Boulder will allow the demolition of a historic but dilapidated house in the Goss-Grove neighborhood that was once home to former slaves and the city's early black settlers.
The house at 2118 Goss Circle is just 556 square feet. It's in poor condition and has lost many of its original characteristics, though it still demonstrates elements of the "hall and parlor" style of architecture many black migrants brought with them from the South.
Despite its poor condition, the home has cultural significance. The home lies in the neighborhood formerly known as the Little Rectangle, bounded by Canyon Boulevard, Goss Circle, 19th Street and 23rd Street. At the time it was settled, the land was less expensive because it was on the outskirts of town and prone to flooding, and it was the center of Boulder's early black community.
According to the city, the earliest recorded residents of the house were Frank and Lulu Hall. Frank Hall was a porter in a saloon, and Lulu Hall washed clothes. Frank Hall's parents, James and Martha Hall, were two of Boulder's earliest black residents, arriving in 1876. James Hall was a former slave and a Civil War veteran who joined the Union Army in Kansas.
Another former slave, Emily Ewing, born in Kentucky in 1818, lived in the home from 1901 until her death in 1911.
Two other homes in the Little Rectangle have received landmark status: the home of Ruth Cave Flowers, a Boulder lawyer and educator who was raised here by her grandmother and became the fourth black graduate of the University of Colorado; and the home of musician John Wesley McVey.
Earlier this year, the Landmarks Board put a stay on a request for a demolition permit, but on Wednesday, the board voted 3-2 to allow the demolition to go forward.
The applicant will have to first commission drawings and photographs of the home to document its historic features.
Board Chairman Mark Gerwing and members Nicholas Fiore and Kirsten Snobeck voted to allow the demolition. Members Elizabeth Payton and Kate Remley wanted the stay to continue in hope that a compromise could be worked out.
Gerwing said in an interview that the case was a hard one, as the home has great social and cultural significance. However, restoring it would have been extremely expensive, and the home had lost its historical integrity and context.
It wasn't just the structural issues in the home itself. The house would have had to be raised to comply with current floodplain guidelines.
"It felt like an awfully strong, heavy burden to place on those owners, given all the problems," he said.
Manuel and Julie Avalos have owned the home since 1963. It has been a rental for most of that time. The demolition permit was sought by Mark Riegel, who lives nearby in the 1700 block of Grove Street. According to city officials, he wants to buy the property and build a larger single-family house there.
Payton said she wanted the stay to continue through July 28 to see if there was some way to preserve at least a portion of the home.
"The house is part of telling the whole story of Boulder and not just the story of the wealthy movers and shakers," Payton said. "It tells the stories of the minority families who lived there, African-American and Hispanic. It represents the working class and people of a different socio-economic status. You don't see any preservation of their lifestyle."