The Tabor Opera House
The twin goals of the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation are to rehabilitate this historic treasure and bring it to life as a community asset. A feasibility study completed in 2017 by Progressive Urban Management Associates estimates rehabilitating this 25,000-square foot Italianate opera house and saving it from decades of deferred maintenance will cost $8.5 to $10 million. That's a big goal for a little town with a big heart and a beautiful old opera house in need of lots of love. With local community support and help from state and national grants and donors, we believe we can bring this building to life and restore it to full use as a community asset and historical treasure. We have a lot to do, from growing our capabilities and organizational strength as the Foundation, to running our season and raising the funds for the rehabilitation. We look forward to sharing our progress and next steps with you as we go. We hope you will join us on the journey.
Please view the slideshow below to get a glimpse into a few of the pressing needs.
Short Term Tasks
“Nothing is simple when you are rehabilitating an old building,” says Stephanie Spong, president of the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation, the non-profit partnering with the City of Leadville to rehabilitate the National Treasure-designated historic opera house. “All we wanted was a little heat in the performance hall so we could stay open for our community after the frosts come.”
“When we took over operation of the building, we were deluged with ideas for how to use the space, and when. We had groups wanting to do midnight movies in October, film festivals in November, holiday parties in December and concerts in May. And we want to meet those needs. Our mission is to rehabilitate the building and operate it for our community. Rehabilitation is going to take years and millions of dollars, but our community needs an event space now. So we put a lot of focus on meeting community demand in the short term while we plan for the long term.”
Obstacle number one is lack of heat. No heat means no water, so no bathrooms and no public access. The building’s ancient coal-fired furnace has not been used in decades, although a giant hopper still holds tons of coal. The Foundation set about getting heat, applying for and winning in 2017 a $50,000 grant from the Climax Community Investment Program to install a temporary heating system focusing on performance and retail areas. City and County governments also pitched in for the project, awarding the Foundation state CTF funds distributed through local governments for maintenance and infrastructure improvements in municipal buildings. A full-scale heating system for a building of this size can run hundreds of thousands of dollars, so the Foundation looked at modular systems that can start small and be expanded as the rehabilitation project moves forward and more of the building is enclosed, rehabilitated and activated.
The next challenge appeared as soon as the Foundation brought in specialists to design the heating system. “That’s when we discovered the furnace pipes were insulated with asbestos,” said Mary Ann Graham-Best, the Foundation’s Treasurer, who leads the asbestos remediation project. “We were relieved to learn the asbestos is confined to the furnace room, simplifying remediation, but it’s still a big project.”
With remediation underway, the Foundation has turned to heating system design specialists, overseen by Foundation architect and historic preservationist Kristine Hoehn. She says, “Although we will upgrade the heating system, we will probably want to retain the existing radiators, although non-functional, as historical artifacts and reminders of the opera house’s history. We have beautiful radiators throughout the opera house and decorative return air floor grilles in the performance hall, which we’ll want to retain. The goal in introducing new systems into the building will be to do it in such a way that the character-defining interior spaces, features and finishes are retained as much as possible and practical.”