What Was There Before?

By Lisa Truesdale

Old St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, a charming little Gothic Revival–style building right in the middle of downtown Longmont, is one of the earliest examples of both Longmont’s growth and its community spirit.

The church was built in 1881 to accommodate a congregation that numbered only 45, and the first services were held on Palm Sunday 1882. The builders predicted correctly that the congregation would grow, so they made sure the church could seat at least 100 people, but they were a little off on how MUCH it would grow. By the late 1960s, the church population had swelled to more than three times the seating capacity, so the church was sold and in 1972 the congregation moved to their new location on Bross Street, where they still are today.

The businesswoman who purchased the church planned to raze it to make way for new construction, but luckily, the St. Vrain Historical Society stepped in. After a five-year community campaign, SVHS was able to raise the funds to purchase, and thus save, the building. The church, which had been painted white in 1915, was restored to its original brick exterior, and the original stained-glass windows, which had moved with the congregation, were replicated and put into place. It was designated as a local historic landmark in 1974 and earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

After renting out the building to different businesses and organizations for several years, SVHS claimed it for its own offices in 2005. “We are pleased to still be maintaining this building and three additional sites for our community’s education and enjoyment,” says Alyce Davis, SVHS office manager. “Our acquisition of this beautiful church is perfectly in line with our motto of ‘assuring a future for Longmont’s past.’”

Longmont People to Know:
Four QuestionsfoJill Cutler

photo-1 1NAME: Jill Cutler
AGE: 61
FAMILY: Sons Alex, 25, and Austin, 22
OCCUPATION: Owner of Fabulous Furnishings Consignment

Q: You opened your new business in April 2013. How is it doing?

A: Fabulous Furnishings is doing very well. Our clientele comes from all over the area, and they’re dynamic and sophisticated, and they want high-quality things, yet they know how to appreciate a bargain. With us, they’re able to change their décor regularly and affordably, and having fun doing it. As for me, I’m really enjoying being able to constantly stage new items, and also being able to interact with our customers, because we have a lot of regulars. We were able to take advantage of the low rent here at the [soon to be demolished] Twin Peaks Mall, and we plan on moving to a new location in January.

Q: You opened a flood-relief donation site at the mall as well; how did that come about?

 People would visit the FEMA disaster site here in the mall, and after that they would walk around the mall a little, and come into our store, and of course the whole thing was so surreal to them, and some of them didn’t even know yet if their houses had survived. Well, we have always donated our expired consignment items to nonprofit organizations, and many of the social-service organizations in the area were overwhelmed with more donations than they could process, so we thought, why not make our expired items available to flood survivors? The mall gave us an empty location across from our store, and we were able to take donations of furniture and also items we don’t normally take, like linens and clothing. Anyone affected by the floods could come and take the items they needed. Most were free, and a few were very low cost, and the sale of those went right back into flood relief. Our store depends on a partnership with the consignors in the community, so giving back to the community is a natural and important part of it.

Q: What do you like about living in Longmont? 

A: I love Longmont! I’ve had a few opportunities come my way that would have meant leaving Longmont, and I turned them down. I think it’s affordable and sophisticated at the same time. I like the slower pace and the historic charm. I’m also proud of Longmont’s commitment to the arts and to the development of community.

Q: What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in life so far?

A: I am happy that I am in a business where I’m able to give back to the community, but I’d say I’m proudest of my sons, the paths they’ve chosen and the wonderful people they’ve turned out to be. Alex is a very talented painter, and he just signed a contract to do some modeling in New York. Austin is a stand-up comedian. The first time I saw him perform on stage, I thought, “Wow, he’s really good!”    –L.T.

Talk of the Town
The four owners of Longmont’s 300 Suns Brewing are big on collaboration—or, rather, “collaBEERation,” their term for the tasting room’s highly anticipated community brewing concept.

“Homebrewers will have six chances a year to submit their best craft beer to us,” explains Dan Ditslear, who founded the brewery with his wife, Jean, and their friends (and now business partners) Mark Lusher and Candace Newcomb. “We’ll convene a panel of beer-loving citizens, we’ll give them a short course on beer judging, and we’ll use their scores to select a winner.”

The winner will get to help brew their recipe on the brewery’s seven-barrel system and then be the guest of honor at a big tapping party. “They’ll be the proud recipients of major bragging rights,” Ditslear adds. “And collaBEER-ations will be more frequent and less formal than the pro-am competitions that some breweries host once a year, so homebrewers will get more exposure.”

300 Suns, a name that honors Colorado’s 300-plus days of sunshine per year, should be ready to open sometime in January. Located at 335 First Ave., Unit C (just a half block east of Main Street), it will feature a 1,250-square-foot tasting room and a 650-square-foot deck that will be open on warm days. Check for updates on the brewery’s Facebook page or website, www.300sunsbrewing.com. Sign up for the e-newsletter and be the first to find out about opening day, beer specials and collaBEER-
ation entry dates.   –L.T.

Winter Artwalk
A beloved spring and summer tradition in Longmont is now destined to be a wintertime tradition, too. Organizers of ArtWalk, a thrice-yearly event that closes down a three-block section of Main Street, are debuting a “mini artwalk” on Dec. 14.

“The streets were already scheduled to be closed for the city’s Longmont Lights parade and celebration,” explains Sharald Church, ArtWalk’s director. “So we teamed up with the LDDA [Longmont Downtown Development Authority] to create a program that will allow people to have even more great things to do downtown on that night.”

More than 15 downtown venues will showcase art exhibits or live music from 4-7 p.m.—before, during and after the 5 p.m. parade—and there will also be interactive, winter-themed activities, such as an ice-sculpting demo in St. Stephen’s Plaza. 

At nearby Roosevelt Park, the city’s holiday fun continues until 8 p.m., with hot cocoa, fire pits, caroling and live music.    –L.T.

Three Neat Stores
There’s a whole lot of good shopping going on in downtown Longmont these days, with an impressive mix of longtime favorites and exciting newcomers.

“Shopping here is about more than just the purchase; it’s an interactive and unique experience,” says Kimberlee McKee, executive director of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority. “We are fortunate to have some distinctly unique businesses, like niche market, one-of-a-kind stores that are essential to a vital downtown.”

Here are three popular retail stores to check out:

What it is: Simply Bulk
Where it is: 418 Main St.

What you can find there:At Simply Bulk, you “pay for the product, not for the package,” because everything is sold in bulk form. You can buy as little or as much as you want of spices, oats, beans, rice, nuts, cereals, all-natural treats, body-care products, pet food and a whole lot more—500 different items in all. You can even bring your own container to cut down on plastic-bag usage. All food items are free of hydrogenated oils and artificial colors and flavorings.

“We’re proud to be the first completely bulk store in the country, and I can’t imagine being anywhere but Longmont,” says store owner Phil Bratty. “My customers are terrific and very supportive. This is really their store; I just work here.”

What it is: Discoveries Egyptian Imports
Where it is: 454 Main St.

What you can find there:Everything at Discoveries Egyptian Imports is imported directly from Egypt, and some items are priced at wholesale. The company is a major supplier to museum gift stores and catalogue companies around the world. Products on display include statues, African art pieces, Egyptian-cotton quilts, authentic belly-dancing scarves, and the store’s most popular item, personalized cartouche pendants with your name translated into hieroglyphics. 

“We’ve had this business for 33 years now,” explains Marlene Collins, who owns the company with her husband, Steve. “We started in Alexandria, Virginia, but we were happy to relocate to Longmont about 10 years ago, and we love being downtown. We truly enjoy sharing Egyptian culture with the rest of the world.”

What it is: Unique Scrubs
Where it is: 381 Main St.

What you can find there: Unique Scrubs carries a wide variety of medical scrubs (tops and bottoms) in all sizes, colors, patterns and styles. It also has printed surgical caps, comfortable nursing shoes and small equipment like stethoscopes. Designs not on display can be ordered from catalogues in the store, and all scrubs can be personalized with embroidery that takes just three to five days.

“I am happy to be the only scrub shop in Longmont, especially because we started from scratch,” says Jessica Alvarado, the store’s owner. “I love downtown Longmont, and all the business owners here support each other and refer customers to each other. Keep supporting your favorite local businesses!”    –L.T.


Longmont: Flood-Control Project Is a Winner

In mid-September, the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers met at their annual conference in Steamboat Springs. One of the big events of the conference each year is the announcement of CASFM’s Grand Award for Engineering Excellence. At the exact same time, less than 100 miles away (as the crow flies) in Longmont, one of the award finalists was being put to the test, in a very frightening manner.

The purpose of Longmont’s Lefthand Creek Flood Control project, which began with the design phase in 2009 and ended with final landscaping and revegetation in spring of 2013, was to remove as many of the 197 homes and businesses from the floodplain as possible, and to prevent the overtopping of Highway 287 (Longmont’s Main Street) that would occur with a 100-year-storm event. Construction included upsizing channel capacity, realigning roadways, reconfiguring storm-sewer systems and relocating utilities. As a result, all but a handful of homes were removed from the 100-year floodplain, and the rest are scheduled to be removed during future phases of the project.

When the flooding hit Longmont on Sept. 12, the public-works department was watching carefully to see if all those improvements, subsidized by FEMA, had been successful. Here is an update from Curtis Ansel, the project manager:

“With the flooding that Longmont experienced this September, flood levels in this area of the creek were estimated to have exceeded the hundred-year storm event. During this flood event, flood waters overtopped portions of the channel into the adjacent neighborhood of Southmoor Park. However, due to the improved capacity of the channel, damage to homes was minimal, with some basement and garage flooding but no structural damage.

“The recent flood testing of this channel has shown that the channel improvements performed as designed; hundreds of homes were saved from serious damage due to these improvements. However, the newly constructed channel did experience some damage, consisting mostly of eroded banks, minor structural failures, damaged trailways, and the loss of the majority of newly planted trees, plants and grasses. Repair work on the channel is planned for early 2014.”

Apparently, the awards committee from CASFM could tell that the project would be successful, because it did win the Grand Award at that conference.

Artist Profile: Jim Walker

longmontwalker2After playing the part of the troll under the bridge in second grade, Jim Walker sensed that he was destined for the stage. He took added inspiration from his uncle Edward, who always seemed “larger than life” to Walker.

“Uncle Edward was very cosmopolitan, very refined,” Walker says. “He also led a very creative life; he was an actor on an old British soap opera, and throughout the years he was also a costume designer, a beauty-shop owner, a painter and an antiques dealer.”

Uncle Edward was also gay, back in a time when it just wasn’t something you talked about. “He was always welcome at family gatherings, of course,” says Walker, “but in those days no one ever really said the word ‘gay’ unless it was in a derogatory sense.”

On the very day that his partner died in bed next to him, Uncle Edward began writing a series of detailed, heartfelt journals about his life. Then, when Uncle Edward died, those journals were passed to Walker, who treasured them from the very moment they fell into his hands.

“They were beautifully written, so complex, and I knew that I wanted to do something drawn from them,” he says. “Something that honors the two of them and the life they shared.”

Years later, Walker is still surrounded by creative people. He’s married to mixed-media artist Angela Beloian, and their 13-year-old son, Nelson, is a cellist, guitarist, singer and composer. Walker teaches writing at the University of Colorado and performs with several Boulder-area theater organizations. He has been part of Playback Theatre West, an improv troupe, for seven years, and that’s where he turned for help with his idea. He teamed up with director Meridith Grundei, composer Gary Grundei and creative consultant Sam Elmore to transform Uncle Edward’s writings into a performance piece. The result was Normal Heights, a one-man show that earned rave reviews during six performances at the 2013 Boulder Fringe Festival.

“I knew I had a story to tell, and I wanted to use the power of music,” Walker says, referring to the show’s lyrics, which critics and audience members have called “witty” and “cutting edge.” “The show is about sexuality, masculinity and inclusion, and it gives audiences something to think about.”

In fact, Walker says, more than one person comes up to him after every show to tell him how the performance affected them, and that’s exactly the sort of response he was hoping for.

“I like a show that makes you laugh, makes you cry and gives you something to think about for weeks. I think Normal Heights honors Uncle Edward in exactly the way I wanted it to.”

To read more about Normal Heights, visit www.normalheightsshow.com. One weekend per month, you can see Walker perform “edgy, improvisational theater” with both One Act Improv and Playback Theatre West. In March, he appears in The Catamounts’ regional premiere of Mickle Maher’s “There Is a Happiness That Morning Is.”All shows are at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder.

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