Preservationists from the University of Pennsylvania began preliminary work inside The Mancos Times office on Grand Avenue in Mancos last week.
Professor Frank Matero, who has been working at Mesa Verde every summer for many years, saw the Mancos press room and the original press for the first time last winter.
“I saw this place and realized how rare and important it was,” he said.
The preservationists believe the large Cranston Press inside the Times is one of three left in the country. Many of the presses were sold for scrap when they became outdated. Linotype machines that pressed the letters into soft lead also were left behind.
Matero saw the press and the building as an untapped resource for the town and approached the Chamber of Commerce last summer to ask if he could help restore the building and the press. Members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Mancos Arts Council and Richard Ballantine, who owns the building, have been working with Matero on a plan for the building.
Matero says the press can be restored to function again. The group would like to turn the building into a graphic arts school with an artist in residence.
“It would really be a big anchor for the town and add to its reputation as an arts community,” said Betsy Harrison, who was the president of the Chamber when the group was approached. The group has named the project The Mancos Common Press, and they plan to start seeking grant funding in the spring with help from Mancos Valley Resources.
Last week the group from Pennsylvania tore down a dividing wall between the front office and the press room. A drop-ceiling was taken out to reveal the decorative tin underneath. The movable type and archives were boxed up, and the building evaluated for more preservation work.
While the front office was in use until recently, the back room was left as though the pressmen walked out yesterday – like an Egyptian tomb, Matero said.