The Estes Park Historical Museum, located at 200 Fourth Street, features collections and exhibits depicting and preserving area history as far back as its first inhabitants – the Native American tribes of the Ute, Shoshone and Comanche. The Museum’s interpretative programs and events help educate residents and visitors alike about the area’s fascinating story. As the Museum’s collections and programs have grown over the years, so has the building. But its growth has been in awkward spurts – four additions to the original building left it with little curb appeal. And yet in 2003 it needed to grow again.
Because Museum programs regularly attracted more than seventy attendees, the lack of space meant Museum programs had to be held away from the Museum – at the Library, Town Hall or other locations. The firm of T.W. Beck Architects was chosen to take on the challenge of developing a comprehensive plan that would not only provide functionally efficient, additional space for events and meetings, but integrate the multiple previous expansions into a cohesive, attractive structural design.
T. W. Beck Architects, a local firm specializing in mountain architecture, presented a competitive design/build bid. Beck had previously demonstrated its capabilities in work for the Town of Estes Park, with the successful remodel of the Senior Center. Construction began in October 2003, and was completed on schedule – in June 2004. In July, more than 600 people attended the Museum’s grand reopening events.
The project more than doubled the existing space of 2,450 square feet to 5,870. A highlight is the new, 1135 square foot, multipurpose room, used for Museum programs, presentations, and meetings of the Museum board of directors. The new addition is also available to community groups for meetings and events. It features a vaulted ceiling with strong, exposed, Parallam wood trusses – a green building product made of wood fibers. Not only is the material more economical than using large, timber beams, but its production does not require cutting mature trees, making it more environmentally friendly. The high ceilings, along with plentiful windows that frame views of Lake Estes, provide lots of daylighting, reducing energy use. The daylighting is supplemented with shelf and track lighting. The new meeting space includes a convenient kitchen area.
New men’s and women’s restrooms are accessible to handicapped individuals. A roomy, new Museum Shop is greatly enhanced by a ceiling with varied heights and cheerful ambient light. The shop is operated by the volunteer group, Friends of the Museum, and offers books about Estes Valley history, photos and reproductions of local scenery and landmarks, gifts and more.
The new entry conceals the existing building and multiple additions. The timber frame design incorporates natural elements throughout, including tile, wood, natural light and colors drawn from the Rocky Mountain vistas that surround the Estes Valley. The interior includes silk-screened artwork created by local Eagle Rock School art students. The Museum’s exterior implements a sustainable design that is now in harmony with its surroundings, with new stone work, cedar-shingled siding, and a peeled log and stone entry way. Exterior colors are drawn from the mountain setting, while the mountains are mimicked in the multiple-gabled roof.
According to Museum Director, Betty Kilsdonk, “The project has really enhanced our interactions with the community…the expansion has demonstrated that the money spent to improve our facility was a good investment on the part of the Town of Estes Park, our Friends of the Museum group, and others who provided cash and in-kind services.”