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In 1970, former Colorado first lady Ann Love and a group of Denver citizens banded together to save the 1889 home of Titanic survivor, Margaret “Molly” Brown from demolition. In the process, they founded Historic Denver, an organization dedicated to preserving the city’s historic places. As massive development continues throughout the city, efforts to protect these unique structures and districts have become more important than ever.
Through the organization’s Historic Denver Action Fund—a program launched in 2015 to catalyze neighborhood and community projects that enhance and preserve the city’s special character—neighborhood groups, nonprofits, and other civic organizations are invited to submit proposals for ways to preserve and celebrate Denver’s history.
“Denver has a unique Western pioneer spirit,” says Shannon Schaefer, preservation coordinator at Historic Denver and director of the Action Fund program. “The architecture of the homes and businesses tell the unique histories and stories of the people of Denver. It is our built heritage.”
Projects that are eligible for Action Fund support include the development of a conservation or design overlay district, historical and architectural resource surveys, neighborhood planning exercises, studies to identify new uses for languishing local landmarks, and more. After applications are received, the Action Fund subcommittee will review all proposals and select one to three projects to support. Accepted projects will receive technical assistance, staff support, and a financial investment of 75 percent of the total budget for their project, ranging from $2,500 up to $10,000. The applicant is responsible for raising the remaining 25 percent through community fundraising, loans, or other grants.
“Successful projects are often completed within two years,” says Schafer, “and if it takes longer than that, we will work with the group to reconfigure and redesign the plan to see it through.”
Examples of current Action Fund projects include an initiative in La Alma Lincoln Park to provide a written history for more than 200 homes, and the creation of a historic district for the Vassar School bungalows on East Vassar between Lincoln and Sherman streets. Both of those projects began in 2017. The Action Fund’s first completed project is the Krisana Park Pattern Book, which gives homeowners design ideas in keeping with the integrity of a mid-century modern neighborhood.
For the first time this year, Historic Denver is expanding the Action Fund program to include three application deadlines: April 1, June 1, and September 1. Visit Historic Denver’s website for application instructions and more details.