Editorial: Officials should make Davis House repairs, demolition a priority
One of Craig’s most memorable landmarks suffered a fiery fate on Labor Day.
It’s still unknown what caused the fire at the Davis House across from the Moffat County Courthouse. The fire seems to have affected some of the many units on both floors, especially near the front of the building that faces the courthouse and West Victory Way. There were no injuries, but the damage left an unsightly scar on the façade and roof of what probably should have been another historically designated building in Craig.
According to researchers at the Museum of Northwest Colorado, in November 1916, J.C. Davis started work on a 14-room boarding house at 537 School St. Work on the building was finished in early 1917. A few years later, in 1919, the owners added 12 rooms onto the structure and called it “A Home for Strangers.”
Frontier life in Northwest Colorado was harsh. In October 1922, records show William McInturff died of appendicitis at the Davis House. That next year, in June 1923, William George died of tick fever at the residence.
In 1925, Mrs. J.C. Davis gave up management of the Davis Rooming House to Mr. and Mrs. C.J. Gulick and that next year, a resident fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his mouth, causing bed sheets to catch fire. Researchers at the museum said residents were able to put out the 1926 fire before the fire department arrived.
Fast forward almost 100 years to Monday, and it’s a sad thought that the Davis House’s place as an affordable spring pad for generations of Northwest Coloradans seeking to carve out their American dream might finally be coming to an end due to a fire.
More than a dozen people were home at the time of the Labor Day blaze. Nearly two dozen individuals were displaced and may have lost most, if not all, of their possessions to water damage or flames. The Red Cross is said to be involved giving assistance to those in a tough spot. Local nonprofits and victim advocates will likely also do their best to support these families in their recovery.
Workforce housing in Craig was already tight, so finding emergency housing for those displaced may not be easy. Whatever housing that is found will likely be temporary. The rest will be out looking for those few rental opportunities that are affordable, but the thousands of dollars in deposits in rent along with the replacement cost of their household items are sure to pose a significant financial burden.
If you know of anyone displaced from the Davis House fire, reach out and do your part to help in any way you can. Even if you are not familiar with the residents, check with local entities such as Love INC or the Community Budget Center for information on how you can assist families and individuals who have suddenly found themselves without a home.
It’s unknown if or when insurance will cover repairs to the 16-unit apartment building, which presents a major problem if insurance doesn’t cover the cost of repairs. That means one of Craig’s first boarding houses will be added to the list of blighted properties too expensive to fix or tear down. If history is any indication, the red tape related to asbestos testing and other environmental regulations will present a major impediment to the building’s demolition.
This is a fate that city and county officials should work together to avoid at all costs.
The very public location of the Davis House requires that officials act to either ensure the building is quickly repaired or demolished in a safe manner. Both options will require time and communication with the building’s owner and that work must be done soon.
Hopefully, whatever comes of the Davis House and the land it sits on will complement the good work and taxpayer dollars spent over the years on beautifying Craig and Moffat County.