There's street art on the fence surrounding a construction zone near 8th and Arapahoe.

The house there has been deteriorating behind boarded-up windows for more than 20 years, infested by raccoons and marked by squatters, on the brink of condemnation, just awaiting the bulldozer to erase it from Boulder's grid.

But the colorful marks on its fence aren't graffiti.

The historic house has been tagged by fabric, intricately woven through the chain links to replicate a historical plat of land.

It's been weave-bombed.

And it's a promise of something beautiful to come.

Historic Boulder adopted the neglected, historical property in 2010 and immediately launched its resurrection. Thanks to multiple grants and donations totaling $300,000, the Hannah Barker House has a new foundation and roof. The raccoons are gone. It's structurally safe. A ton of work -- but it was all behind the scenes.

Now comes the exciting part of the rehabilitation: the visible improvements one can see from the street, says Arianna Funk, development director with Historic Boulder.

While a small group of Historicorps volunteers rebuild the house's large porch (most work is slated for completion this weekend), another group of volunteers has been decorating the fence.

The idea was inspired by the Ladies Fancywork Society, a crochet street art crew in Denver known for "guerilla knitting" and "yarn bombing" the city. The society would strike in the middle of the night, tagging with fiber art instead of spray paint. You might have recently seen the 7-by-7-foot legwarmer for one of the "alien dancers" outside the Denver Convention Center.

The Fancywork Society now puts together large-scale projects and installations.

The once-dilapidated Hannah Barker House is being restored and woven back into the fiber of Boulder history.
The once-dilapidated Hannah Barker House is being restored and woven back into the fiber of Boulder history. (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera)

That's what the Handweavers Guild of Boulder has done with the Hannah Barker fence.

Usings dozens of spools of donated fabric in rose, navy blue, off-white and burgundy, local artisans have transformed the fence into a giant weaving warp, to create an oversized replica of the original plat of the former Highland's Lawn neighborhood (now annexed into the city) -- a plat that Hannah Barker herself designed in 1884.

Barker, born in 1844 in Ireland, ended up in Boulder, married to a man named Ezra Barker. He died six years later, leaving her a plethora of land and wealth, according to Abby Daniels, executive director of Historic Boulder.

But instead of retiring, Barker became a philanthropist and important member of the creation and growth of Boulder, Daniels says.

"In her own right, she did things that would even be remarkable for a woman today," Daniels says, noting Barker's involvement with 125 deeds to buy or sell real estate and her attempt to climb Longs Peak. "But she did them at a time when women were often caught in that domestic realm."

Her home, built in 1875, was one of the first to trade fireplaces for radiators. She watched Boulder bloom from a population of 350 to more than 11,000, Daniels says. She gave Boulder County the Barker Reservoir, was on the board for the Boulder Bank and was a founder of what is now Boulder Day Nursery.

"Throughout history, the story of women and immigrants doesn't get as highlighted as some other stories," she says. "The reason we thought it was important to save this house is it is another physical connection to her life, her contributions and her legacy."

Contact Staff Writer Aimee Heckel at 303-473-1359 or