Heubinger – Vail’s prolific builder
Gene Murphree took a shine to Heubinger and put him in charge of the Vail project. When it was completed, Huebinger worked on the Christiania at Vail, the liquor store, the deli, and the Texas townhouses for Murphree.In 1964, Huebinger started the Aspen Construction Company. He settled his family in Aspen because his wife, Delores, wanted a better education for their children than Minturn or Vail could offer in 1962 – hence the name of his company.After finishing the Vail Village Inn on Dec. 15, 1962, Huebinger became involved with John Amato from Denver in a project to build a trailer park for employee housing. Vail Associates, who owned the land and who was in dire need for employee units, leased the land to them for 21 years. The infrastructure was completed and 50 trailers purchased, ready for the employees to move in. That’s when they discovered they had a dry well.”I went to Willis Nottingham, owner of the surrounding land,” said Huebinger, “and asked him if we might put in a collection system to provide water.”Everyone told Huebinger it would be useless to even talk with Nottingham, but Huebinger made the deal in an hour. He put in the collection system and had people living in the trailers in November 1963.The project was short-lived, however. Interstate 70 was coming through the valley, and the property was condemned. Vail Associates, who owned the land, made an offer to John Amato for the condemnation fee, but Amato, thinking the offer was too low, turned them down. Amato sued Vail for more money and took it all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court but lost. As a result, the trailer-park project failed.Willis Nottingham had 2,000 acres, and Huebinger jokingly asked him what he would want for the land if he ever wanted to sell.Nottingham thought a bit and replied, “$375 to $400 an acre would probably buy the place.”Huebinger said, “That was in 1963, and I quickly figured out that the 2,000 acres would be roughly $800,000. I thought Willis was out of his mind. The land is now part of Eagle-Vail, Avon, and Beaver Creek.”The trailer park didn’t last long, but it was Vail’s first employee housing other than the Night Latch, which the builder, Gaynor Miller, turned into nightly rentals before construction was complete.With his own company, Huebinger made rapid progress. He built the Bass house on Mill Creek Circle, an addition to the Vail Village Inn, the Riva Ridge condominiums, the Mountain House in 1964, and Manor Vail in 1966, in which he was a 25-percent partner. The list goes on and on.Huebinger continued to work in Vail until 1975, when he decided to devote his full time to his family. He settled permanently in Aspen, but not before he built the upper and lower terminals at Lionshead, Montaneros, the Wren, and the Mark – all prominent buildings in the valley, even today. Huebinger said he was lucky in Vail and that he had a great deal of help from his superintendent, Warren Lister.Huebinger also had quite a time building Dick Bass’s house.”Dick was very meticulous and particular,” said Huebinger. “I didn’t even have the roof on, and I was already out of money on the thing. He kept adding and adding, and I kept telling him, “Dick, you keep adding these things and you’re going to run up the price!’ So, I finally called him and said, “Dick, I’m going to shut this job down, and I’m going to come to Dallas and you’ve got to sign these change orders!’ He said, “What do you want?’ I said, “Look, Dick, you pay the bills – just give me my profit,’ and he agreed to that. I sent him a letter, he signed it, and he paid all the bills. He couldn’t believe he spent that much money.”Today, looking back, he got such a bargain, it’s unreal! He added so much stuff to that house. We started with three bedrooms and ended up with seven.”But the Manor Vail project had to be Huebinger’s pride and joy. It was the best facility in Vail at that point. Huebinger was partners with John Amato, Vince Dominico, and Charley Gersbach. Three-bedroom condos sold for $35,000. In 1999, they were priced at more than $750,000. The Lord Gore Restaurant in the Manor Vail remains among the finest dining establishments in town.Although they continued to live in Aspen, the Huebingers were very much a part of getting the town of Vail started. John’s stamp remains on many of the early buildings.Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 97th installment, an excerpt from chapter 12, “The Ever-Increasing “New Locals.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.