Artbeat

Brief sketches of what's happening in the Denver art scene.

Preservationists statewide took an interest this past summer in the old Cragmor Sanitorium (seen above in its original condition) in Colorado Springs. And who could blame them? Originally built as a luxurious treatment facility for those who suffered from tuberculosis, the 1914 Spanish Colonial-style building is an important landmark. Designed by Thomas MacLaren, the sanitorium sits on the brow of the Cragmor bluffs. Its beige stucco walls are accented by a series of towers, each topped by a red tile roof, rising above the mature specimen trees that line the front lawn. The prominent site means Cragmor can be seen for miles around and is visible from I-25.

But the preservationists aren't trying to get the monumental structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as we might expect. Instead they're moving to have the Colorado State Review Board de-list the sanitorium because it no longer really exists. The majority of the building has been demolished as part of a massive renovation there. All that is left is the facade, which has been propped up by scaffolding.

The facade-omy of Cragmor was inflicted by the Denver architectural firm of Root-Rosenman Architects, but the shots were called by Linda Bunnell Shade, chancellor of the large University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus. As it happens, the campus occupies the substantial grounds of the former sanitorium, and by default, the building became UCCS's Old Main. A real irony of the situation is that many of the buildings constructed during Shade's eight-year reign ape the landmark's style.

As I stood before the ruins of Cragmor last month, I thought to myself, well, I know what's next -- Shade's going to head off for a better job somewhere else. And guess what? She resigned the week before last to take a position with the College Board in New York. The Cragmor Sanitorium survived the ravages of more than eighty years; it just couldn't make it past Shade. All of us in Colorado are the lesser for it.

 
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