Aspen’s West End is filled with stately older homes. Many are empty during the off season, but during the summer the neighborhood picks up. And in that new life, the Aspen Historical Society holds regular walking tours to show off vintage beauty, and tell some good tales about years gone by.
Nina Gabianelli: “We do walk along the streets here, because there really are no sidewalks…”
Nina Gabianelli is dressed in what she describes as typical victorian women’s wear-- a tightly corseted dress with flowing sleeves and a bonnet. She’s Vice President of Programming and Education at the Society, and is leading the tour.
“Now the homes in this area are mostly rather large, there was a lot of space, a lot of land. These were the lawyers, the doctors, the mine owners. So not much has changed in that sense. We’ll go around the corner here.”
Gabianelli continues, “This beautiful little house over here was owned by a bank clerk, who worked for Mr. Wheeler, at his bank, because when Mr. Wheeler decided to really put down roots here, he builds a bank on the corner of Mill and Hyman street, on the second floor he put some offices for his aspen mining company, and on the third floor he gives the city an opera house. The Wheeler opera house. This elevated us in the eyes of the world as a city. This home has that beautiful sunburst over the porch, entrance way there, right over five thirty three, the railings. You could then, probably by the time this house was built, order pieces like that reveal window, and the porch railings, to be brought in on the train, so they didn’t have to be hand hewn here in town."
The tour continues moving closer to Aspen's downtown core, with more than a handful of participants trying to keep pace with Gabianelli.
Gabianelli: "This home here, built in a Frank Lloyd Wright style, so that was our mid century building that was happening here, both through Herbert Beyer, a Bauhaus trained architect, who came with Mr. Paepke, he was trained in Germany in the Bauhaus school of architecture. And then there was Fritz Benedict, another tenth mountain serviceman who returned here, who had trained with Frank Lloyd Wright. Mostly in Landscape Architecture, but then also helped to build homes here to. So this home, you’ll notice the trees. You don't notice the trees. You don’t notice the house. The house works itself within the landscape.”
And as we walk through Aspen’s West End, there’s a noticeable amount of hammering, mowing, and other activity. Gabianelli says she’s noticed more of the fixer-uppers getting spruced up.
“You know we haven’t had building. 2008, the building stopped, the development properties didn’t sell. So now they’re selling, and now there’s more construction going on. So we’re seeing, what we haven’t seen in a while, I think.”
Moments later, as we pass by the Victorian home sold last year by the actor Jack Nicholson… it’s surrounded by workers. They are putting in a new foundation.