Orchard House to get interior restoration, thanks to grant, Folk Art fundraising

       The Orchard House, for years the symbol of the old ranch/farm off 30th Street, is about to receive the first major restoration of its upper floors since William Palmer built it a century ago.
       Westside contractor Charlie Paterson Construction is expected to get started on the $130,000 project this month, according to Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site ranch manager Andy Morris.
       “If things go according to plan,” he said, the work will be done by July 21, when a 100-year anniversary celebration is planned for the structure - one of the featured buildings on the 230-acre, city-owned facility at the southeastern corner of the Garden of the Gods.
       The hope had been to start sooner this year, but a last-minute project-improvement change had to be approved by the state. This was OK with Morris, even if it's tightened the schedule somewhat. “We'd much rather have a good job that takes more time than a poor job that's done quickly,” he said.
       The biggest portion of the restoration cost will be covered by a recently awarded grant of $80,000 from the State Historical Fund. That amount will be matched with $50,000 in privately raised money - chiefly from proceeds donated from the annual three-day Folk Art Festival, organized at the ranch by Old Colorado City merchant/Rock Ledge supporter Kathy Read.
       The project will be a combination of installing modern electricity and plumbing (although the fixtures will look like they did 100 years ago); adding, fixing or enhancing historical detail; and (in a few cases) removing aspects that have been added over the years that are not in keeping with the original design or style of the period.
       Examples are as follows (taken from the project's “scope of work” document):
       “Repair trim and window sashes as required… Reconstruct cabinets originally designed for west wall of dressing room… strip wallpaper… repair plaster walls and ceilings to new condition… strip paint from wood trim in second floor rooms except bathrooms… stain and wax woodwork in second-floor guest rooms, hall outside guest rooms, dressing room and hall outside dressing room… wallpaper upper area of guest room #1 closet… strip and paint radiators and bathtubs… remove varnish from third-floor servant's room, restore wax finish like original… install carpeting in second-floor rooms - carpet cut to 36-inch strips and sewn together to match original.”
       One requirement of the state grant is the recording of a 20-year covenant, which will prohibit any alterations to the historical changes over the next 20 years.
       At last fall's 28th annual Folk Art Festival, Read said she was looking forward to the restoration her festival would help fund. “The big thing that makes it kind of exciting is that next year the Orchard House will be 100 years old,” she commented. “So we'll have some funds to use and she'll look beautiful for her 100th anniversary.”
       For those who might wonder, the restoration will not include changing the exterior color of the house back to white. The white paint job, applied in the 1940s when the ranch was still privately owned, was so striking that for many years the property was known as “White House Ranch.”
       City Parks, which bought the site in 1968, continued to call the ranch by that name until 1995, when it formally changed the name to Rock Ledge Ranch. This more closely matched the name of the home (the Rock Ledge House) built by the ranch's earliest active owners, the Chambers family of the 1880s and '90s. Also, the change allowed the Orchard House to retain its original name without confusion.
       According to an article by Meg Andersen in the January 2006 issue of the Annunciator (the quarterly publication by the Rock Ledge Ranch Living History Association), Palmer bought the house from the Chambers in 1900. He built the Orchard House in a South African Colonial style for in-laws who had previously been living in that part of the world.

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