History on the move | VailDaily.com

History on the move

NWS Eaton house 1 KA 5-18-12

EDWARDS, Colorado – Besides mountains and trees, there isn’t much 100-year-old anything in the Vail Valley. That’s why people want to save Mike Eaton’s house.

Eaton’s home – which dates to the 1890s or early 1900s – is tucked away on the northwestern corner of the Old Edwards Estates subdivision, the ranch yard of a place homesteaded by Cliff Thomas. Eaton wants to build a new home on the site and wants to build it where the trees block the view of the homes to the east. That means the old house has to go.

Over the years, siding, paneling and linoleum have covered the original structure. Eaton has stripped away those decades of “improvements” to reveal the original structure – hand-hewn timber walls and old pine and oak flooring.

Eaton – a distant nephew of Thomas – acknowledged the easiest thing to do with the hold home would be to tear it down and haul it off. Eaton would like to see the structure preserved, but he also wants to build his new home this year. That means preserving the old house will take a big effort.

The idea now is to disassemble the house, number all the parts, put it in secure storage for a while and then rebuild the thing at the Eagle River Preserve open space on the other side of the river.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust manages that open space and enforces its “conservation easement” – a contract limiting the allowed uses on the land. Jason Denhart, the Land Trust’s director of communications and development, said the open space easement allows a building of as much as 5,000 square feet to go on the land.

A 100-year-old structure turned into an interpretive center and, maybe, restrooms would be a great addition to the open space, Denhart said.

“The land trust would love to have something historic on that property – it’s why the community wanted to preserve the Eagle River Preserve property,” he said.

That old building would be even better if it came from the Eatons, since the preserve is a big chunk of the former Eaton Ranch.

The plan sounds great, but there are a couple of problems – time and money. Dismantling and the reassembling the old house could cost somewhere between $170,000 and $250,000.

“We’re trying to initiate a big deal in a tight timeline,” Edwards Metropolitan District Board Member Becky Bultemeier said. “In the short term, we’re trying to save the logs.”

It looks like the short-term goal is within reach. The Edwards metro district board late last week agreed to provide funding to have the home dismantled and stored for reconstruction.

The Eaton family has agreed to donate the home itself, along with $5,000 cash. And Mike Eaton has already put days of work into stripping the house, getting it ready to carefully take apart.

While it looks like everything’s in place to take the home apart, getting it rebuilt is going to require grants and some private fundraising. Denhart said preservation groups that provide grants for projects such as this one like to see community involvement – money – before writing checks of their own. A check from the metro district – along with the Eatons’ donation and, perhaps, others donating engineering services to get the home up to county code – could be a powerful lure.

“I’m very excited,” Bultemeier said. “We’re trying to keep the home at home.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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