Grande dame

Mardi Gras fundraiser, preservation groups continue to chip away in effort to restore Mancos Opera House

Robert Valencia demonstrates resetting individual nails across the expansive Mancos Opera House floor. Valencia and other volunteers were preparing the building for the Mardi Gras fundraiser on Saturday. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Robert Valencia demonstrates resetting individual nails across the expansive Mancos Opera House floor. Valencia and other volunteers were preparing the building for the Mardi Gras fundraiser on Saturday.

Community members envision the Mancos Opera House as a grand center for performing arts, and over the years the improvements have been slowly unfolding.

"I have the vision of it being a true show piece," said David Johnson the commander of the Montezuma County Veterans of Foreign Wars post, which owns the building.

Much work remains to be done, but members of the VFW, the Ladies Auxiliary and the Mancos Opera House Architectural Restoration and Preservation Society, also known as MOHARPS, continue to chip away one small project at a time.

Monday, Robert Valencia was installing carpet pieces on landings in the building in preparation for the Mardi Gras Celebration Saturday.

In last few months, Valencia and other members of the post, have been resetting nails on the opera house floor one by one, reorganizing the kitchen space to make it more usable and improving a room for the armory where the VFW weapons for funeral ceremonies will be stored.

"I believe in taking small bites," Johnson said. Johnson has been the post commander since last April.

Other recent projects have included installing a small lean-to on the back of the building to protect the back door in the winter time and working on a trench to prevent water building up behind the building.

Not long ago, in the life of the Mancos Opera House, such improvements would have seemed cosmetic.

The building was deemed unsafe in 2002 and huge steel supports had to be bolted to the brick walls to ensure stability. This work was completed through an emergency grant for more than $100,000 from the Colorado State Historical fund. The fund also contributed more than $50,000 for the roof and window repair and replacement in 2010, said Monica Noland who wrote grants for MOHARPS.

Other projects have been as varied as bat control to wrapping the steel supports to create much more elegant columns, she said.

Empire Electric made it possible to bring electricity upstairs. The Ballantine Foundation helped bring in a sound system. Home Depot made it possible to replace deteriorating plumbing and other improvements in the kitchen. The list of projects that have been completed since 2006 is extensive.

The goals for the building would bring it back to its former glory and increase usability, but they will be more than $1 million, Johnson said. Some of these include replacing the drop ceiling upstairs, expanding the lobby and putting in an elevator.

The state historical fund will only award grants for improvements to the outside of the building and to reinforce the second floor. The state historical fund staff considers restoring the facade of the building a priority. This would mean placing the brick with almost floor to ceiling windows similar to The Mancos Times building.

MOHARPS has applied two or three times for the grant money from the state historical fund in the last few years and has not been selected, Johnson said. But they plan to keep applying.

The steady yearly support of the Mardi Gras fundraiser has also been key raising around $2,300 to $3,500 a year, said a former commander of the post Wayne Noland.

"The community has supported us in a lot of ways" his wife Monica Noland said.

This year the venue's ability to host events has drawn the interest of high school students who have been volunteering time on the building and plan to hold prom there in April. Eventually, the post hopes the Opera House could become self-sustaining as a venue.

"The opera house is a wonderful opportunity," Johnson said.

To show your support, come out dancing Saturday. Bring out your costume for the annual Mardi Gras dinner and dance fundraiser themed A Hard Days Night.

A drawing of the what the front of the Mancos Opera House would look like if it was restored. The State Historical Fund's priority is to have the facade of the building restored with windows, similar to those on the Mancos Times building.  The state historical society also considers reinforcing the second story floor a priority. Enlargephoto

Montezuma County Veterans of Foreign Wars

A drawing of the what the front of the Mancos Opera House would look like if it was restored. The State Historical Fund's priority is to have the facade of the building restored with windows, similar to those on the Mancos Times building. The state historical society also considers reinforcing the second story floor a priority.

The Mancos Opera House decorated for a graduation ceremony. Enlargephoto

Courtesy photo

The Mancos Opera House decorated for a graduation ceremony.

A historical photo shows the opera house, looking northeast. Enlargephoto

Courtesy photo

A historical photo shows the opera house, looking northeast.