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Friday, June 18, 2004


Will Ketchum’s past stay in its future?

Commission ramps up efforts to maintain historic sites

Express Staff Writer

With the pressures of development mounting day by day, the future of Ketchum’s historic structures is increasingly uncertain.

The Lewis Lemon General Store, built in 1887, is one of Ketchum’s most-visible historic buildings. The Main Street structure is currently occupied by Iconoclast Books. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Rising real-estate values have made many land parcels significantly more valuable than the buildings they support, including many structures believed to carry historical significance.

Prominent developments such as the Odd Fellows Hall, built in 1929, have been lost, while others, like the Bald Mountain Lodge on Main Street, are seemingly doomed for demolition.

While some residents might claim the loss of historic buildings is an inevitable by-product of progress, the members of the newly formed Ketchum Historic Preservation Commission believe otherwise.

Established by the Ketchum City Council last February, the five-person commission is acting swiftly to enact programs for the city to recognize—and ultimately protect—some two-dozen historic buildings in its boundaries.

After just four meetings, the advisory group is in the throes of establishing a comprehensive inventory of antique buildings in the city. To follow are plans to give the City Council recommendations on how to enact policies that help protect the few historic sites that remain.

Commission members Wednesday, June 16, participated in a walking tour through one of the city’s best-preserved downtown districts, hoping to educate themselves on the history and location of numerous historic structures that have largely evaded public recognition.

"There are a lot more (historic) buildings than we thought," said Commission Chairman Jim Ruscitto, a Ketchum architect.

The tour through neighborhoods along Second Street, Leadville Avenue and East Avenue visited sites such as Bonning Cabin, an 1880 Pioneer Days structure. The diminutive log cabin was moved off a site adjacent to Main Street to its current location near the corner of Fifth Street and East Avenue.

Commissioners also visited the Horace Lewis Home, built in 1880. Lewis established the Ketchum Fast Freight Line, which carried freight and ore between remote mining sites and the city. The building today is occupied by The Elephant’s Perch outdoor sporting goods store.

In discussions Wednesday evening, commissioners said they intend to research whether the neighborhood around Second and Leadville streets could be designated as a local historic district.

Commissioners indicated that they are prepared to recommend that the City Council adopt a program that would install informational plaques on unrecognized historic structures throughout the downtown.

In addition, commissioners also indicated they might consider developing a draft set of city regulations that could limit the ability of property owners to demolish old structures.

Some Idaho cities prohibit the removal or demolition of antique buildings for which a replacement structure has not been formally approved, said Stefanie Webster, Ketchum city planner.

Although many historic buildings in Ketchum might not qualify for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, commissioners agreed that the city must still take action to recognize its past.

"I think we’re making great progress," Commissioner Nan Emerick said.


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