If Boulder City’s historic assets are to be preserved, the city and supporters of historic preservation must be proactive in anticipation of future development. The fate of the Six Cos. Hospital was sealed long before the ultimate plans for the property were even considered.
How did the hospital property become a problem? It became a problem when the Sisters of Charity left and the next attempt at repurposing failed. Neighbors complained that the trees were dying from lack of water and there were complaints of vandalism, break-ins and loitering. The list goes on, but the point is no one was up to taking any action to resolve the problems that had overtaken the building and grounds. The city did not own the property, so that was that!
When the Historic Preservation Committee was appointed in 2006 and an ordinance was approved by the city council, the committee’s first concern was the condition of the neighborhoods. The streetscapes in the historic neighborhoods offered a first-glance, perfect picture of these historic homes, all of which had a unique role to play in every aspect of the building of Hoover Dam and the distribution of the power it generated.
An inventory of the homes on all of the streets within the district was undertaken; common, historic features and architecture were noted and cataloged; guidelines were developed for restoration and preservation, which are on display at City Hall. The message that these homes and streets were extremely important to the preservation of Boulder City as a historic place was broadcast loudly and clearly at every opportunity by the committee.
Booths were set up and manned at city events in Wilbur Square. The committee had an entry in the Fourth of July parade one year and received many positive comments from spectators along the parade route. Opportunities to speak on behalf of Boulder City and historic preservation were enthusiastically taken. A committed columnist for one of the Boulder City papers followed the activities of the committee with much interest. The message was received.
For example, during a one-year period, all but one of the neglected homes on Colorado Street were cleaned up, painted and restored. All but two of the homes on Birch Street have received the same attention from their owners — and the two remaining are in the process. The committee’s efforts with respect to the neighborhoods have been met with success.
So, if an interest in the public, commercial, privately owned buildings in Boulder City had received the same attention would the demolition of the Six Cos. Hospital have been avoided; would it not even have been a consideration? If, if, if … but it is not too late to get to work.
The hospital is gone, but there are other privately owned properties in the city that warrant the research, analysis and development of strategies and guidelines in support of preservation.
Websites are numerous for finding funding and support; just search online for “historic preservation funding.” It is amazing what is out there.
However, once a proposal for demolition has been submitted, it is too late to pull together substantive information to support opposition (ownership records, possible deed restrictions, reports on professionally done inspections); to develop feasible plans for repurposing; to find sources of funding and know the processes involved. But this must be done because the building is an important historic site, not just because it is in imminent danger of demolition.
There must be a solid basis of facts and information supporting the preservation, restoration and repurposing of a historic building and the economic benefit to the community and owner.
Boulder City has made many inviting improvements and additions along the highway leading into the city from the west, but an important landmark at the north entrance has been lost because of benign neglect over a long period of time; Kaiser Foundation Hospitals lost a unique part of its legacy. Boulder City is an important historic place; the preservation of its historic buildings should be among the most important issues the city faces at this time.
Susan Stice McIntyre is a native of Boulder City, a first-generation 31er, and former member and chairman of the Boulder City Historic Preservation Committee.