have done a lot with very few resources,” said Metcalf. “The ECHS has never received a historical funding grant.”
In his application, Metcalf noted “The Eagle Valley is a transient community. Many of the residents are relatively new to the areas and tend to think the valley got its start when the Vail ski area developed in the 1960s.Under the leadership of Kathy Heicher, the Eagle County Historical Society has used numerous programs and events to inform residents and visitors about the valley’s history.”
Those programs and events include the popular cemetery tours held in Gypsum and Red Cliff which teamed the ECHS with the Porchlight Players local theater group to dramatize the stories of Eagle County pioneers. In the Honoring Historic Eagle program, the ECHS has identified important buildings around Eagle and installed information plaques on the structures. Visitors can pick walking tour brochures and independently tour these standing examples of the community’s history.
The ECHS maintains and operates the popular Chambers Park museum that highlights local history and has obtained hand-on artifacts from History Colorado to present classroom programs to local students.
Metcalf also highlighted the important partnership between the Eagle County Historical Society and the local library district.
“The Eagle Valley Library District has made a tremendous contribution toward preserving local history by funding an archivist position,” he said. “The historical society has always been good at collecting historical items and information, but did not have the knowledge to store that information in such a way to make it readily available to the public. Library archivist Jaci Spuhler works closely with the ECHS and has properly catelogued and preserved historical manuscripts, photos and more. This material is readily available to the public.”
The library archives currently contain more than 5,000 photograps, obituaries, maps and census records, all of which can be viewed from the district’s website at www.evld.org under the local history tab.
Together with Metcalf’s nomination, the Eagle County Commissioners and the Eagle Town Board offered their support for the ECHS honor.
“The town of Eagle feels very fortunate to have the Eagle Valley Library District and Eagle County Historical Society in our midst, and to have the enthusiasm and knowledge of Jaci and Kathy working for the protection and dissemination of our community’s history,” noted the nomination letter from the town.
Eagle Town Board member Anne McKibbin was a lead supporter of the award nomination.
“Colorado Preservation, Inc. does great work statewide,” she noted. “It seem to me like Eagle is doing a lot of things right now in recreation-based tourism, but we also have some great historical resources in our town.”
Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry also supported the award nomination. “The historical society has become a cornerstone of life in Eagle County. Those of us who live here rely on it for events, speakers, books and displays about mining, agriculture, skiing and all the pioneers who came before us,” she said. “Kathy Heicher and the Eagle County Historical Society make history come alive, for both children and adults in our communities.”
Which such strong support highlighting the many contributions of the ECHS, Metcalf said the award application was very well received in Denver.
“I am proud to say the award discussion centered around whether to leave other people out, not whether to recognize the local group. It was the top tier selection,” he said.
Heicher and Spuhler accepted the award on behalf of the ECHS at a special reception held at the Denver Botanical Gardents on May 14.
“Eagle County is a compelling place and the historical society has found how to tell its story in a compelling way,” said Metcalf.