The entrance to Montrose City Hall

The entrance to Montrose City Hall displays some of the characteristics that qualified it for designation as a historic site.

The Montrose City Council applied its new historic preservation ordinance for the first time recently — on City Hall.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Virgil Turner, the city’s director of innovation and citizen engagement, in recommending council designate City Hall, at 433 S. First St., under the ordinance.

“We felt this would be not only a symbolic first designation, but also one we could work through the process on, at a staff level, of getting historic properties designated.”

Another application for the designation is “in the pipeline,” he also said Sept. 3.

City Hall was erected in 1926 and was the first building constructed for the specific purpose of housing city offices, according to language in the ordinance council considered.

Designed by architect J.H. Antrobus and contractors Okey & Jones, the building boasts of decorative brickwork. The building’s shaped parapets above the south and east entrances are reflective of the Mission Revival style and its polychromatic ornament shows Art Deco influence.

The historic preservation ordinance of 2018 is a framework by which the city’s historic preservation commission recommends designating qualifying properties, structures and districts.

The ordinance provides regulations and incentives that can serve to enhance values and stabilize historic neighborhoods. It was passed to help promote thoughtful community planning and design and, among other goals, attract visitors and provide educational opportunities — in a way that balances private property rights and the public interest, while also preserving the city’s historic character.

No one is forced to participate in the designation program; applications to have properties so designated are voluntary. The designation can help property owners qualify for state and federal historic preservation funding.

To qualify for listing, the property, district or structure must be at least 50 years old and also fit at least one other listed criteria: association with historic events; connection with significant figures; distinctive characteristics of a type, period, method of construction or artisan; geographic importance and potential to yield important historical information.

City Hall fits the bill, Turner said.

“This building, No. 1, is on the National Register,” he said. “That’s really all that’s required in this case. That’s a very very high standard. That, in and of itself, would have (met standards).”

The application went before the city’s historic preservation commission July 23, which unanimously recommended approval, sending it to city council for first reading under a quasi-judicial process.

The commission also had the option of approving the designation with conditions, or of denying the application, Turner said, in explaining the process.

Basically, if a property meets designation criteria, city staff and the property owner take the request for designation to the commission, which after a hearing makes recommendations to council.

If request clears second reading, the ordinance designating the property is recorded with the Montrose County clerk and the designation stays with the property unless the ordinance is rescinded.

Councilors passed the measure on first reading Sept. 3.

“It’s exciting to have our first historic building be our city hall,” Mayor Pro-tem Barbara Bynum said.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer.

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