By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Two Carbondale natives, who have been absent from town for decades but have recently returned, have started what they expect will be a year-long project or longer to rehabilitate a roughly 1,900-square-foot, 133-year-old home at 710 Euclid Ave., at the corner of 7th Street and Euclid Avenue.
Known as The Red House, its core is a log cabin built by the Fergusons, a pioneering local ranching family, but the structure lately has fallen on hard times.
It had been occupied for an unknown number of years by the original builder’s descendant, Marvin “Fergie” Ferguson, who was known as a recluse and who apparently lived in the house with a number of cats to keep him company, according to Eric Doud, the architect for the rehabilitation project.
Doud and his partner, Jan Schubert (member of another long time local family), met Fergie earlier this year through local real estate agent Mike Kennedy and, after a period of some discussions, bought the property from Fergie in April.
Local observers have told The Sopris Sun that Fergie moved into the house formerly occupied by his mother, Mary Ferguson, when she died about 16 years ago, which left the Red House vacant for more than a decade.
Doud, who was born when his parents were living out at what is now known as the Crystal River Fish Hatchery property south of town on Highway 133, said his family moved to the Front Range when he was very young. He described a rather peripatetic life as a young man, including college at Notre Dame in Indiana and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Armed with an architectural degree, he lived and worked in California for about 30 years, then moved to Telluride, Colorado for a time.
His architectural work, he emphasized, has included a considerable amount of renovating and updating historic structures, including some in Telluride.
“It’s coming back home, in a lot of ways,” he said of his return, adding that his father had always wanted to return to the Western Slope after the family moved to the Front Range in the 1950s.
“Unfortunately, he died before he was able to do that,” Doud said, adding that his return and his work on the historic house is “fulfilling a family wish.”
According to Doud, the plan is to pull down some of the more recent additions to the house, which is a log cabin on the ground floor and a frame construction above, and to strip the insides before renovating the structure.
Then, he said, the plan includes construction of a garage with a studio above it on the southeast side of the lot, and a two-story Accessory Dwelling Unit on the southwest portion, to create “kind of a courtyard (looking) to the south.”
He said Schubert’s sister is hoping to move into the ADU once it is finished, which he said will not be immediately.
“We’re owner-builders, at the moment, doing it out-of-pocket,” he explained, adding that their pocket was not terribly deep and that the construction is likely to move somewhat slowly.
“It’ll be a year, at least,” he said. “It’s a big project.”
At a July 21 hearing before the planning and zoning commission, Doud and Schubert (who also has been living out of state for three decades or more) explained their goal is to save a piece of Carbondale’s historic legacy.
“We are thrilled to be renovating it and not tearing it down,” Schubert told the members of the P&Z, explaining that the house was built by Fergie’s great-grandfather in 1883 for his daughters, because the trip from the family ranch to the girls’ school was too long and difficult.
She noted that the process of stripping lathe and plaster from the walls already has begun, and told of finding a letter dated from the year 1900, written by one of the daughters to another, congratulating her sister on extricating herself from marriage to an abusive man.
Once the public hearing opened, the project was praised by several neighbors, including former town trustee Russ Criswell (Sopris Avenue), and local health-care practioner Rita Marsh (Euclid Avenue), as well as Pat Johnson, who is Schubert’s mom and lives on Colorado Avenue. She expressed happiness that the project will bring her family closer together after a lengthy separation.
The members of the P&Z gave their unanimous approval for the project, which faces no further review by the town other than the issuance of a building permit once it is completed and submitted.
Published in The Sopris Sun on July 28, 2016.