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Piece of Eagle history coming down

Kathy Heicher
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/EnterpriseConstruction workers take out part of a wall Monday in the Brush Creek Saloon building in Eagle.
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EAGLE ” The 100-year-old building that houses Eagle’s Brush Creek Saloon is coming down, but it’s not going way.

Rather, the building is going to be deconstructed, piece by piece. Crews are already systematically dismantling parts of the structure.

“Basically, it’s like building something in reverse,” says Jason Lightfoot of L2 Innovations, an Eagle-based company that specializes in taking buildings apart in a way that allows the materials to be reused.



Last year, the Eagle Town Board approved a proposal by building owner Wendy Sacks for replacing the aging building with a three-story 14,835-square-foot building.

Most of the tenants of the building have already moved. Next month, the saloon will be moved down the block to temporary quarters on the corner of Second and Broadway. Once the new building is ready (it is estimated to be complete in 18 months), the Brush Creek Saloon will move back up the street.



Sacks says her decision to deconstruct the old building ” rather than use traditional demolition methods, was deliberate. She plans to use some of the saved materials, such as the oak flooring from the upstairs, and the planking from the walls in the new building.

“It would just be criminal not to save that stuff,” says Sacks.

Although the Brush Creek Saloon is still open for business on the first floor of the building, L2’s crews have already been busy salvaging wood from floors, carefully removing glass from windows and taking apart plumbing fixtures and pipes.



Wood, copper, metals, plastic and glass are sorted into separate piles. Some materials are set aside to be used again; some stuff is sold; and other items, such as the doors, are recycled to the Habitat for Humanity warehouse in Gypsum.

Sacks plans to use the planking from the outside walls in the new Brush Creek Saloon space.

“People have been worrying about maintaining the history ” what better way than to use the original exterior walls to rebuild the bar?” she asks.

Lightfoot’s crews are developing a strategy for saving the western murals painted on the inside walls of the saloon. The paintings, by local artist Natalie de Stefano, depict cowboys and cowgirls socializing at the bar. One wall is a painted tribute to the late Robert McIlveen, who was instrumental in bringing the Little Britches rodeo to Eagle County.

The building has been cobbled together over the years, Lightfoot says, with numerous add-ons and remodels. So far, crews haven’t turned up any notable historic treasures, such as a time capsule.

There are some interesting features, however, such as the remnants of a sloping foundation where the building once housed a movie theater; and the half-barrel-shaped trusses in the roof of the structure.

Worker have uncovered three layers of roof, reflecting numerous remodels over the years. There’s a chimney that vented the old coal-fired furnace; and an old coal chute on the bottom floor.

The ceiling on the upper floor is 15 feet high ” because the room was used as the basketball court for Eagle High School. Lightfoot points to a pillar in the middle of the floor that clearly has always provided structural support to the building. Imagine those basketball players dribbling a ball around that obstacle.

The oak flooring from the old basketball court will be pulled up and used again in the new bar.

Some of the historic wood in the building has value. For example, the original structural lumber is true 2-inch by 4-inch lumber. (These days, what is called “2 by 4” is actually 1 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches.)

“You don’t find wood like this anymore,” Lightfoot says.

Since those posts have been protected by outer walls for the past 100 years, they are virtually like new, Lightfoot says. While all of the mechanical systems within the building were seriously outdated, Lightfoot says the sturdy wood ensured that the building remained structurally sound. “There is a demand for this wood ” people turn it into flooring and siding,” he says.

The century-old radiators that once warmed the building are being listed for sale on the Internet. Such items are in demand by people doing historically accurate refurbishing projects.

Lightfoot also uses his business as a springboard for people wanting jobs in the construction industry. Laborers working on deconstruction learn skills that enable them to move onto to other construction jobs.

“We’re bringing people in at a livable wage,” Lightfoot says.

Choosing deconstruction over demolition is not only a nod to local history ” it’s also more sensitive to the environment.

Lightfoot, who grew up here, says his grandfather, who grew up during the Depression, instilled the “re-use, recycle” sense that lead him into the deconstruction business.

“It seemed to make sense ” why throw this stuff away?” he says.

Lightfoot estimates that the deconstruction will divert 90 percent of materials that would normally be sent to the landfill to other uses. Typically, particularly in Eagle County, 40-60 percent of total landfill volume is construction waste.

Deconstruction does offer some savings for the building owners. There’s notable savings in landfill fees. There’s revenue from the materials that are sold, and savings from the materials that can be reused. Donations to nonprofits, such as Habitat for Humanity, are tax-deductible.

The other savings are less measurable ” like the space saved in the landfill; or the savings passed on to the people who end up with the recycled materials.

“By choosing to deconstruct you are making a solid financial and environmental decision,” Lightfoot says. “Wendy is doing the right thing.”

This story appeared first in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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