Like many cities in the West, Durango’s early growth was fueled by two booming nineteenth-century industries — mining and the railroad. Denver & Rio Grande Railway surveyed and platted what is now the historic district of Durango in 1880, and by 1887, the city’s largest employer was hard at work smelting locally mined coal into gold and silver bullion. Durango hoped to be more than just another frontier town, though. Caroline Romney, editor of the Durango Record and a tireless crusader for both local and national causes, called Durango “the new wonder of the Southwest.” Her goal was to see it become the state capital of Colorado. Durango real estate reflects the independent character and aspirations of those times. A walk through the established neighborhoods of Old Durango reveals a wealth of different architectural styles — Cottage, Victorian, Craftsman, Bungalow, Mission, and Queen Anne. This variety, in combination with careful planning of the streets and neighborhoods, makes owning a historic home here particularly desirable.
Determining Whether a Home is Historic.
A person can purchase an old home, but age alone doesn’t necessarily make a home “historic.” The National Register of Historical Places, created by an act of Congress in 1966, provides the recognized standard for historic designation. The three main criteria for being listed with the National Register are as follows:
- The house must be at least 50 years old.
- It must maintain its physical integrity, meaning that both the home and its lot cannot have changed significantly from the original design.
- The home needs to have historic significance in at least one of three ways — through its association to specific individuals who played an important role in state or national events; by its unique or characteristic architectural properties; or due to its ability to yield information about the region’s past.
Any home listed on the National Register is automatically listed with the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties. In addition, Colorado has its own criteria for homes to be included on the state registry:
- The property is associated with significant historical events.
- It is connected to people who played some role in those events.
- It’s architecture is distinctly characteristic of a period, type, or means of construction..
- The property is geographically important.
- The house or property may yield important prehistoric or historic discoveries.
The state of Colorado itself places no restrictions on what a property owner can do with a historic home. Owners can tear down the structure completely or renovate in ways that destroy the architectural integrity of the home unless there are local regulations and permitting procedures in place to prevent an individual from doing so. That is what makes local activism and the designation of historic places so important.
The Benefits of Owning a Historic Home in Durango.
Both Main Avenue and the East Third Avenue Historic Residential District have been on the National Register of Historic Places for over 30 years. Working closely with local neighborhood associations, the City of Durango has a certified local government planning board with established guidelines to protect the structure, integrity, and character of all its established neighborhoods. These guidelines strictly prohibit renovation and new construction that would alter typical pitch and height of roofs in a given neighborhood — to give just one example — and recommend following the original platting of the neighborhoods in order to retain Durango’s intended design. Careful guidelines and National Register status mean that any historic home purchased in Durango’s established neighborhoods is a solid investment that cannot become degraded in the future due to neglect and careless remodeling on the part of other homeowners. Another significant advantage to buying a historic home is the architectural diversity of the historic homes for sale in Durango, Colorado. Buyers are able to choose from a Victorian or a Craftsman, a Mission style home or a Queen Anne, a Bungalow or an Italianate style. This wide range of home styles conveys a corresponding range in properties sizes and listing prices. There is something for most prospective buyers. Homes listed with the Colorado Register are also eligible for grants from Colorado’s State Historical Fund and state tax credits for the rehabilitation, restoration, and preservation of historic homes. There are also several federal grant programs, such as those that come through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, that a historic home may be eligible to receive.
Part of the True West.
Great investment potential and official recognition aren’t the only motivations to purchase a historic home, though. The kind of person who wants to own one of these properties is willing to assume the responsibility of preserving the beauty and integrity of a community for generations to come. It’s a way to be part of a historical process — and it brings a great sense of pride. Historic homeowners tend to be dedicated enthusiasts, connoisseurs of architectural style who value maintenance and community values. They make ideal neighbors.
At United Country Elevation Real Estate Company, we specialize in buying and selling homes in Durango’s historic neighborhoods. Let us help keep Colorado history alive for you.