‘Echoes of the Past’ brings history to life

Linda Goetz shows a blueprint of a Tudor house on Pine Street in Kemmerer at the "Echoes of the Past" presentation at the Kemmerer library on Thursday, March 1. The second presentation focused on the character-defining features of residential and commercial buildings in Kemmerer and Diamondville.

Linda Goetz gave a Kemmerer Main Street “Echoes of the Past” presentation at the Kemmerer Library on Thursday, March 1. This second presentation focused on the character-defining features of homes and commercial buildings in Kemmerer and Diamondville.

Goetz reminded the audience of the factors that determine a home or building’s historic status, such as design, significance and integrity.

“Reviewers understand that time goes on, and we’re not living in a reenactment or museum,” Goetz said. “But the (buildings) that are evolving through time but not drastically changing are really historic.”

Goetz explained her background as an archaeologist who has done both ancient and modern work and environmental policy work with historic homes and districts. Goetz said her father did historic woodwork restoration and her great-grandfather was an architect who has buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

“All buildings have families,” Goetz said. “They all have history. To be on the National Register it has to be at least 50 years old. A building’s significance to the local community is important – it doesn’t just have to be nationally historic.”

Goetz said looking at character-defining features involved examining the visual character of a home or other building from “curbside as well as close range.”

She used examples of homes and buildings that area residents had submitted to show the character-defining features specific to certain time periods.

“Most of the homes people submitted were from 1935 or earlier,” Goetz said. “But they don’t have to be that old to be historic.”

Goetz showed Kemmerer homes that were built in the Craftsman, Shingle Victorian and Queen Anne styles of the late 1800s and early 1900s. She taught about the character-defining features of each style, such as lace brackets, spindle work, shingles, brick work and gable roofs.

“Even particular styles aren’t cookie cutter. That’s what makes historical buildings significant,” Goetz said. “Houses changed with American culture.”

Goetz pointed out that some homes are hybrids of a few different styles. She showed Sanborn maps of Kemmerer, which were fire insurance maps that firefighters used to determine the structure and size of a home or property. 

“These maps offer a lot of clues to what property looked like throughout the years,” Goetz said.

Goetz also discussed the difference between routine maintenance and complete modification of a historic home.

“If you brought someone forward in time and they didn’t recognize their own home, it’s probably been changed too much to maintain its historic integrity,” Goetz said.

Goetz said she hit the jackpot with a Tudor-style home on Pine Avenue submitted by a resident whose family has lived in the home since it was built. The resident had historic photos of the home, as well as the original blueprints.

“This is really the holy grail for what I do,” Goetz said. “With the blueprint and the photos, we can really trace this home through time.”

Goetz said she examined the blueprints of the Tudor house and looked up the architect of the home, Daniel Spani.

“Spani was the only architect in Wyoming in the 1930s, so that makes the home even more historic,” Goetz said. “He has buildings on the National Register, and he contributed to the Rock Springs downtown historic district.”

Goetz also showed the character-defining features of commercial buildings like the Stock Exchange in Kemmerer and the Canoso Garage in Diamondville.

“Historical photos and Sanborn maps show how the Stock Exchange used to be much bigger,” Goetz said. “Depending on when that change was made, it could determine whether the Stock Exchange can be classified as a historic building.”

At the close of the presentation, Goetz encouraged residents to write down their family histories of homes and buildings, because those are important to documentation. Goetz said historic maps and photos, as well as aerial photographs and blueprints, could be valuable resources to diving more into the history of Kemmerer homes and businesses.

Goetz also suggested “A Field Guide to American Houses” by Virginia McAlester and “Architecture in the Cowboy State” by Eileen Starr for residents interested in learning more about homes throughout history. She said that, as was the case with this presentation, the public gets to determine the topic of the next historic preservation presentation. Contact Goetz with ideas for the next presentation.