Basalt invests in effort to save historic kilns |

Basalt invests in effort to save historic kilns

Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesSeven kilns built in 1882 line an entrance to Basalt's Arbaney Park. A group of residents is trying to raise funds to preserve them.

BASALT, Colorado ” Basalt hopes to parlay an $85,000 investment into a $341,000 effort to preserve historic kilns in the center of town.

The Town Council approved an $85,000 contribution last week to the Basalt Kilns Committee for the preservation effort. The committee is seeking an additional $256,000 from the State Historical Fund.

Seven brick, beehive-shaped kilns line an entrance to Basalt’s Arbaney Park. They were built in 1882 and are falling victim to the elements and occasional vandalism. The wear and tear has reached the point where the committee feels it must act fast to save them.

“These things are deteriorating at a rapid rate,” said Bernie Grauer, a member of the kilns committee.

Two kilns are collapsed and one has partially caved in. Four are standing but a study by a consultant showed two of them are at risk. The town spent $5,500 last fall to purchase a protective tent for one endangered structure, known as kiln number 6.

Support Local Journalism

Grauer told the Town Council the kilns are an important part of Basalt’s history. They probably were the first permanent structures built at what became the townsite. The wood-burning kilns were used to make charcoal that was shipped by wagon to Aspen for use in mining smelters. The kilns pre-dated the railroads in the valley and the discovery of coal in the Crystal Valley, Grauer said. The kilns fell out of favor by 1887.

The consultant hired by the committee determined it will take $341,000 to stabilize the kilns. They won’t be rebuilt, but the bricks that are deteriorating will be replaced in a meticulous, labor-intensive process, Grauer said.

The grant sought from the Colorado Historic Society requires a 25 percent match from local entities. The council needed little persuading to approve the match.

“We all love the kilns and don’t want to see them fall down,” said Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt.

The town’s $85,000 contribution was approved 7-0. The grant application to the state is due April 1.

Support Local Journalism