Doing historic preservation work always requires assistance to ensure that buildings, stories and resources remain available and vital. But doing that work in the midst of a global pandemic is a challenge that most could never have foreseen.
Fortunately for those tackling these kinds of projects in Denver, the surrounding cities and all over the state, the History Colorado State Historical Fund awarded 25 historic preservation grants for the Spring 2020 “mini” grant round on May 1, after an extra-quick review process of just 30 days.
“The minis are great for smaller projects and planning phases based on cost. This round was special since we had a quicker review period so we could award the projects before the normal award date,” said Sara Doll, preservation grants outreach specialist with the state, in an email interview. “This was a step towards wanting to be more efficient as a program and making sure those who we work with have jobs lined up and could continue through the pandemic.”
The mini grant round goes to requests of $35,000 or less, and leverages an additional $316,779 in matching funding provided by grant applicants and their community partners for a total project impact of $935,013, according to provided information.
One of the recipients of these grants is the Denver South High School Alumni and Friends, Inc., group for its National Register of Historic Places nomination efforts. The group received $18,750.
“Denver South High School is a landmark of south Denver, and has stood as a beacon of education for thousands of Denver residents, and their families, since 1926,” said grant applicant Ken Dobrovolny who serves as vice president of the alumni and friends organization. “We think having the designation on the National Register of Historic Places is a fitting reminder of the prominence of South in the community.”
The current building was designed by Fisher and Fisher in 1924 and opened in January of 1926 to help with the growth of the city of Denver and the students in the southeast quadrant of the city at the time, according to information provided by Dobrovolny. Since then, it has been the home of more than 50,000 graduates.
“I was just totally delighted to have the confidence that we can now continue on and be successful in this journey to becoming a National Historic Place designee for my alma mater, Denver South High School,” Dobrovolny said.
According to Jane Daniels, grant manager for the Alumni and Friends group, the application process was very involved and required a lot of coordination with the proposed project team members, including the applicant, the property owner, the consultant and the State Historic Fund. The whole process took about four months of working, researching, writing and draft revisions.
“The funds … will go towards the research, fieldwork and writing of the National Register nomination by Corbett AHS, Inc., and for her to present this information to the State Review Board for approval and forwarding on to the Keeper of the National Register,” Daniels said. “This project was also developed with the intent to involve the high school students as much as possible in the research and fieldwork phase, and we are hopeful that this still can be achieved in some capacity.”
Some of the things students will need to consider as part of the process, according to consultant Kathy Corbett, include questions such as how do the daily lives of South’s past students compare with their own? And they will also be asked to research who created the school and turned it into the community landmark it is.
The State Historical Fund has kept busy during the pandemic, maintaining its year-round technical guidance offerings and keeping its various departments — including museums, preservation services, archaeology and community engagement — working. It has also been distributing $1,124,625.72 to ongoing grant projects throughout Colorado between March 20 and April 20.
“We notice that it is especially important to have the capability to provide funds during recessions and times of uncertainty. Our projects continued through the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and they have continued during COVID-19,” wrote Anne McCleave, Historic Preservation Specialist manager, in an email interview. “We hope we provide a little stability and sense of security for those working on our projects, while at the same time preserving significant historic resources for all of Colorado’s residents and visitors to enjoy.”
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