THE San Luis Bank building and St. Agnes Parish Hall Saguache are two new restoration projects that will receive grant funding from the History Colorado’s State Historical Fund.
History Colorado’s State Historical Fund awarded $296,377 in competitive grant funding to eight applicants across seven different counties in the state of Colorado earlier this month. Over three-quarters of the award amount impacts rural Colorado and two grants directly assist Hispano/Hispanic communities in the San Luis Valley.
Awards in the Valley:
Colorado Preservation, Inc. was awarded $49,500 toward stabilizing the San Luis Bank building in San Luis. Plans include hiring a local company to shore up deteriorating roofs and walls. Stabilization is the first step in the process of the planned rehabilitation of the building, which was purchased by local businesswoman Ronda Lobato.
Lobato’s plans include restoring this historic building and converting it into affordable housing to address a shortage in her community, as well as providing retail and commercial space that could serve a variety of needs in Colorado’s oldest incorporated town.
“Many in our community live in outlying areas because of the lack of housing in San Luis, once again spending monies for living expenses, food, and entertainment in other communities and impacting our cost of living in San Luis,” Lobato said in her application. “This is a vicious circle which is severely impacting the Town of San Luis and our Hispano residents.”
Preservation work at the San Luis Bank is part of a larger revitalization effort by private individuals in the community. This group of private owners is hopeful that State Historical Fund grants will provide an avenue to maintaining the unique character of San Luis for future generations while also providing economic and housing opportunities for its current residents.
The San Luis Bank building is a touchstone of the community that contributed to the commercial growth of the Hispano/Hispanic community, which makes up the majority population of San Luis. This building, which dates back to 1892, housed a bank that managed money generated by the local grain mill. Eventually failing in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the bank was purchased by an immigrant family who converted it into a department store which operated until the 1980s.
Another grant from this round is the $42,599 awarded to the Association of St. Agnes Catholic Community to create architectural drawings and plans that will allow contractors to rehabilitate the St. Agnes Parish Hall so it can be used by the local Catholic community.
St. Agnes Parish Hall was constructed in Saguache in the 1880s and served as a community meeting place until it was closed in 2021 due to a water line break that damaged walls, flooring, and electrical wiring. Closing this building has severely impacted the local Catholic community, which is predominantly Hispano.
“This is where we celebrate rites of passage, personal accomplishments, grieve the loss of our community members, share a cup of coffee and meal, and play bingo. This is the largest meeting place in town, we open our doors in times of crisis, freely give food, comfort, and advice during tragic and stressful times,” said Toni Mondragon, president of the Association of St. Agnes Catholic Community.
St. Agnes Catholic Community hopes the restoration of the Parish Hall will allow for the revitalization of the civil and social well-being that comes from the church, which provides meals, clothing, and other social services needed by the community.
Assisting communities in preserving local institutions, such as the Parish Hall and San Luis Bank building, is a crucial aspect of History Colorado’s organizational goals.
“State Historical Fund is a key part of History Colorado efforts to invest in the prosperity of rural Colorado by preserving key local assets that fuel the vibrancy of Colorado’s beloved communities,” said Dawn DiPrince, History Colorado’s executive director and state historic preservation officer. “This latest round of grants, particularly the St. Agnes Parish Hall and San Luis Bank projects, really speak to how important preservation work can serve as building blocks in solving broader community challenges.”
This round of grants, known as Mini Grants, allows Colorado communities to request up to $50,000 to support preservation and archaeology projects that save the places and stories they cherish. Since 1981 preservation projects in Colorado have created more than 27,000 jobs and generated a total of nearly $3.9 billion in direct and indirect economic impacts, adding $2.2 billion to Colorado’s GDP.
The projects for this round of Mini Grants range from repair and rehabilitation of Coke Ovens near Glenwood Springs to planning and facilitating the transition of the historic Hayden Ranch in Lake County to a preservation-focused owner and steward.
In addition to this round of Mini Grants, the State Historical Fund will award General Grants in December. These larger grants fund similar preservation projects but range from $50,001-$250,000. Both the Mini Grants and the General Grants are awarded in the spring and fall annually. Additionally the State Historical Fund has a series of non-competitive grants that are awarded on a rolling basis and can provide up to $15,000 in funding.
Additional information about State Historical Fund grants and application materials can be found at historycolorado.org/apply-here.
History Colorado’s State Historical Fund awards grants funded by limited stakes gaming in the towns of Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek for preservation of significant buildings, structures, objects, districts, and archaeology sites in Colorado.
A full list of projects funded by the SHF can be found at https://historycolorado.org/state-historical-fund.