A place in history

Group considers expanding Montezuma’s historic status

It’s famous with trick-or-treaters. It’s the go-to drive for those with family or friends in town. And it’s a popular tree-lined place to walk.

Montezuma Avenue is well-known in Cortez.

“Everyone knows Montezuma Avenue,” said Linda Towle, chairman of the Cortez Historic Preservation Board.

And if the Cortez Historic Preservation Board has its way, Montezuma Avenue will become even more famous.

Montezuma Avenue is already designated a historic site, and the Cortez Historic Preservation Board is hoping to upgrade that status to a Historic District.

“Right now, it’s just the median that is historic,” said Towle. “We would like to expand that to a historic district, meaning it’s more than just the tree-lined median that’s historic.”

A historic district designation would mean the homes on either side of Montezuma would be included in the historic designation. A meeting was held Wednesday night at the Kemper Elementary School to discuss the change in status with property owners along Montezuma Avenue. The District would likely stretch between North Chestnut Street and North Harrison Street.

“There is a lot of really great properties up and down here,” said Mitchell Toms, a property owner in the proposed district.

Toms added that the avenue was not only historic and beautiful, but the location next to schools, the library and the park make it an ideal place to live.

Property owner Ric Plese said he was for the creation of the historic district.

“My house is 81 years old this year,” he said.

Towle assured those that attended the meeting that the creation of the district would basically just mean that there would be a new sign added to the area. There will be no additional taxes, owners won’t be told what color to paint their houses or if they can add on to their houses or not.

“It’s more of an honorary designation,” she said.

Jill Seyfarth, of Durango, who is acting as a historic register consultant, told the group that the area on Montezuma tells a great story.

“It’s part of the original town site,” she said. “The layers of history here are easily represented on Montezuma.”

Kemper Elementary School, for example, tells the story of the population boom in Cortez that happened in the 1950s with the natural gas boom in the area. The schools suddenly were very overcrowded and Kemper had to be built to deal with the large number of students.

Seyfarth said it isn’t necessarily the architecture along the street that would qualify it for a historic register, but the way the street is laid out and the landscaping it offers.

“If you have a district designation, you have a strength in numbers,” Seyfarth said.

But first, the property owners have to agree on creating the district.

That means about 70 percent of the landowners in the proposed district must sign off on the designation. So far, 16 property owners have already self-registered their individual properties as historic properties, Seyfarth said.

“This doesn’t go forward without the majority of property owners in agreement,” she added.

Eight property owners attended Wednesday’s meeting, about 35 are needed to go ahead with the designation effort.

“This really has to be a grassroots effort,” Towle said.

Another public meeting is expected on this issue in early 2015 and Towle said property owners will be asked to sign papers if they are in favor of the designation.

“This will only be done if people that live on Montezuma want it to happen,” she said.

For more information, email Towle at ltowle@q.com.