Minturn Saloon reopening process will likely include a historic designation |

Minturn Saloon reopening process will likely include a historic designation

Project will likely receive oversight from town's new historic preservation commission, but that will also bring possibilities for additional grants

The Minturn Saloon as seen from North Main Street on Friday. The front walkway had to be removed due to structural issues.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

By now it’s no surprise to learn that the Minturn Saloon’s new owners have encountered some issues in attempting to reopen the beloved establishment.

The Saloon closed during the spring of 2022 for what was only expected to be a few months, but turned into more time as additional problems were discovered with the building, namely the roof.

In working on the roof, crews discovered what Town Manager Michelle Metteer called a “Pandora’s Box” of issues, and the front of the building had to be removed due to degradation of the roof.

As this was happening, Metteer and the town were creating a new branch of government in Minturn, aimed at preserving historic structures in town. The Minturn Historic Preservation Commission was created in June, and a new chapter of town code was adopted with the intent to “create a reasonable balance between private property rights and the public interest in preserving the town’s unique historic character through the nomination of buildings, structures, sites, objects, and historic districts for preservation.”

With the work on the building being visible to the public, and a new chapter of town code aimed at preserving historic structures being recently adopted, the need to address the construction work at the Saloon triggered the process for notifying the public of a potential historic designation landmark, Metteer said.

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Two residents submitted applications to designate the Saloon as historic, a process the new owners are welcoming in seeking options on how to preserve the building’s character.

Grant potential

At the Minturn Town Council’s regular meeting on Wednesday, the owner’s representative on the Saloon project said the owners are excited about the idea of the Saloon becoming a historic landmark in town.

Attending virtually, Nicholas Brechtel with Pierce Austin Architects said he was speaking on behalf of owners Anthony and Connie Mazza.

“I think it could provide a lot of benefit to them,” Brechtel said. “Just bringing more people in and then possibly having any kind of tax benefits from having a historic designation.”

The town is currently moving through the process of making the Minturn Historic Preservation Commissions a certified local government in the United States, Mayor Earle Bidez confirmed on Wednesday, something that could provide access to grant funds in service of historical preservation, which are only available to certified local governments.

The Minturn Saloon has been recommended for designation as a historical landmark in town. To be nominated, properties must be at least 75 years old and meet other criteria including location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, or even a feeling or association at the site.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

And there’s much to be considered historical about the building, aside from the cultural significance it has in town as a skier hangout at the bottom of the famed “Minturn Mile” sidecountry excursion from Vail Mountain to the town of Minturn.

According to the application for historic designation, “The Minturn Saloon reflects the ‘false front’ style of architecture that was reminiscent of buildings around the time of the California gold rush in the 1860s and shortly thereafter. The preface of this architecture was to make simple sheds and gable roof buildings appear larger and more important. This also allowed for easier visualization of signs on
storefronts as the false front would block the view of everything behind it.”

Brechtel described the Saloon as a building within a building.

“There’s an original double width masonry and then at some point later on there’s a whole ‘nother facade laid over the side of it and a new roof with a different pitch built on top of it,” he told the council on Wednesday. “So it’s kind of in that weird place, but I think we’ve all kind of grown to see it as historic, whether that facade necessarily is or not, and it definitely is a big part of the Minturn community, and I know the owners are really happy to be a part of it.”

‘Structurally sound would be nice’

Brechtel said the reconstruction of the Saloon will include the front walkway, which has been removed.

The council passed the first reading of an ordinance approving the historic landmark designation for the Saloon Building on Wednesday. Assuming the ordinance passes second reading at the council’s next meeting, the front walkway reconstruction (or any other changes to the building) will then go through the historic preservation commission for approval ahead of town council approval, said town attorney Mike Sawyer.

The historic preservation commission holds evening meetings on the third Thursday of each month.

“I know the front walkway provides a public benefit, and we want to get that back as soon as possible for everybody, but at this time, structurally sound would be nice,” Brechtel said.

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