Parker's Twin House didn’t meet criteria to be saved

Old structure came down to clear site for commercial development

Posted 1/2/19

For nearly 50 years, the Twin Houses of Parker stood apart on opposite ends of town. The once-identical buildings used to be a place where people sick with tuberculosis went to be cured by the …

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Parker's Twin House didn’t meet criteria to be saved

Old structure came down to clear site for commercial development

Posted

For nearly 50 years, the Twin Houses of Parker stood apart on opposite ends of town. The once-identical buildings used to be a place where people sick with tuberculosis went to be cured by the “magic waters” of a nearby hot spring. The buildings’ heyday, albeit brief, left an impression on Parker’s history, a story containing some of the most prominent people in the town’s history.

In the early 1900s, both houses stood on the property near what is now the intersection of Stroh Road and Parker Road. One of the two Twin Houses was moved four miles north of town in 1970 and the other was converted into a barn, which remained vacant and unkempt for nearly 50 years on the Stroh and Parker property.

In November, the Stroh barn — originally the Ponce de Leon Chalybeate Springs resort — was demolished in the beginning stages of development for Parker Pointe, a mixed-use commercial development.

Part of Parker’s small-town feel comes from the town’s initiative to preserve historical buildings and keep with longstanding traditions, but not all buildings with historical relevance are saved as development attempts to catch up with the ever-surging population. The recently demolished Twin House failed in two of the three main categories the town outlines to be considered for historical preservation.

“The dilemma is that, in Parker, we want to retain the hometown feel by preserving some of these things that are around town,” said Jan Truskolaski, head of the Parker Historical Society, “but many of those things are not savable.”

The process of deciding which buildings are preserved, and how best to preserve or commemorate them, is an intricate process carried out by the town’s planning commission.

The Parker Planning Department reviews and advises any application for demolishing a historic resource, according to the town’s municipal code, and also advises the town council on several matters involved in the process of recommending or preserving historical landmarks. It also consults with the Parker Area Historic Society and Historic Douglas County Inc., among other resources.

To designate a resource a Parker landmark, the building, structure, site or object must meet the criteria of at least two of three categories listed in the municipal code: history, architecture and geography.

Bryce Matthews, the town’s planning manager, said deciding what is preserved and what is demolished is a delicate balance between public input and a number of considerations about the value of the building. The town allows a 30-day period for the public’s input.

“If a property is salvageable, it’s obviously the town’s preference to have it saved,” Matthews said. “The Twin Houses played a fascinating role in our history, however; the removal of one of the houses many years ago and the decades of degradation of the remaining building, including the ongoing use of it as a barn, have left the structure with no historic integrity.”

Truskolaski said, in the Twin House case, there was nothing there to save.

“It is a dilemma for preservationists because many times the properties would cost way too much to save and the reasons you’re saving isn’t something everyone wants,” Truskolaski said. “You have to be saving things for the right reasons.”

The Parker Historical Society does not actively preserve any buildings, but advocates for commemorating spots of historical significance.

Truskolaski said the Twin House may not have been worth saving, due mostly to its physical condition and lack of use. A 20-year resident of Parker, Truskolaski has experienced the rapid growth in the town and said the demolition of the Twin House was just another example of the cost of sprawling development in the town.

“Sometimes my first reaction is sadness or disappointment,” Truskolaski said. “However, I have to balance the knowledge that there’s always going to be change in an area against the desire to save everything from the past.”

Catherine Traffis, a four-year Parker resident and volunteer for the Parker Historical Society, said it’s the responsibility of the people and town officials equally to preserve a town’s history. In Parker’s case, history, she said, is closely tied to the town’s culture.

“It’s the responsibility of every generation to preserve what we can of our history,” Traffis said. “Parker has a fairly humble history, but without that what more do we have?”

The town drafted “Parker 2025: Changes and Choices Master Plan” in 2005 as a result of resident’s concerns about maintaining historic heritage tied to the hometown feel. A list of the preserved landmarks can be found on the town’s website parkeronline.org.

In February, the town completed renovations to the Parker Schoolhouse on Mainstreet, a designated historic landmark. The schoolhouse was converted into a multi-use event center.

“We still get citizens who stop by and reminisce about being students at the Parker Consolidated Schoolhouse,” said Carrie Glassburn, communications director for Parker Arts. “They are thrilled to see how we’ve so purposefully preserved a piece of history that was so meaningful to them.”

The fate of historic buildings, ultimately, is in the hands of residents who want to preserve them.

“Maybe there’s a balance between preserving what we can and moving forward,” Traffis said.

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