Black Hawk in danger oflosing historic landmark

Aug 2, 2005 12:30 AM


The folks in Black Hawk, Colorado are learning what people in Las Vegas have learned over the years — casino development can take its toll on the city’s historical heritage.

In Las Vegas, casino moguls blow up their history. In Black Hawk, modern casinos have overrun the town’s historic mining district.

"The historic character has been lost for the most part," historian Deon Wolfenbarger told the Rocky Mountain News. "The commercial core has changed from an historic mining town to modern construction."

Wolfenbarger just finished a draft report commissioned by the town of Black Hawk to assess the community’s historic preservation.

The bottom line, according to Wolfenbarger, is that the town’s commercial core is no longer suitable for National Historic Landmark status.

Black Hawk is one of only 18 such landmarks in Colorado. Losing that status could cost the town millions of dollars in state historic preservation funds.

In the late 1990s, the landmark designation came under fire by the National Park Service, which awards the designation and monitors the preservation, because of the massive and non-historic gambling halls being built.

Wolfenbarger’s draft report would, among other things, redefine the boundaries of the landmark area because the original boundaries set by the Park service were "too generous."

"The district was a little weak to begin with," she said, because most of the mills and other industrial buildings in the commercial core were gone by 1991, when the designation was awarded.

"Many blocks had lost 50 to 70 percent of the historic buildings," she said. "Black Hawk was called the city of mills, and by 1991 only one mill was left."

Black Hawk’s town board has scheduled a public meeting on the draft report for Aug. 10.