The Day House renovation is coming along really well and we’re focused on a July move-in date for Mark and his family. The level of community interest has emphasized the importance of this project. I’ve touched on the history of the property briefly in some previous blog posts, and the town’s enthusiasm for the renovation is encouraging me to do more.
As a case in point, the Durango Herald included an insert in the Sunday paper (May 8, 2011) from the La Plata County Historical Society (LPCHS). One of Durango’s premier historians, Robert McDaniel, wrote a full-page piece on the Day House renovation titled, “Historic Day House Rescued from Oblivion.” (The link should be available on the LPCHS website next week. I’ll post it as soon as it’s available.)
What first caught my eye about the article was the heading: “Preserving Significant Structures.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived in Durango for 20 years and I’ve always recognized the prominence of this property. Since the renovation began, Mark and I have been acutely focused on creating a contemporary, livable home within the parameters of maintaining historical relevance. But something about that heading brought a new level of pride and added responsibility as a community member.
One aspect of that is sharing more of the Day House history.
McDaniel’s piece is an excellent summary of the human history of the property, beginning with some quotes from its eponymous inhabitant, Victoria Day. Victoria was married to David Day who was quite the character. An opinionated and ambitious man, he fought for the Union in the Civil War, ran the Chipeta Ranch outside of Ouray, and started the Solid Muldoon newspaper (which later became the Durango Democrat). His ambition earned him success, but not without some divisiveness.
The home was built in 1886 and David Day purchased it in 1892. It remained in the Day family for nearly 60 years. Even long after David and Victoria moved on, the Day family couldn’t escape controversy. Rod Day took over from his father as editor of the “Durango Democrat.” Following an unresolved disagreement over prohibition, Day shot and killed his rival editor, William Wood of the Durango Herald, in broad daylight on Main Street in 1922. Even the New York Times saw fit to publish this piece of local lore.
The history of the property after the Day’s ownership is spotty and significantly less salacious. As most Durango folks know, in the past few decades it was doomed to “demolition by neglect.” That’s when Mark saw its potential and I signed on to contribute. I’ll keep posting to the blog with renovation updates, and we look forward to sharing it with the public in June and later this year as well.
In other renovation news: Last week we broke ground for the new timber frame “barn” structure, which will serve as a guest house. (Check out the demolition of the original structure here.) I’m particularly excited about this project because we’ll be building a timber frame structure, with a coordinating Victorian exterior. The foundation is poured, so check back regularly for progress.