Last week, in a parting gesture as ironic as it was fitting, former Kiowa County Commissioner Cindy McLoud let it be known she received word that her last grant request—made while she was still in office—has been awarded. This award officially makes the Murdock Building finally and fully funded to completion.
The $200,000 grant from the State Historical Fund is the 15th successful grant application McLoud completed, bringing the revenue she raised to a total of $1.7 million. The vast majority of those grants were applied for and awarded while she concurrently served as commissioner.
When asked how she feels, McLoud—ever the pragmatist—says, “Relieved beyond belief! Now, once these buildings are put back into use, I look forward to private businesses being able to profit from the added traffic the town will experience.”
The project, which first got legs in 2007, was originally the idea of Dr. Alexa Roberts, former NPS Superintendent for NPS High Plains Group, which includes the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.
When Roberts first approached the county, the commissioners had already determined a new building was needed for the Senior Citizens Center, but building a new structure would be expensive, and grant money for new building construction was almost non-existent. Roberts, knowing an appropriate space for visitors, offices and researchers was needed for the Sand Creek Massacre NHS, proposed renovating the Murdock Building to serve both groups. Funding for historical sites was available, and the county could serve as a “pass-through” for any funding that was awarded.
The commissioners agreed. At that point, Jane Daniels with Colorado Preservation Inc., a non-profit devoted to saving Colorado’s historic places, became involved. She obtained roughly $420,000 in funding for initial work, which began in 2011.
In 2014, McLoud became involved as a grant writer. Upon being elected to the Board of County Commissioners, she assumed—on behalf of the county—responsibility for raising the funds to complete the project that was already underway when she took office. In a sign of just how much she has devoted to the project’s completion, McLoud received no extra compensation for her efforts, despite this being over and above her duties as commissioner. She even paid out of her own pocket for attendance at numerous conferences and workshops as she networked for additional funding.
The Murdock project, an 11-year joint venture between Kiowa County and the National Park Service, will ultimately serve two purposes. A third of the building will house the Senior Citizens’ Center, which will also be available for public use at various times. NPS will occupy the other two-thirds of the building with space devoted to the off-site Visitor’s Center for the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, administrative offices and a research center for individuals who are studying what happened at Sand Creek.
As is true with many projects that take a long time to be completed, the Murdock Building has had its skeptics throughout the years with some voicing doubt it would ever be finished. This latest development should put those concerns to rest.
The National Park Service, which allocated over $2 million for renovation of its area, has put the work out for bids to renovate their section of the interior. As far as the county is concerned, if work is not completed by the end of 2019, some of the money already awarded will have to be returned. Needless to say, the pressure’s on to get the work done. Although both groups are managing renovation for their section of the building, the overall project is a Kiowa County project.
Others have had questions about the practicality of the project as a whole.
A 2018 report revealed that Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site brought 6,536 visitors to the area and $375,000 in revenue to nearby communities. It’s also responsible for creating 7 jobs.
With that in mind, it’s anticipated that locating the Visitors Center right on Maine Street will bring those people into town where other businesses can benefit from the increase in foot traffic. Also, those figures from 2018 do not reflect the additional people who will be drawn to the area once a formal research facility exists.
It should also be noted that, despite NPS allocating funds to renovate the interior of the building, they will still lease the property from Kiowa County for use at a sum to be disclosed later.
Another question that occasionally surfaces in discussions about the project includes what many view to be an excessive cost of construction. Although those directly involved would readily agree the costs are great, they also admit that is frequently part of “the cost of doing business” with projects that involve preserving history, especially when very old buildings are at risk of being beyond the ability to be saved.
In the case of the Murdock Building, an architect familiar with historic projects had to be involved. Initial construction required that an archaeologist be consulted any time ground was disturbed. The external appearance of the building had to be as close to original appearance as possible. Some windows and doors had to be restored, despite new materials being less expensive. Mortar on the front of the building had to be white and mortar on the back had to be red since that was how the building originally looked.
In addition to that, the building needed initial repairs including a new roof, a new back wall on “Mac’s Café” (aka the old bank), fixing a cracked foundation, elliptical peers with screws that go 40 feet in the ground, bricks repointed. Additional work ranged from cleaning out the buildings, stabilizing the walls, abating for asbestos, an entirely new electrical system, a new fire suppression system and countless other tasks involved in renovating a building that is a century old.
The restoration of historic buildings is playing an increasingly larger part in saving the Main Street businesses found in small towns across Colorado and the United States, at large. Eads is no different. Completing renovation of the 12,000 square foot, two story, red brick buildings that, over the years, have housed the First National Bank, Whitelaw & Company Store, Gamble’s, C.A. Schoggens, Mac’s Café (and others, I’m sure) not only gives a high quality finished appearance to the southern end of that block of Maine Street, it also provides two new attractions—one that brings new people to town and one that gives current residents a new site for activities.
It’s exactly the kind of project that is so fitting for a town where so many people with such deep connections to the past still reside. Instead of seeing some newly built structure that could (and does) appear on any corner in any town anywhere, visitors will walk down the sidewalk in Eads and see a beautiful, old building that has clearly been renovated with careful attention paid to even the smallest of details, and there will no doubt be a few speculative conversations sparked by the name “Mac’s Café” still visible on the north end of the building.
And those who grew up here, those elders who have spent most, if not all, of their lives living and working and walking along those same sidewalks, the “Murdock Building” will be undoubtedly a lovely place to behold, but part of them will still remember and, in their mind’s eyes, perhaps still see those names, long since disappeared, that used to grace the storefronts when they were children.
And when people—whether locals or those passing through—walk inside and sense the great space within, the bricked archways that lead from one side to another, the solid and heavy doors that still have transom windows overhead and the beautiful skylights (one restored, one new) that allow natural light inside, there will undoubtedly be comments on the grace of the architecture in “the old days” when it seemed people took truly great pride in their work.
Soon, the “Murdock Building” will be known by the proper names the “Senior Citizens’ Center” and the “Visitors’ Center for Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site”. It will then take its place on the historic registry and be noted by people for what it is: a building resurrected out of deep homage to the past and respect for the future to come.