The Herald Democrat newspaper celebrates its 142nd birthday today, Oct. 21, 2021, by announcing the receipt of a quarter-million-dollar grant to bring the facade of its building at 715-717 Harrison Ave. back to how it originally looked when built in 1895. Funding is being made available through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA)  Main Street: Open for Business (MSOB) program. It is being locally matched with $50,000.

Some 13 communities had projects approved for funding through the MSOB program. Grants were announced earlier this month.

The program also set aside $750,000 to be divided among the three recipients of DOLA’s Heritage Energy Pilot Project, which combines historic preservation with statewide energy goals. Along with the Fox West Theatre in Trinidad and the Bank Building in Ridgway, the Herald building was selected this past spring for the Heritage Energy Pilot Project.

These projects seek to integrate existing resources such as historic tax credits, History Colorado State Historical Fund grants, Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing and Energy Performance Contracting through an interagency partnership of the Colorado Energy Office and History Colorado’s State Historic Preservation Office.

MSOB funding was an unexpected and welcome addition to these projects’ incentive mix, helping demonstrate the power of reinvestment for more vibrant Main Street districts, greater economic resilience, healthier living and better working environments in Colorado, according to a DOLA news release.

“We anticipate increased sales of 20 percent for those businesses getting façade improvements, and decreased utility costs and carbon footprint for those completing energy-efficiency upgrades,” said DOLA Local Government Director Chantal Unfug.

To obtain the MSOB funds, the three Heritage Energy Pilot Project communities had to go through the same grant application process as the other communities. Although most of the projects involve funds to private businesses, all grant applications were made through the cities and towns where the buildings are located.

The MSOB funding has one requirement that may prove challenging for the Herald building due to the extreme weather experienced in Leadville during the winter season. It must be completed by June 30, 2022.

Merle Baranczyk, owner of the Herald Democrat, said work on the building’s facade should be starting shortly and will be following state and federal historic preservation guidelines.

He thanked those who helped make the funding happen including the city of Leadville (Sarah Dallas, Lori Tye and the Historic Preservation Commission); the Leadville Main Street Program; Marcia Martinek, who wrote the grant application; Andy Carlson and Greg Connor of Heritage A&M, a joint venture of Heritage Window Restoration LLC and A&M Renovations LLC; Thaddeus Hust of Agave Landscapes and Masonry; and Natalie Lord of Form + Works Design Group LLC, the preservation architect managing the project and providing design services.

“Special thanks to Larry Lucas, Main Street architect, of the Department of Local Affairs. These improvements would simply not be happening if not for the interest and efforts of Larry and the folks at DOLA,” Baranczyk said.

Building dates back to 1895

The Herald Democrat building, also known as the Kostitch Block, dates back to 1895.

S.T. Kostitch, a Leadville druggist, obtained the property and had the building constructed using Herman C. Dimick as the contractor. Kostitch immediately transferred the ownership of the lot and building to his wife, Josephine Kostitch.

The Kostitch Block building first housed Nelson & Co. Undertakers, and then, in 1903, the M.A. Buxton undertaking parlors.

Around 1910, the Leadville Wall Paper and Paint Company moved in as tenant, owned by John F. Quinn. The Leadville Printing and Publishing Company, owner of the Herald Democrat, purchased the building from Josephine Kostitch in 1923 and the newspaper moved in a year later. It has now occupied the building for 97 years.

In the mid-1980s, the paper shifted to computers from the old “hot lead” type of production, Because less space was needed, the building was divided into three spaces, with a variety of businesses renting the spaces on either side of the newspaper. Currently these spaces are occupied by Alpine Gift Shoppe and Fire on the Mountain.

Story of the Herald Democrat

Today’s Herald Democrat is a compilation of the earliest Leadville newspapers including the Reveille, the Chronicle, the Herald and the Democrat.

The Reveille, Leadville’s first newspaper, published its first issue on Feb. 23, 1878. The Chronicle also started in February 1878. At that time Carlyle C. Davis handled its business management.

On Oct. 21, 1879, the Daily Herald published its first edition, It was described as “stalwart Republican in politics,” by R.G. Dill, the general manager. The Democrat started in January 1880 and ownership of the two papers was consolidated by Davis who purchased the Democrat in 1883 and outwitted H.A. W. Tabor to obtain the Herald a few years later. The two papers combined with the Chronicle, which Davis had already obtained, became the Herald Democrat in 1886.

Davis, who is responsible for the saying, “There is but one Leadville. Never will there be another,” left                                     Leadville in 1896 when health issues made it impossible to live at such a high altitude.

“The position of an editor in a community like this, where he becomes personally known to all, is much like that of a school master. He cannot hope that his motives will always be understood and appreciated,” Davis said in his last editorial.

After passing through the hands of several short-term owners, the newspaper was owned by J. O. Heimberger, who died in 1904, just short of his 37th birthday. Although he was owner for just three years, Heimberger was highly regarded in Leadville.

“. . . . No matter what the gloom or foreboding that settled over the commercial and mining interests of Leadville in her darkest hours, Mr. Heimberger was optimistic and voiced his high hopes for Leadville when it required an effort to do so,” read his obituary.

Henry Butler became owner of the paper in 1904 along with James McKnight after being on the editorial staff for 15 years. He became sole owner in 1913 and continued until his retirement in November 1938.

For 38 consecutive years the newspaper was issued from the old Armory Hall building at 125 E. Fifth Street. Then Butler negotiated the purchase of the Kostitch Block. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 1924, the first newspaper was issued from its present home at 7l5-717 Harrison Avenue.

When Butler retired in 1938, he editorialized about his years at the Herald.

“When I first took it over, I used an expression, ‘the Herald Democrat way,’ which meant the way of service, to give the people not only as good but a little bit better than the town could afford,” Butler said.

Several owners followed Butler, and in 1959 Francis Bochatey, who had served as bookkeeper at the paper for two years, formed The Continental Divide Press and purchased the paper. His ownership lasted until 1986.

Leroy Wingenbach, a Herald reporter, articulated the philosophy of the Herald in a 1968 speech.

“We realize that we are writing not only for the information of the people of Leadville, but we are writing to preserve history,” he said.

Current owner Merle Baranczyk of Arkansas Valley Publishing purchased the newspaper in 1986, just before the Climax Mine closed and many Leadvillians lost their jobs. Times were tough and the newspaper went from a daily to a weekly publication. Yet it survived.

Over recent years, the newspaper switched its production to computers and established an online presence. It added numerous special editions including the weekly Mountain Guide with news of activities taking place in the Arkansas Valley. Two Discover magazines focus on visitors to the valley covering summer and winter events.

When the Herald Democrat celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2004, Baranczyk said in a publisher’s column, “Our pledge is to continue to be your source of news, a source you can rely on, a newspaper you can trust.”

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