Looking for history in Avon | VailDaily.com

Looking for history in Avon

Scott N. Miller smiller@vaildaily.com

AVON, Colorado – To most people, a concrete slab in the middle of a river might get a shoulder-shrug. That same slab gets Ron Sladek’s curiosity flowing.

Sladek is a Fort Collins-based historical consultant. For the last several years he’s worked with the Avon Historical Preservation Board to identify and document pieces of Avon’s past.

Some, like the water wheel that once ran an electric generator on the old Nottingham place along the Eagle River, probably need some sort of preservation, and might rate a historical marker that lets people know about its significance. Other pieces of the past might not be significant enough to preserve. There’s no way to tell without doing some research. That’s Sladek’s job.

At the moment, he’s starting the research work on a concrete slab in the middle of the Eagle River just west of an old barn on the north side of the river. The slab used to be the middle of a bridge over the river. The concrete is tilted these days, but looks like it’s growing out of a rock on the south side.

Even if the old bridge isn’t historic, it can still be significant, Sladek said.

“It’s an engineered structure,” he said. “Bridges serve an important purpose.”

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Pictures of the old structure and its approaches are just a start in learning more about the bridge site. Sladek’s job includes tons of research – public and private property records, mostly. That can be time-consuming work, because a lot of old records haven’t yet been put into computer databases.

Sometimes Sladek will talk to area old-timers to see what they know. In Avon, Sladek said valley lifer Mauri Nottingham has been a great resource.

Through that detective work, Sladek will determine as much of a structure’s history as possible, then prepare a report for his clients. There are already several reports about Avon’s history, both at town hall and in the public library in Eagle. His report about the rail line running through Avon is fairly thick, and includes pages of written information, as well as copies of maps and other documents from the railroad. That report even includes an almost foot-by-foot description of the old station.

In his latest case, Sladek knows the structure was once known as the Kroelling Bridge, for the property owners just to the east. At this point, though, Sladek knows just names – the Kroellings and the previous landowners. But then there are the next questions:

Did the Kroellings build the bridge? Did the county build it after buying property from the family?

“I’ll just have to go back and find out,” Sladek said.

“This gives the town, and the public, a lot of information,” Sladek said. “The historic preservation board felt it was important to get a handle on what’s still here. It’s all changed so much.”

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