Tortilla Flats residents and city officials gathered Thursday evening at the MADA building for a roundtable discussion regarding the historical preservation of their neighborhood.

The City of Montrose was previously granted $25,000 in March from History Colorado after the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) initiated efforts to prepare a historic context survey.

The project’s purpose is to prepare a historical context report and conduct a “reconnaissance-level architectural resources survey” that will serve as a planning document to identify historic neighborhood resources, according to the surveying team at Logan Simpson. The report will also evaluate the neighborhood’s eligibility for historic designation across four levels: federal, state, county, and local designation.

Logan Simpson is a landscape architecture and environmental planning firm contracted by the city through a Certified Local Government (CLG) Subgrant Program by History Colorado.

The forum provided residents the opportunity to meet with the architectural survey team and share the oral history of their neighborhood.

The surveying team asked residents what they should know about their neighborhood, how the neighborhood is different from others in Montrose, what they hope to achieve through the survey, what other sources of information could be used for neighborhood history, what issues need addressing and how the residents feel about their community’s name.

Residents were candid and forthcoming, one person comparing the neighborhood to the classic television show “Cheers,” saying the community is one where “everybody knows your name.”

Descriptors such as “diverse,” “accepting” and “tight-knit” echoed around the room.

“Our people are very family-oriented,” said Tortilla Flats resident Bobbi Fresquez, who said the community spends time with immediate family as well as cousins, aunts, uncles and others outside the family.

Fresquez considers the community a peaceful one who “minds their business” and does what they can for their families. She recalled the advocates they’ve had in the past and how advocacy has been lacking for a few years-she looks forward to seeing more advocates help “push up” the neighborhood.

Many residents referred to themselves as “TFers,” recounting stories of life growing up, how lively dances and music festivals lit up La Raza park and of the negative connotations that once came with the neighborhood’s name.

Fresquez said that while many present in the room “are proud to be TFers,” there were others who weren’t present that didn’t like the name. One resident explained that while the name carried negative connotations when she was growing up, it felt as real as her given name because it was all she knew.

The name “Tortilla Flats” derives from the smell of tortillas emanating from the kitchens throughout the neighborhood, Councilwoman Barbara Bynum noted.

But residents hope that the survey will show the rest of the community the neighborhood is more than its name.

Residents like Fresquez want the survey to achieve an understanding of the neighborhood and to create a voice for the community that currently isn’t being heard.

The neighborhood developed a “bad persona” once the homeless population moved through the neighborhood and park, said Fresquez.

“We used to be able to leave doors unlocked and walk through the park at night,” the resident continued.

Now, TFers are worried about the community’s safety, including a lack of sidewalks and the nearby magnesium chloride storage tanks.

While the issues brought up at the public meeting don’t directly impact the survey results, Langston Guettinger, historic preservation specialist and architectural historian, said that an extensive report provides an opportunity to place any concerns on record, particularly with city councilors present at the meeting.

Residents suggested the surveyors look into the Montrose Fire Department and Crippin Funeral Home as historical sources, proving the oral history public meeting an invaluable tool for the surveying team.

“There’s not a lot of documentary evidence about the [Tortilla Flats] community,” said Erick Laurila, owner of Logan Simpson. “Some of the residents here have said as much. In those circumstances, the only kind of traces of that history are the physical remnants of the buildings, which we also learned that a lot of them are gone in this neighborhood.”

Laurila added that a significant part of the survey includes sifting through the memories of people in the community to learn about what was there and why it was important.

This step is critical for communities left out of the conversation, said the owner. Many times communities like Tortilla Flats aren’t included in newspapers or history books, so providing the platform for residents to tell their “human history” is important for gaining a better understanding of why the community is significant and how it’s changed over time.

“We want to learn,” said Laurila. “We might be experts on historic preservation, but we’re not experts on this community. So we want to hear from the experts in the community and those are the people who grew up here, who have lived here and invested their lives in this community.”

Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

Load comments