Living in History
Every day, scores of Grand Junction residents travel down tree-lined North Seventh Street, many not considering that the buildings along the route have been nestled in their spots for more than a century.
That is changing, thanks to homeowners in the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District. Every spring, many open their homes for a self-guided walking tour that celebrates the neighborhood’s significance while raising funds to benefit local charities. (This year’s recipients were STRiVE and MusicSpark.)
“The tour is a way for people to see the history they drive by every day,” says Joe Hatfield, who along with his wife, Karen, is a Seventh Street homeowner.
In 1984, residents Kathy and Teddy Jordan were instrumental in placing Seventh Street on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of just two historic residential districts along the Western Slope. The Jordans also initiated the installation of old-fashioned streetlights in the area. The interest they sparked in historical preservation continues today.
This year, seven homes and two other structures — First Baptist Church and the old Lowell Elementary/R-5 High School (which will be restored as part of an upcoming development project) — opened their doors to visitors.
“What I find so interesting when looking at the homes is each one is so different,” says Hatfield. Building dates for stops on the 2018 tour range from 1902 to 1926. Styles vary from Victorian to Tudor, craftsman, and mission.
“Each builder wanted their home to stand out from the others,” Hatfield explains. “You not only learn about the home, but the history of Grand Junction.” Indeed, home features speak to another era, and a different way of life.
Though they look large from the outside, inside the homes feel cozy, with spaces like formal dining rooms and offices. Bedrooms are generally smaller, and originally would have all shared one bathroom. Many homes have two staircases — one grand staircase welcoming guests up to the second floor, and a back staircase that children and help were encouraged to use. Most of the homes have pocket doors, used to close off the kitchen from the living spaces and hide the help from guests.
Some residences were built not only for family life, but also to conduct business. Many included offices for local doctors, with waiting and exam rooms. Current homeowners nod to the past by keeping the uncommon cabinets and drawers built for these purposes.
Most of today’s owners have renovated to add more space and integrate modern features — particularly in small kitchen areas — while preserving the integrity of their homes. Hatfield says while many visitors come to appreciate the history of the neighborhood, others may be looking for inspiration for their own home renovation projects.
This year the Hatfields opened their home at 407 North Seventh, which was built in 1906. Karen’s father grew up just a few houses down, and she had always dreamed of living in the area. Since moving to their home in 2007, the Hatfields have done a lot of updating, including remodeling the kitchen and adding living space in the attic.
Tim and Jackie Stouffer also welcomed tour-takers to their home, at 710 Ouray Ave. Built in 1923 for Dr. Jess Urban Sickenberger, its grounds originally housed the water tower that supplied water to the city. They have done renovations to bring the house up to date, while making an effort to keep true to the layout of the home. “It was like archaeology bringing up the old floors,” says Tim. The Stouffers have also played upon exposed pipes throughout the home, using them to create light features, coat racks, and organizational storage areas.
While every structure in the Seventh Street home tour has unique features — from exposed radiators to natural wood floors and crown molding — a common theme runs throughout: Each one is cared for by someone with the intention to preserve it for generations to come. To learn more about and view photos of these special spaces, visit historic7thstreet.or.