Getting the historic Leadville National Fish Hatchery back to what it was when built has been the focus of activities at the building for the past decade or so.
The most recent effort is to replace the existing glass block windows in the Hatchery building with modern double-pane glass windows that will mimic the look of the original 1890 windows.
This is the last step in restoring this historic building’s exterior to its former glory. Over the past several years the roof, front porch, and front door have been refurbished to come as near as possible to their original appearance.
In the 1960s, the original windows and French entry doors leading from the front porch to the superintendent’s offices were replaced with glass block. This not only cut down on the light reaching the interior of the building but also destroyed the building’s original appearance. This refurbishment will resolve these two issues, thus enhancing visitors’ experiences to historic Leadville.
The project will replace 16 windows, three French doors (non-operational) and four sidelights. Several of the smaller windows in the rear of the building will remain glass block as they are behind mechanical equipment.
Cost of the project is estimated at $95,000. The Friends of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery have raised $76,000. An additional $19,000 is needed to fully fund this project.
Phoenix Window Restoration has been selected to do the work.
Ed Stege, the Hatchery project leader, has worked during his tenure to restore the exterior appearance of the building. The original roof had been replaced with a metal roof some time in the past. Several years ago it was reshingled and replicas of the original “eyebrow” windows were installed.
The pond in front of the hatchery has also been rebuilt. Now youngsters can feed the fish there.
The Hatchery is currently in use to preserve the generic diversity of Colorado’s state fish, housing and spawning greenback cutthroat trout once thought to be extinct. The friends hope to complete this project before Stege retires in a year and a half.
The Hatchery got its start back in 1888 when the federal government, looking for a suitable hatchery site in the Rocky Mountains, selected the location at the foot of Mount Massive.
Congress appropriated $15,000 for the building, and it was quite the social event in October 1889 when a number of Leadvillites went out to the hatchery to witness the laying of the cornerstone.
“Arrivals began at 2 o’clock, and an inspection of the grounds at once was made by the visitors, the temporary hatchery attracting much attention and the work of the stone masons – over 30 are engaged – being looked upon with much interest,” said the Herald Democrat of Oct. 16, 1889.
The red sandstone for the building came from Hunt’s quarry, 28 miles east of Aspen Junction, on the line of the Colorado Midland.
Appropriately enough, the laying of the cornerstone ended with a luncheon, which featured trout and champagne.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s.
In 1995, the hatchery was found to be whirling-disease positive. At that time, about 80,000 trout were produced per year, but the hatchery was shut down.
For awhile it looked as if the closure would be permanent, but then Sen. Wayne Allard and others got involved.
Allard and Congressmen Joel Hefley and Scott McInnis were credited with getting a $1.8 million appropriation to build a new water-treatment plant at the site to remove the parasitic protozoan that causes whirling disease in fish from the hatchery’s water.
In 2014, the Leadville Hatchery again faced closure due to cuts in the 2015 federal budget. Efforts by the Friends, elected officials and others kept this from happening.