One of Colorado Springs' oldest and most recognizable Victorian properties is about to be reborn - again.
The former Hearthstone Inn bed-and-breakfast on Cascade Avenue, just north of downtown, is being remodeled into nearly two dozen apartments that the property's new owner expects will appeal to young professionals and others attracted to urban living.
"I just love the area," said Larry Wiedeman, principal of Wiedeman Real Estate Holdings LLC of Colorado Springs. "I love the tenants, the proximity to Colorado College, the kind of young professionals we get up there and the park behind it."
In 1996, Wiedeman founded Insurance Technologies, a Springs company that creates and provides software for insurance and financial firms. He sold the company in December 2014 and now heads his own real estate investment firm.
Wiedeman owns about a dozen buildings - including several Victorians - with more than 170 apartments, most of them north of downtown. The Hearthstone Inn, on the northwest corner of Cascade and St. Vrain Street, appealed to him, in part, because of its storied history.
The Hearthstone property includes a three-story, 1885 Victorian at 506 N. Cascade that was the childhood home of Alice Bemis Taylor, the philanthropist who co-founded the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
A second Victorian on the site, at 514 N. Cascade, was built in 1900 and once served as a boarding house for tuberculosis patients, according to Gazette archives. The second structure and the Alice Bemis Taylor home are linked by a carriage house.
The buildings were converted to apartments in the 1930s before being remodeled into a bed-and-breakfast in 1978.
The Hearthstone continued as a B&B through two ownerships over the next 27 years. Citing financial struggles, the Hearthstone's then-owners closed it in 2005; a limited liability company controlled by Springs real estate firm Griffis/Blessing Inc. owned it through late 2014 and leased it as offices to charitable groups.
Wiedeman paid nearly $1.1 million in October to buy the property, just south of Colorado College, about one-half mile north of downtown and near Monument Valley Park - all of which made the property attractive.
"They don't build homes like that anymore," Wiedeman said.
And Wiedeman said he's determined to preserve as much of it as possible. The Hearthstone Inn had 25 rooms; his new Hearthstone Apartments will have 12 two-bedroom apartments and 11 one-bedroom units.
Hardwood floors, wood banisters and ornate fireplaces - some with Van Briggle tile - all are being preserved. Much of the work inside the building includes removing or relocating walls and installing kitchens, said Ben Eddy, facilities manager for Wiedeman Real Estate Holdings.
"We love the building," Eddy said. "We always talked about how cool of a building it would be if somebody could get in there and get it turned over."
Chuck Murphy, whose Murphy Constructors of Colorado Springs has been hired as general contractor and who has remodeled many older structures, said the Hearthstone Inn has been well-maintained. Besides adding kitchens, its needs some plumbing and electrical work, such as replacing light fixtures and switches.
"Those buildings are appealing to you and to me," Murphy said. "It's important to save them because of their historical value. And they're part of the city. They're the fabric of the city."
The main focus of remodeling any older building, Eddy said, is "making them nicer, bringing them back to what they used to be, but adding some modern amenities, but keeping them as original as possible. It's going to be a really cool building."
That's good to hear, said Colorado Springs architect Michael Collins, who has worked on the remodeling of many older buildings and chairs the Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs. The trick with older structures is to preserve their original look, feel and character as much as possible and avoid overwhelming them with too many newer features, he said.
"Less is more here," Collins said. "The less you do for whatever number of apartments they want, the better project they'll have and the less cost it will be and the more potential for success the owner/developer has."
Wiedeman said the project's total cost, including the remodeling and purchase price, will be $1.7 million to $1.9 million. He hopes to open the first apartments by June; monthly rents will range from about $895 to $1,295. The building also will have 26 on-site parking spaces.
"There's a tremendous amount of interest," Wiedeman said. "People walk by and they wonder what's going on. We're fairly confident we can have it filled pretty quickly."
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