Preserving a piece of history at Glassier Farm in Midvalley

The Glassier House is nestled behind trees on the historic Basalt property as of August 2020. The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program plans to seek state historic designation on the structure. This would make it eligible for state grants for restoration.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times Archive

Pitkin County open space and trails officials want to seek state historic designation for a 120-year-old house in the Middle Valley in hopes of securing grants to help pay for an expensive renovation.

The two-story brick farmhouse on the Glassier property in the Emma area was “probably” built in the early 1900s, according to the program. It has been vacant since 2009. The Open Spaces Program and its partners acquired the surrounding 282 acres in 2013 and 2014. The roof was shored up to prevent water leaks, but the house is deemed “uninhabitable.”

“I think we have an obligation to fix this house,” said Graeme Means, board member of the Open Spaces and Trails Program. “I think this project is a great showcase for historic preservation.”

A report on the structure boasted its “full-height brick walls on a stone foundation with a traditional pattern of double-hung windows of vertical proportions”.

“A handful of two-story brick houses remain in the Emma area, which is testimony to the many successful farming operations in the valley in the early 20th century,” the report states.

Unique features of the Glassier house include decorative brackets on the gables as well as the cornice and decorative porch brackets. “A bay window on the main level facade designated the formal living room, often reserved for entertaining guests,” the report said.

A few additions, likely from the 1950s, aren’t that historic but could easily be removed or replaced, said county historic preservation officer Suzannah Reid.

In addition to the farmhouse, there are several historic outbuildings on the property along Hooks Spur Road including a log barn, brick shed, attic and outbuilding.

Several structures need repairs.

“We’re doing enough to keep buildings from collapsing,” said Gary Tennenbaum, executive director of the open space program. But old structures “find a way to crumble if you don’t do anything.”

Renovating historic structures will not come cheap.

“It’s not an inexpensive undertaking,” Tennenbaum told the open space council.

Reid helped the Open Spaces Department estimate potential farmhouse renovation costs. It includes asbestos removal, septic tank replacement and addition removal in addition to restoration of historic parts of the house.

The cost to renovate just the house could range from $757,800 to $1.1 million, depending on whether new additions that blend better with the historic structure are included.

Obtaining a historic designation from the state government is necessary to make the renovation eligible for state grants, Reid said. The county would have to prepare an application for review by the state registration board.

“It is likely that the house would be eligible for listing,” the report said.

Once listed, grants would be sought from the State Historical Fund.

The open space council voted 4-0 to support the fundraising. Chairman of the board, Michael Kinsley, said the Glassier Farm is not only historic but “aesthetically fantastic”.

“When combined with the old barn, it’s just fantastic,” he said.

Tennenbaum said he would lead the proposal from county commissioners of Pitkin and Eagle counties to ensure they wanted to apply for historic designation. The property is located in Eagle County, which helped fund the purchase of the Glassier property.

Open space officials have also left open the possibility of placing a modular structure on the Glassier property to provide additional residence. The board saved that discussion for another day.

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