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Water tank to be new Minturn commission’s first act of historic preservation

Minturn's water tank was built in 1941 as a venture between the town and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.
Tricia Swenson/Vail Daily

Formed over the course of 2022, Minturn’s new Historic Preservation Commission has created a preservation plan for the town and is on pace to become a certified local government through the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office.

The Minturn Town Council on Wednesday is expected to pass the second reading of an ordinance approving an application for historic designation of the town’s marquee water tank, located on the hillside above the downtown area. If passed, the approval will represent the first act of historic preservation by the new commission.

“It was deemed important by the historic preservation commission and staff to kick off the designation process and the first designation with something that we figured the whole town could really rally around,” town planner Madison Harris said at the council’s Dec. 7 meeting. “We decided that the water tank was a good opportunity for that, given that it’s owned by the town, it is over 75 years old, it’s iconic, people take pictures of it all the time, and it has history within the town and how the town was formed.”



The nomination application further details the water tower’s connection to the town.

“The Minturn Water Tank dates back to 1941, when it held water to serve the Town and feed steam engines on the railroad tracks to the east,” according to the application. “It was a venture between Minturn and the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. The railroad kept water along the tracks, but not enough to fill the 10,000 gallons of water needed to power each coal-fired steam engine. So the tank was built and a pipe carried water from the tank across the Eagle River under a bridge (presumed to be the current day Bellm Bridge, then the Main Street Bridge) to the rail yard. The tank served the railroad and the town for several years, but was decommissioned in the early 1990s due to infrastructure challenges.”

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The approval of the water tank for historic preservation means it will be added to the town’s newly formed register of historic places. A property’s entry into the register means special approval must be obtained before carrying out any new construction, alteration, relocation or demolition on the property.

The Minturn Town Council, on Dec. 7, unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance approving the water tank application for historic designation. The council also, at that time, approved the Minturn Historic Preservation Commission’s Historic Preservation Plan, which is one of the first steps to becoming a certified local government in the United States.

“A certified local government is something that benefits historic preservation societies and historical towns,” Harris said. “They have access to grant funds that are only available to certified local governments, they receive technical support from the state historic preservation office and the National Park Service, they can join national organizations, they have access to training and networking opportunities, they have the ability to participate in review of tax credit projects, so there’s a lot of different benefits to becoming a certified local government.”



After approving the Historic Preservation Plan, the Minturn council also endorsed the Historic Preservation Commission’s effort to become a certified local government. Minturn Mayor Earle Bidez said the five-member commission has accomplished something the town hasn’t seen in decades.

“And that is to start a new branch of our town government,” Bidez said. “So thanks to Ken Holiday, Larry Stone, Tracy Anderson, Kenneth Howell and Kelly Toon for all their hard work to get us to this point.”

Anderson thanked Harris, along with Town Manager Michelle Metteer, for their help in the process.

“They did the really hard work behind all of this,” Anderson said.

Minturn’s Wednesday meeting is scheduled to begin its public session at 5:30 p.m.


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