few weeks ago, I casually leafed through the resort town
newspaper I used to edit. Not much had changed. The same
issues still dominated the headlines, the layout was approximately
what it had always been, and many of the same faces filled
the photographs and advertisements. However, I stopped
leafing, grinned and then started chuckling when I stumbled
upon a short letter.
It stated, “We want to thank all of you who
helped us destroy our house and deliver it to the dump
and all of you who helped us set up our new house and
make it ready to live in.”
The letter brought a grin to my face partly because it
was the first time I’ve heard of a home being destroyed
and delivered to the dump. It made me chuckle because
I was more than familiar with the “house”
that had been destroyed.
From one view, it was a vintage single-wide trailer,
the most simplistic of metal boxes and little more than
an Airstream. There was no trim around the windows, no
paint on the outside, no pitch to the roof and probably
little or no insulation. From all appearances, the box
would have been more comfortable on the side of an oil
rig, in a border town or on a jobsite than on a postage
stamp-sized lot on the edge of Crested Butte.
However, the home’s original owner tired of living
in a cube back in the roaring ’90s. Surrounded by
a haze of tequila and tobacco, he sat down at a local
watering hole and literally began designing an addition
on bar-napkins. After a couple months of casual sketching
marked by a habit shift from tequila to bourbon, the architectural
plans were complete. Over the course of that summer, he
received design approval, took his limited abilities as
a carpenter and built the fairly elaborate and actually
attractive greenhouse/sun room. The new view of the structure
was of carefully stained trim, artisan quality angles
and cuts and the nearby splendor of the East River Valley
and Paradise Divide. That old metal box was nowhere to
Paradoxically, after a winter in his upgraded slice of
heaven, our barroom architect packed it up and left town
for southern climes. Rumor had it that he was headed for
Tequila, Mexico or at least somewhere closer. That singlewide-plus
went on the market that spring.
Now remember, this was a trailer home, on a trailer sized
lot, surrounded by trailers but with an unusual and inspired
200-square-foot meditation chamber attached to its back.
However, that home went on the block for $185,000 and
believe it or not, the trailer and its sun room sold in
shockingly quick time. The little metal shack and its
glorified hood ornament were also widely hailed as affordable
However, as I found out a few weeks ago, it wasn’t
a case of “you get what you pay for.” According
to that letter to the editor, the $185,000 affordable
housing option is now sitting in the Gunnison County landfill,
likely replaced by a modern doublewide. No word on whether
the architectural drawings are available for sale.
I’ve given occasional thought to that home and
specifically its price-tag since leaving Crested Butte.
Its memory was particularly poignant a few years ago when
I took my mother-in-law on a tour of the Animas Valley
beginning on West Animas Road at Baker’s Bridge.
Her first views were of the gated palaces immediately
adjoining the bridge, and she was pleasantly stunned,
even enraptured. But the former East Coast realtor’s
jaw really dropped a mile down the same road when we hit
a pod of doublewides.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
“It’s practically the same piece of property.
It violates the rule.”
And therein lies one of Durango’s great beauties
– a lot of things around here still violate the
rules. It’s still possible for someone of modest
means to share a neighborhood with a CEO who spends extended
vacations in Durango. Affordable in La Plata County is
still well below $185,000 and consequently, we’ve
retained a working class.
There’s no doubt that prices are exploding locally.
But $185,000 can buy you a small fleet of doublewides
on substantial acreage with river frontage. While many
towns in Colorado edge toward a monoculture of wealthy
white transplants served by commuting laborers, Durango
remains a relatively successful melting pot. Virtually
everyone can still take in their share of blue sky here.
And a sizeable trust fund is still not needed to get through
the front door of that singlewide.
– Will Sands