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Historic Colorado Opera House Threatened With Demolition

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A landmark building in historic downtown Salida is in imminent danger of demolition unless drastic steps are taken to save it.

The building, known locally as the Unique Theater, was built in 1889 to replace the original Salida Opera House, which was destroyed by fire.

The Opera House was part of the "Silver Circuit," which helped bring high quality shows, theatricals and operas across the nation.

In 1909 it was converted to a movie house to capitalize on the new theater trend and operated as a movie theater until 2006, when inspections revealed severe structural damage and the city ordered it closed.

In early 2007 an official warning was given to adjacent property owners to close their businesses due to the possible imminent collapse of the old theater.

At that point an investor stepped up and, after borrowing money from the city, bought the theater. After first considering demolishing the back half of the structure, which was the actual theater and seating portion, the investor ended up cutting holes in the roof of the building in which eight steel trusses were lowered for reinforcement.

Since that time the facade of the building has been restored with the removal of the stucco that had encased the old brick facade since the 1950s. The holes that were cut in the roof for the beams, however, were never re-sealed. Over the past several years rainwater has seeped in and birds and mice have taken up residence, prompting the city to inspect the building again in May 2010 and deeming it unsafe. They then notified the owner to "either correct the unsafe conditions or demolish the building within the next 90 days."

The owner has now called the city's bluff and announced plans to demolish the building, which has alarmed local history buffs who have begun scrambling to find ways to prevent the demise of the grand old structure. A group has now formed to research options for the building and are seeking volunteers to help with their efforts. They have been in touch with Colorado Preservation, Inc. and have discussed the possibility of grants from National Trust for Historic Preservation, State Historical Fund, Housing and Urban Development money and U.S. Forest Service grants, but time is quickly running out for this architectural treasure in the heart of the city's downtown historic district.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer or offer suggestions to save the Opera House is asked to contact: savetheunique@yahoo.com. More information can be found at historicsalida.org