A Brief History of Lake City:
Historic Preservation in Lake City
Lake City contains a collection of intact buildings associated with the 1875 - 1878 settlement boom and 1880 - 1881 boom, as well as buildings constructed during the second boom period of the 1890s. As the number of summer visitors increased in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, local investors developed "tourist camps" with Rustic style log cabins.
These varied properties convey the town's early settlement and development as well as its twentieth century evolution into a popular tourist destination.
Several factors have contributed to preserving the Lake City Historic District.
The town's remote location and decades of economic decline helped conserve the buildings from the 1875 - 1904 mining era.
The weak local economy discouraged new construction, other than tourist camps and auto courts, thus Lake City avoided modern "improvements" to historic buildings that occurred in other towns.
Meanwhile, recreation and tourism also aided preservation as visitors began buying vacant dwellings for use as summer homes.
Local citizens have initiated various preservation efforts in recent decades. The Hinsdale County Historical Society formed in 1973 began accumulating documents and photographs recording the town's history, and has been a strong advocate for preservation in Lake City since then. In 1978, the Lake City Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Town Board of Trustees in 1984 adopted a Historic Preservation Ordinance with design guidelines applied in reviewing construction projects within the Historic District. In 1987, Lake City became a Certified Local Government (CLG) and in 2000 the Town developed a Design Guidelines handbook funded by a CLG grant.
During the past few decades, several significant historic properties have been preserved and restored through individuals' initiative:
James and Theresa Ryan purchased the Bank Block at 229 Silver Street in the mid 1950s, restoring the building to its historic appearance by removing the coat of white paint that had been applied in the 1940s.
Ann and John Parker acquired the Bank Block in 1975 and returned the building to office and banking space following its 40 years of service as a bar and restaurant. In 1983, a commercial bank opened in the building, the first local banking facility since 1914.
During the 1970s and 1980s, members of the Lake City Baptist congregation aided by volunteers from Texas performed extensive preservation work on the church building, which had stood vacant and derelict in the 1930s.
In the 1970s, the Town of Lake City initiated restoration of the Armory building to its original condition with enclosure of two garage openings installed during the building's 1950s tenure as Lake City's fire house.
In 1997, Tom and Sandy Hardilek purchased the stone commercial building at 300 Third Street and returned it to its original appearance by removing the wood façade applied in the 1970s.
Hinsdale County acquired the John C. Bell cabin at 304 Third Street and restored it in 2000, removing stucco siding to reveal the 1876 log cabin that had served as the law office for Lake City's leading attorney in the 1880s.
Since the 1991 inception of the State Historical Fund generated by gaming tax revenues, State Historic Fund grants have been awarded for preservation work on the Hinsdale County Courthouse, Lake City Armory (town hall and recreation center), and the Finley Block that contains the Hinsdale County History Museum.
Also, many individual property owners have scraped and painted exteriors, replaced roofs, added or replaced foundations, and carried out other work to preserve historic properties. During the past decades, historic preservation has served economic development with preservation projects creating jobs for local carpenters, craftsmen, and contractors.
Through these various public and private efforts, the Lake City Historic District has retained its historic character and remained a valued community asset as well as a key component for the heritage tourism industry.