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For the week of July 4 through July 11, 2000

Louie’s hullabaloo

Officials meet to decide location

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum’s movers and shakers this week continued to grumble over the fate of the city’s 100-year-old Congregational Church—formerly Louie’s Restaurant—in anticipation of last night’s scheduled city council meeting.

City officials called for the discussion about possible locations for the temporarily stored building more than a month before preservationists anticipated.

Mayor Guy Coles, in a telephone interview yesterday, said that’s because the building is an eyesore and needs to be moved out of its current location at the Park & Ride lot. Coles said there has been "a lot of conflict over the junky old…building."

"We can only give them so much time" to find a permanent location for it, he said. "It’s very discouraging to the neighbors [to have it there]."

Floyd McCracken, past president of the Ketchum/Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum, said in a telephone interview Friday that city officials "didn’t really give us time to get something in the paper," so that people from the public would know about the meeting and show up to comment.

The church is one of Ketchum’s few remaining relics from the 1880s. Preservationists paid $12,000, according to McCracken, to have it moved and temporarily stored last November just days before its slated destruction.

The church’s original location at the corner of Leadville Avenue and Sun Valley Road is now the planned site for a multi-story commercial/retail building named The Peaks.

Since its 11th-hour rescue last winter, the fate of the old church has been only slightly improved.

Those working to save it—principally members of the Ketchum/Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum—have had major difficulty deciding on a permanent location for it.

Some, like McCracken, say it should go at the south end of East Avenue. But Coles says that location will not work because "it would eliminate parking and put an unsuitable building in the middle of town."

Another location McCracken suggests is the Forest Service park in southwest Ketchum. But Coles said that location won’t work because "it would take away from the authenticity of the park."

McCracken, refuting both of Cole’s complaints, said, "We’ve answered both questions. It’s just that the mayor’s not in favor of saving Louie’s."

Coles said a better location for the church is on the Rheinheimer Ranch, which is easily recognized by its white and green barn south of Ketchum.

Coles said, however, approval for that location would be difficult to obtain because getting a go-ahead from the State Parks Association, which owns the ranch, would be complicated.

When asked why it’s important to save the building, Coles said, "Damned if I know. It’s a good question."

"The mayor has been against saving Louie’s," McCracken said. "I don’t know if he’s against saving all historical buildings. He certainly acts like it. People in this area want their history preserved. They don’t want all new glitzy buildings like Vail."

McCracken said preservationists have about $18,000 collected to move and restore the old church, and a pledge from the Building and Contractors’ Association to donate labor and materials. Nevertheless, he said, another $40,000 to $50,000 needs to be raised.

McCracken said he hopes the building will become a community meeting center, where "little girls dancing in tutus," slide projector shows and political talks can take place.


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