Lowell Thomas Museum
The Museum's History: Following a horrific fire in 1899 that destroyed most of the town of Victor, the residents of the small mining town rebuilt their community, including the Reynolds Block Building – now the home of the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum. The building was constructed on Victor Avenue and 3rd Street, in the heart of the Victor National Register Historic District and, over its lifetime, was home to various businesses. Beginning in 1920, S.A. Hackney used the main floor as a furniture store and leased the upper level as Hotel Hackley.
After a fire in the 1950s severely damaged the basement and first floor on the east end of the building, the Victor Improvement Association (VIA) bought it, in 1960, for ten dollars. In 2000 a revitalized VIA Board undertook preservation of the Museum and has since completed a Historic Structure Assessment, a Capital and Master plan, and seven phases of construction work.
The Immediate Goal: The VIA's immediate goal was to stabilize and rehabilitate the facility to preserve its historic character and to protect the artifacts it houses. The ultimate mission is to enable the Museum to serve the public seven days a week, year round. This capacity involves having a comfortable facility with visitor and staff conveniences, including ADA compliance, as well as climate control for the collections.
The Museum's Physical Structure: The two-story structure, 50 x 75 feet, was constructed in turn-of-the-century style for commercial buildings. It has a full basement with a rubble stone foundation as well as two above-grade stories. The north and west façades are faced with a locally produced buff-colored dry pressed brick. The south and east façades are faced with common red brick. The northwest corner is at a 45-degree angle facing the intersection of Victor Avenue and 3rd Street. The main entrance faces this intersection. Other features include a sheet metal Corinthian cornice supported by block-style medallions and a horizontal decorative wood banding above.
The Preservation: All architectural and engineering plans have complied and will comply with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation or Restoration. Also, the proper treatment of historic materials and elements has been guided by the National Park Service Preservation Briefs.
The architectural master plan provided an outline of the circulation patterns and location of critical elements based on historic spaces, needs of visitors and staff, and the proposed layout for exhibits and collections,
The architectural elements address the floor plan and finishes of the building, including the preservation of character-defining historic features: the original wood floors, pressed-in ceilings, plaster walls, and wood trim. Because it has no exposure to natural light and does have low ceilings and adequate open space, the lower level will house mechanical equipment, a workshop, storage spaces, and the elevator mechanical area. Where ceiling height allows, an interactive mining display will be designed, using the existing heavy timber construction and dark space to recreate the mining experience for visitors. The lower level will also include an ADA accessible entrance.
The main level contains the main public entry door from the corner of Victor Avenue and 3rd Street. The two large bays (north and south) were retained. The south bay door on the western façade serves as the ADA accessible entry for the main level. The staff area and gift shop are located just inside the main entry door in the north bay to allow for visual control of the entry and shop The change in floor level between the north and south bays is solved by stairs and new ADA-compliant ramp. The south bay will contain large-scale mining displays, elevator access, and two ADA restrooms. As on the main level, the general configuration of the upper level has been retained. This involves a central circulation corridor and smaller rooms in the perimeter that serve as display areas. A new stair and the elevator give access to visitors on this level. A private archive room and offices are planned in two rooms on the north side of the building.
THE VLT Museum has undergone necessary phases of structural stabilization. The building envelope, including windows and doors, masonry, the storefront, and the roof have been rehabilitated or restored. Design of mechanical and plumbing systems as well as electrical supply and distribution are currently underway.
Funding and Phases
State Historical Fund grants were provided as follows:
2000: Historical Structure Assessment
2007: Structural stabilization construction documents
2008: Phase I of structural stabilization and foundation repair
2009: Phase II of structural stabilization and window rehabilitation
2010: Phase III of structural stabilization and storefront rehabilitation
2013-2014: Exterior restoration and rehabilitation.
Additional funding is as follows:
2008: Gates Family Foundation for construction of Phases II and III, window and storefront restoration ($80,000)
2010: Colorado Department of Transportation grant for roof rehabilitation
Other funders include
Edmund T. and Eleanor Quick Foundation ($10,000)
Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company ($10,000)
Boettcher Foundation ($20,000)
City of Cripple Creek ($25,000)
Numerous other donors.
VIA Board of Directors
Robert Swickert, Licensed Preservation Architect
Charise Boomsma, Grant and Project Manager, M.A. in
Architectural History, University of Colorado