Historic Day Nursery Restoration Project

Early Connections : Colorado Springs

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Historical Colorado Springs Day Nursery to refurbish windows by Caleigh Derreberry

Childhood is immune to time.

The historical Colorado Springs Day Nursery exemplifies this concept. Kids play in a wooden room overlooked by a huge oil mural the same way children did more than 90 years ago. Colorado Springs benefactress Alice Bemis Taylor funded the nursery’s opening in the early 1920s, and the building has aged well, showing minimal wear and tear thanks to careful maintenance. Now Early Connections Learning Centers is set to redo the building’s windows, again bumping against the challenge of how to update a place that pulls power from antiquity.

“I think there must be some kind of magic,” says Early Connections CEO Diane Price. “Children have an appreciation for this building. There’s not a lot of stuff that’s happened from kids. There’s no scribbling on the wall; there’s no carvings in the tables. And kids use every bit of this building. She (Taylor) wanted children to have an appreciation for architecture, and I have to believe that happened given the volume of kids who’ve come through here and the condition that it’s still in.”

The leaded stained-glass windows depicting vignettes exemplify the nursery’s playful practicality. “Obviously a building from 1922 didn’t have air-conditioning,” says Price. “We use our windows day in and day out.”

Early Connections is set to refurbish 130 stained-glass and 67 wood-framed windows designed for the nursery by G. Owen Bonawit Inc. of New York. The lead has begun to disintegrate. And protective plexiglass panes, the only alteration since installation, now are beginning to yellow.

“When the work is completed, we’ll be able to actually see light through the stained glass and be able to enjoy the beauty of it,” says Price. “I’ve been around a long time; I’ve never seen it in that kind of shape.”

The restoration will start with the ground-floor windows and be followed by the two upper levels. Window panes will be shipped to Denver for touch-ups, and wooden inserts put in their place.

Early Connections has had several hiccups signing a contractor; now it’s considering using two companies instead of one.

“It is what it is,” says Price. “You have to find people who are qualified and who can do the work with a reasonable price.”

The goal is to finish the renovation by fall of 2018; the nursery will remain open through the entire process.

Early Connections already has raised about 70 percent of the estimated $467,000 cost,with a $200,000 grant from the State Historical Fund and donations from foundations and individuals.

“We have a lot of people in the community who have been a part of it, from board members to people that were here in their younger days. They still find value that this building is here and doing what it was meant to do,” says Price. “It’s a historical building, but we’re still doing exactly what we were commissioned to do.”

The state must approve any exterior work, because the nursery is on the National Register of Historic Places. This has never been an issue; Price says all recent changes – raising the fence for safety, adding a sign – required only a letter of explanation.

Early Connections retains control of the interior. An analysis done several years ago details how best to update the nursery while maintaining its historical atmosphere.

“Whenever we do work, we use the preservation plan so we know we’re doing it in the context of historic preservation,” says Price.

Photographs from the 1930s show the nursery has always looked essentially the same. A library displaying the sparsely worded spines of old books opens into a wooden hallway that dead-ends in a Hogwarts-like dining room. Look closely and you see horses and other critters etched in the moulding; the building is something of a whimsical scavenger hunt. When the nursery hosted a woodworkers guild in the 1990s, attendees were so charmed they postponed their meeting to explore.

“It truly is a building for children,” says Price. “We’re lucky they let us come here and work everyday.”

Follow the project at www.historicdaynursery.org.

Read the original story here.

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