One hundred years of Nottingham
Vail, CO Colorado
AVON, Colorado ” An old black and white photograph on display shows Avon Road as a single dirt strip with the railroad tracks and the Eagle River marking the only intersections. In the foreground of the picture is the large, white Nottingham House.
There were no roundabouts, no I-70, and not even a glimmer of Vail or Beaver Creek.
The photograph was on display on the television inside the Nottingham House, now relocated to a plot of land 1/3rd of a mile from its original foundation, on Saturday at a Nottingham family reunion. The occasion marked the 100-year anniversary of the house and over 50 relatives from all over the West, representing three generations, joined together for an afternoon of reminiscing.
Mauri Nottingham, 78, grew up in Avon on a ranch that is now occupied by the Pizza Hut. He and his wife Nancy acquired the Nottingham House in 1973 from his uncle, Emmett Nottingham, who had bought the house from the original builder, a brother named Clyde.
Originally the property was a ranch, boasting several hundred acres. Mauri’s two brothers, Arnold and Allan remained at the house, save a few years of military service, and ranched the land. In 1984, Mauri said, the house became an obstacle on the “path of development.”
“From 1930 until Vail came in in 1968, nothing happened. Then everything went to hell,” Mauri joked of the resort development in Avon.
But the Nottinghams got to compromise and keep their house, moving the main house, a smaller house, the granary, and blacksmith’s shop down the road to a smaller plot by the Eagle River, where subsequent generations could carry on the Nottingham legacy.
Jack Oleson married one of Emmett’s daughters, Charlotte, in 1949. Charlotte could not be in attendance on Saturday, but Jack found Mauri in the driveway and pointed off toward the railroad tracks.
“Now where were those old boxcars?” he asked. He searched with his eyes for three old, wooden, refrigerated freight cars, which they had moved from the railroad tracks when the crew had moved on. He and Charlotte renovated them and lived there for three years after they had married.
“Well they were right over there, right where the end of that building is,” said Mauri, and pointed at one of the Canyon Run apartment buildings. “I tried to sell them for a while but eventually I think they were destroyed.”
Jack recalled drilling through the floors by hand, and climbing underneath the car to install a bathroom. The boxcars had no electricity, and the old wood stove they used to use now lies dust-ridden in the barn.
Charlyn, Jack and Charlotte’s daughter, was brought home to those boxcars in 1949, and even after they moved a few miles away, she recalled spending summers with Uncle Emmett at the Nottingham house with her cousin, Sharon Doll.
“We want to go walk up those stairs,” Charlyn said, gesturing toward the main house. “Because they still creak like they used to when we were six.”
Now, in a sun-filled kitchen, the current resident of the house is chopping brightly colored peppers for the salad. Tamra Underwood, 44, is Mauri and Nancy’s daughter, and has been helping to plan this reunion for the last two years.
Tamra, who is an Avon town councilwoman, and her husband, Darien, bought the house from Mauri in 2001. The parents then built a house right next door in 2004.
“I don’t know how many people would want their mother-in-law living right next door, but it works out,” Nancy said. “I get to do some babysitting and Darien is doing an amazing job remodeling the house.”
Twelve-year-old Morgan now lives in a bedroom that was once slept in by her mother and before that, Great Aunt Charlotte. Portraits of the Nottingham family matriarch, Angeline Nottingham, and her first husband, William, hang from the walls, and photographs and newspaper clippings from the turn of the century are scattered around the tables.
“It’s really amazing that a Nottingham has lived in this house since it was built,” Nancy said.
Arnold Nottingham, 92, had been saying for a while he wasn’t sure if he could make it from his home in Grand Junction out to the reunion. But he said it was amazing to see the house and all of his relatives.
“That was Willis’ room, and I used to sleep there when I visited,” he said, pointing to a second-story window. “But I don’t think I could stand to live around here anymore. There’s just too many people.”
Like everyone else in attendance, he agreed that the changes to the house and its surroundings were staggering.
“You wouldn’t even recognize the place,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Whatever … I think it’s time for another picture.”
And with a small smile, Arnold wandered off to take his place among 50 other relatives, some of which had never met one another. There were toddlers with cake on their cheeks pushing each other around in toy cars, all with Nottingham name tags on their chests.
Allan Nottingham, another one of Mauri’s brothers and former mayor of Avon, said that the area has made huge strides, from housing only four families to a bursting resort town of 7,000.
“But you can’t cry about it,” he said, taking a break from videotaping some of Clyde’s descendants. “You just have to accept the changes, and this place has really come a long way.”
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