History Colorado is heading out on a road trip to research and preserve Green Book sites
“We just want to go out into the community and talk to people and understand which story was more anecdotally known or passed down through family.”
History Colorado will soon embark on a conservation road trip across the state to explore and study Green Book sites thanks to a state grant. These places were businesses that served black travelers when segregation was legal.
History Colorado’s State Historic Preservation Office received a nearly $75,000 grant from the National Park Service late last month to begin thorough studies of the sites and eventually at least one of them for historic designation both nationally and internationally State Register of Historic Nominate Sets.
The project began last year and the idea stemmed from the three-time Oscar-winning film The Green Book, according to Patrick Eidman, Chief Preservation Officer and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer.
“The staff here at the time felt it was necessary to dig deeper into sites related to the Green Book and other travel resources of this nature in Colorado. It just wasn’t really well understood or studied at the time,” Eidman said. “[The movie] intersected with our efforts, and we have since recognized that History Colorado has much to do on this front to understand and preserve the resources associated with BIPOC communities, particularly the black community and this history in Colorado.
History Colorado originally started out exploring green paper pages, driving past familiar buildings, and using Google Maps. The aim was to determine which locations were still nearby. The organization has compiled a list of about 38 locations scattered across the state in Denver, Commerce City, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Canon City, Lamar, Brush, Montrose and Granby.
Many of the Denver locations were in Five Points along Welton Street, including the Roxy Theater and the 715 Cafe and Grill. Other locations include the defunct Ahwahnee Motel and Lodge and the C&P Restaurant, which no longer exists and is currently home to the Sun Market.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Eidman said intensive surveying is the next step in the project.
The organization will drive through Colorado to document the sites and note the physical condition of the sites. Staff will photograph and map locations and then delve into archival history. More in-depth research will be conducted and staff will be in touch with community members and those familiar with the sites.
The grant funding will help the project through this thorough and labor intensive phase.
History Colorado applied for the National Park Service’s Underrepresented Community Grant to take the project to the next phase.
The purpose of the grant is to fund projects that will result in more diverse landmark designations. This includes locations in black and brown communities, LGBTQ spaces and rural areas. According to History Colorado, only 8% of the sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places represent minority and marginalized communities. Only 5% of the sites in these communities are listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Places.
History Colorado said it is the third time they have received this scholarship. The other grants will fund projects in 2021 and 2017 related to the state’s women’s suffrage movement and the Hispanic communities of the San Luis Valley, respectively.
Eidman said the project is ongoing and has no specific end date. History Colorado plans to delve into Green Sites for as long as necessary, visiting as many locations as possible to determine which areas are eligible for landmark designation. The goal for now is to find at least one location, but Eidman said hopefully there will be more than one.
“We just want to go out into the community and talk to people and understand which stories are more anecdotal or passed down through the family,” Eidman said. “We hope to identify 50 or 60 sites where we can conduct this more intensive survey and then we will prepare at least one, hopefully a few, but at least one National Register nomination. This is not the end of the project. We’re really trying to lay the groundwork here to make some big strides in this work.”
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite Ultimately, History Colorado’s goal is to continue to collect, preserve, and tell these stories from underrepresented communities that are typically unknown and on the brink of disappearance.
In recent years, Eidman says, History Colorado’s State Historical Fund has changed its requirements to accommodate more cultural considerations. A portion of those funds recently went toward the renovation of Manzanola United Methodist Church in Otero County, believed to be the only remaining structural touchstone of a black homesteader church known as The Dry.
Eidman said the organization is also reviewing older designations looking for characteristics associated with BIPOC communities. He said these older designations focused more on architectural design and didn’t tell the full social story. An example is East High School. While the design warrants a naming, Eidman said the nomination did not speak about the school’s black history, including student activism and segregation.
“Historically, if we look at the State Register or the National Register of Historic Places, we just haven’t done a good job of telling the broad history of Colorado. It’s been very focused on the majority or dominant culture,” Eidman said. “Colorado’s story is much deeper and more complex… Our day-to-day work is really focused on how we can tell the full and complete story of Colorado. So that really fits into our work, to look more closely and understand places that are associated with people who weren’t part of the dominant culture.”
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite