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Victor residents pass the hat for historic building damaged in fire

July 31, 2014 Updated: July 31, 2014 at 8:15 pm
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Firefighters battle the blaze at the Western Federation of Miners Union Hall in Victor on July 26. Photo by The Mountain Jackpot News via the Town of Victor Facebook page.

One week after a fire nearly destroyed the Western Federation of Miners Union Hall in Victor, the small mountain town is rallying to raise money to help the owner restore the damaged piece of history.

A firefighters' bucket brigade will kick off a benefit at 10 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of 3rd Street and Victor Avenue.

Representatives from the community's volunteer fire department will pass a bucket for donations and get the word out that a CrowdRise fundraising campaign is underway, said Becky Parham, Main Street program coordinator for the city of Victor.

"We want to show our support to the building owner and let her know the community is behind her," Parham said Thursday.

Built in 1901, the building on 4th Street was struck by lightning last Saturday afternoon, July 26. The lightning sparked the fire.

Part-time Victor resident Barbara McMillan bought the building several years ago, installed a new roof and made other improvements. She had opened an antique store the weekend before the fire, during the Victor Gold Rush Days, an annual celebration of the town's mining history and current gold mining operations.

The building had to be renovated and occupied before McMillan could obtain insurance on it, Parham said, and she hadn't done that in the week's time between opening the store and the fire.

McMillan told The Gazette earlier this week that she had spent $400,000 rehabilitating it, adding a new roof, bricks, stucco and other upgrades.

The Victor "facade squad" also pitched it, painting the front exterior.

Most of the improvements were destroyed in the fire.

The Southern Teller County Focus Group, a nonprofit organization that promotes historic preservation and education about mining in the region, is behind the crowdfunding campaign. Contributions can be made at www.crowdrise.com/victormuh.

Donations from the public will be used as matching funds in applying for a State Historical Fund grant to begin structural investigations, stabilize the building and create restoration plans, Parham said.

For many years, the hall was the center of educational, social and political life for the community.

While the hall symbolized the miners' hard work and success, it also was attacked for representing the organizing power of the workers, which mine owners opposed.

It was the site of a major confrontation between mine owners, the Western Federation of Miners, and the state militia in the climax of the 1903-1904 Cripple Creek strike. Bullet holes from the battle can still be seen on the building's facade.

McMillan, who lives in Victor and Commerce City, also owns two other buildings in Victor, the Page building and the Joe Caffrey building.

"She's really championed preserving some of these historic buildings," Parham said. "She's made significant contributions to the community."

719-476-1656, twitter, @inkywoman, Facebook, Debbie Kelley

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