Its been said it is necessary to understand the past in order to build the future. The city of Cortez is taking that statement to heart by commissioning an inventory of historic buildings on Montezuma Avenue.
The city council approved a grant application last fall allowing the Cortez Historic Preservation Board to pursue funding for the inventory, according to board President Linda Towle. The boards receipt of a $21,800 grant from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund was the final piece in putting a study together.
We wanted to be able to do surveys of properties on Montezuma Avenue we thought could be historic, Towle said. This is all due to the ongoing research that (Montezuma County Historical Society historian) June Head has done on Montezuma Avenue. Weve never really officially looked at the individual properties to see how old they are and whether or not they are significant for the local history of Cortez.
The wide avenue is on the citys historic register, a tribute to the unique median originally designed as a canal to bring necessary water to the burgeoning town. However, only two homes on the avenue have been listed on historic registers.
We really need more research about each of the properties, Towle said. If we can gather more information, landowners might be interested in applying to have their property listed on the register.
Historic buildings listed on official registers are often eligible for 20 to 40 percent tax breaks on repairs and restoration projects under federal designation.
Homeowners are responsible for a $75 administrative fee to apply for historical status, and owners must agree not to alter designated buildings to an extent that would negate the historical status.
The inventory of Montezuma Avenue will be completed by Jill Seyforth, owner of Durango-based Cultural Resource Planning. The undertaking is basically a large research project, Seyforth said.
The goal is to try to have a better understanding of the history of the development of the buildings on Montezuma Avenue, she said. We will be doing a lot of looking at what is available in the public record in reference to the history of the buildings on the lots.
The grant funding is not enough to cover an inventory of Montezuma Avenue in its entirety, so the project will be limited to the oldest portion of the thoroughfare, from the intersection of Montezuma Avenue and Linden Street to just past Ash Street. Roughly 45 properties will be included in the effort.
The historic preservation committee really decided what they would like to focus on is the part of the street that is in the original Cortez townsite, Seyforth said. Thats where our focus is going to be.
The year-long project, which will not require tours of or research inside homes, will formally begin Wednesday, Aug. 3, at a public meeting designed to discuss the effort with interested city residents and Montezuma Avenue property owners.
Towle said she hopes property owners especially will attend the meeting and receive answers to any lingering questions.
We want to be able to explain how the inventory is going to be conducted and why we think it is important, Towle said.
Both Towle and Seyforth believe the information will contribute to the larger story of Cortez in a way that cannot be underestimated.
We think it is important that both the property owners on Montezuma Avenue and the rest of the residents in Cortez understand more about how the city came to be, Towle said. Weve had surveys done of Main Street, and it would be nice to do that on Montezuma.
Seyforth said inventories and research of this nature can help members of a community come to a better understanding of their shared history and future.
I think it is a great tool for people to understand better the history of their community and a better understanding of how their community was established and how it grew, she said. When you see who built the town and the legacy they left, it leaves an opportunity to look at what has been done before and helps a community decide what they would like to do in the future.
The public meeting regarding the inventory of historic buildings on Montezuma Avenue will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, in the city council chambers, 210 E. Main St., Cortez.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at firstname.lastname@example.org.