A Partners in Preservation project
What if one act performed once a day for 30 days by you could result in bringing preservation dollars to Las Vegas? Would you do it? If the answer is YES, mark your calendar and get ready to log in every day to Vote Your Mainstreet. With enough participation and support, Las Vegas MainStreet de Las Vegas will receive $150,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation Partners in Preservation grant competition. The funds will be used to create a museum on the first floor of the historic E. Romero Hose & Fire Co. building on Bridge Street.
Partners in Preservation is an initiative created by the National Trust and American Express to engage the public in preserving and increasing awareness of America’s historic places and their role in sustaining local communities and economies.
Community partners in the original application include the City of Las Vegas, Friends of the City of Las Vegas Museum and Rough Rider Memorial, and Las Vegas Fire Department.
In this One Roof Publishing Q&A, MainStreet de Las Vegas executive director, Cindy Collins, talks about the importance of getting this grant and how it will be of benefit to Las Vegas and the area.
ORP: What is happening on Oct. 6 and how will it benefit the grant competition?
Cindy: This Friday, Oct. 6, is a Bridge Street Party, inviting the community from 5 – 7 p.m. to celebrate the E. Romero Hose & Fire Building and our chance to receive funds to renovate it into a museum to attract locals and visitors to Las Vegas. What will be happening:
- Martin Sena’s award winning 18-member Mariachi Cardenal from Robertson High School will serenade for two hours
- Five firetrucks will be parked in the street: City of Las Vegas’ 1937 Seagrave Firetruck, two modern firetrucks, 1928 American La France truck and one truck from Gallinas Volunteer Fire Department.
- Chile con queso and chips from El Rialto and watermelon/jalapeno agua fresca from Borracho’s!
It’s Firetrucks and Mariachis on Bridge Street!
ORP: What is the single most important message you want to convey to voters for this project?
Cindy: There is no one thing. The stories are compelling. Arthur Gonzales was the last Fire Chief of E. Romero Volunteer Fire Department, currently retired. He volunteers as chief of the Gallinas Volunteer Fire Department, one of 12 volunteer fire departments serving San Miguel County. Robert (Bob) Korte was the last Assistant Fire Chief of E. Romero Volunteer Fire Department. He owns Korte’s Furniture at 171 Bridge Street and volunteers at the Gallinas Volunteer Fire Department. They sat down with me last week to recount only some of the stories of E. Romero Hose & Fire Building.
- The E. Romero Hose & Fire Company was named for Don Eugenio Romero: Born in 1837, Eugenio Romero was one of the five Romero brothers, one of the original founding families of Las Vegas. In the 1870s Las Vegas was the biggest city in New Mexico territory, and growing fast. Brother of Eugenio, Benigno Romero, and his friends decided Las Vegas needed a first-class hotel. In 1881, they built the Plaza Hotel. Older brother, Trinidad, served as the first U.S. Representative in the New Mexico territory to Washington D.C. Eugenio was elected the first and only mayor of the combined city of east and west Las Vegas. The Romero family occupied the mayor’s position for the next 40 years.Known to be the most formidable and intimidating of the Romero brothers, Don Eugenio often surpassed his older brother Trinidad in political acumen and dominance. While mayor in 1882, Don Eugenio established a fire department for Las Vegas, and through his beneficence, a firehouse was erected on Bridge Street, fully equipped with state-of-the-art firefighting equipment. The fire station was fittingly named in Don Eugenio’s honor, and has always been known as the E. Romero Hose and Fire Company.
- The E. Romero Fire House was strategically built atop the Acequia Madre, which ran underneath Bridge Street. The acequia’s location was critical so that water could be pumped directly from the acequia into horse drawn fire carts. However, there was no way to filter the muddy water. Eventually the City of Las Vegas installed water lines accessible from wooden fire hydrants.
- From 1882 to about the mid 1920s horses were critical to firefighting efforts to pull the fire carts loaded with water. The horses were pastured behind E. Romero Fire House where West Las Vegas Schools are now located n. The horses were trained to gallop to the fire station with the sound of the brass bell, and to stop at the side entrance, back up and wait to be harnessed to the fire cart. With the advent of the motorized fire truck in the 1920s the horses were put to pasture and carefully tended by volunteer firemen. But when the fire bell rang, they galloped to their assigned position and backed into the E. Romero station awaiting their harnesses. The horses lived the rest of their lives happy and well cared for.
- The original brass fire pole is intact for what could become the E. Romero Hose & Firehouse Museum. There were 25 volunteer firemen from 1882 to the 1970s and 10 trainees. A trainee was promoted to the position of Volunteer Fire Man if one of the 25 died. Trainees worked for years fighting fires in Las Vegas and as far north as Mora and Trementina. They lost the battle to catastrophic fires at NMHU’s Springer Hall, Elks Building, Castle High School and other Las Vegas architectural treasures, but won the battle that could have destroyed the Montezuma Castle (now United Word College of the Southwest) and the Castaneda Hotel. Training included sliding down the brass pole and climbing up the pole using only their arms and not their legs, showing upper body strength. The E. Romero Building’s upstairs included three beds, a living area with a pool table and fully equipped kitchen.
As of Oct. 2, 2017, Las Vegas, N.M. ranks #7 among 25 downtown projects in all of America. It is our passion that has always made us strong and defines us. This project proves that Las Vegans care about our town and its history.
ORP: How is this different from a standard grant, if there is such a thing?
Cindy: Someone at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington has taken note of Las Vegas, N.M. over the years. MainStreet LV received a letter from National Trust for Historic Preservation in June inviting us to apply for a culturally significant restoration project that was “shovel ready.” If our application was accepted we could receive $150,000 for that project. So MSLV board members Wid Slick, Michael Siewert, volunteer Ray Valdez and I went to work and submitted our application. In August, we were notified that we were accepted and among 25 others downtown MainStreet communities. We had to keep it confidential until September 25!
This is unlike any grant MSLV has experienced. A true gift, but only if everyone votes every day at VoteYourMainstreet.org. And if everyone in LV reminds their friends and family and shares on Facebook, we are sure to receive funding for E. Romero Hose & Fire Museum.
ORP: What is the story behind selecting this property for restoration?
Cindy: The following is the history of E. Romero Hose & Fire Building and how it was saved.
- Built in 1882, burned and rebuilt in 1909, the E. Romero Hose & Fire Building is the home of the first volunteer fire department in New Mexico. When Bridge Street was being developed, the volunteer fire department was given first choice in locating its building, and chose the site because the Acequia Madre runs underneath. This allowed them to pump water from the acequia into the horse drawn fire trucks!
- In 2009, the building had been vacant for years and was used for storage and the roof was failing. So MSLV began its first “Façade Squad” effort to paint vacant buildings with the goal that attention would be drawn to restoring and saving the building. NMHU student volunteers, community volunteers and the city’s bucket truck and scaffolding got the job done in a few days. MSLV coordinated a meeting when volunteer fire department members offered to donate the building to the City of Las Vegas with the goal that it would become a museum space. Phase 1
- In 2010-11, the City of Las Vegas received deed to building and replaced the roof, which saved the building from collapse. Phase 2
- In 2012, MainStreet de Las Vegas received a “Community Preservation Award” from State Historic Preservation Department.
- In 2013, New Mexico’s Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary, Jon Barela, formally presented the Capital Outlay Award of $75,000 to MainStreet de Las Vegas in partnership with City of Las Vegas for Phase 3 renovation of the first floor of E. Romero Hose & Fire Building. The project scope included removal of rotted ceiling, adding heat, updating electric, plumbing and a public rest room.
- Phase 4 began in 2016-17, with application from City of Las Vegas for $100,000 to restore the second floor to be used for administrative offices for the fire department. The project is well underway and is expected to be completed in a few months.
- Phase 5 will include renovation of the first floor and back patio into a museum space complete with the 1937 Seagrave Firetruck, 1888 Parisian hose cart, 1883 brass bell which was recently returned and memorabilia, but only if enough people answer the call and vote at voteyourmainstreet.org!
ORP: You are in the running against several projects nationwide. What sets the E. Romero Hose and Fire Building apart from your competitors?
Cindy: Well, gee, who doesn’t love firemen and firewomen and firetrucks and who else in the country has the oldest volunteer fire company that located their building in 1882 over the Acequia Madre?
ORP: Talk about the potential tourism impact.
Cindy: Already 100,000 votes had been cast in America, as reported by NTHP and its partner, American Express, which places Las Vegas 6th in the ranking on the date of the report. This means thousands of people are learning about Las Vegas.
In an e-mail to MainStreet de Las Vegas PIP partners wrote: We are seeing incredible media interest in Partners in Preservation at the local, regional, and national level. To date, we’ve seen a total of 224 placements (online, print, and broadcast), amounting to 527 million media impressions!
ORP: This will have an impact on the economy. Talk about that beyond its draw as a tourist destination.
Cindy: E. Romero Hose & Fire is right in the middle of Historic Bridge Street, arguably Las Vegas’ most important and potentially most economically potent area. The Las Vegas Fire & Water Museum is a key element of MSLV’s strategy for developing cultural magnets that will capitalize on Bridge Street’s historic ambience and attract visitors, businesses and jobs to the district. For example, the recent opening of Elmo Baca’s new Indigo Theatre, has been a welcome shot in the arm, helping to bring night life to the street.
Over the last few years incredible renovation projects have begun: Castaneda Hotel, Plaza Hotel, JC’s New York Pizza (with 3-lane bowling alley), Mayeur Projects art gallery, The Palms Event Center, Serf Theater on Douglas Avenue, Buena Vida Health & Wellness on East Lincoln, Rough Riders Antiques on Railroad, The Skillet on 12th Street, Borrachos Craft Brews & Booze, 3B Barbeque, Blowin’ In the Wind, Paper Trail, Ulibarri Candy Shop, Olivia’s Café and more. All are independent entrepreneurs who have creatively used or are renovating our historic buildings as their place of business.
A museum on Bridge Street will play an important role in MainStreet’s newest, and largest, economic development effort yet. Utilizing City of Las Vegas Lodgers Tax funds to market and fund tourism-related infrastructure projects will jump start a city-wide tourism development effort to benefit our local businesses, provide local jobs and continue the sense of pride in our town. Las Vegas is already experiencing growth in overnight visitation, with a 40 percent increase in the last four years. That means a need for more visitor amenities.
Who knows what the impact will be in Las Vegas, N.M. on our economy? MainStreet’s goal is to create a vibrant downtown that keeps our youth engaged, brings in tourism, brings dollars to our independent businesses so they can thrive and hire locally. We all know that Las Vegas has all the ingredients for success. Recent discussion with City of Las Vegas Lodgers Tax Advisory Board members has identified that dollars spent by tourists who visit our town can be used in part to beautify our town and attract tourism dollars.
ORP: What will the $150,000 grant award be used for?
Cindy: The E. Romero Hose & Fire Building will become a museum and a satellite museum of the Las Vegas City Museum. The $150,000 will be used entirely renovation of this building, which is currently a shell. Renovations include:
– pressed tin ceiling
– electrical lighting and power
– reinforcing existing retaining walls
– demolition of an out building in the alley
– a landscaped garden behind the building to feature Acequia Madre
– a steel tower for the recently recovered 1883 brass bell
– installing video surveillance
– pouring a concrete slab
– putting in a solar (heating) system
– adding a shade structure in back of the building
A local contractor will be hired for renovations.
ORP: Talk about the voting process.
Cindy: voteyourmainstreet.org is the only way to vote. This is a social media campaign by clicking on the website or going to MainStreetdeLasVegas Facebook page to vote. If you are having trouble voting, use these instructions – but vote, please!
- Click on voteyourmainstreet.org
- If this is your first-time voting, you must Sign Up. At the bottom of your screen, you have a choice between Sign Up and Log In in yellow letters. Click Sign Up.
- Tell yourself there will be fewer steps after this, and continue!
- Enter your First Name, Last Name, and email in the boxes as indicated.
- Pick a password with eight letters or numbers. Type it again where it says Confirm Password.
- Click Sign Up.
- You will be asked to verify your email. Open a new tab and open your email. If it doesn’t show up, refresh your browser or check your spam folder. Open the email and click the link it says to follow.
- You are signed in. Congratulations. Now it’s easy to vote every day!
- Click on voteyourmainstreet.org, or enter that into your browser.
- At the bottom of the screen, you have a choice between Sign Up and Log In in yellow letters. Click on Log In.
- Enter your email and password, and click Log In.
- Scroll down, and down and down, to the section with all the rectangles with logos. Find “Las Vegas.” It’s reddish-burgundy colored, and says Las Vegas.
- On the Las Vegas Badge, at the bottom there is a line of text – O Votes + so, click on the plus sign until it reads 5/5 Votes.
- Click submit, and it will ask you to confirm. Click confirm. YOU DID IT! THANK YOU! (And remember, tomorrow when you do it again, it will be simpler.)
Bookmark the site and do it again tomorrow and every day until the end of October. Share how easy it is with everyone you know who loves Las Vegas!
(Editor’s note: OR, you can log in with your Facebook account and avoid several of the steps and go right to the voting.)
ORP: Once MainStreet de Las Vegas receives this award, when will funding be released so work can begin?
Cindy: MSLV is working closely with the City of Las Vegas who owns the building. The city has been extremely supportive in this campaign and with our application. Once and IF the award is granted, we will meet as soon as possible to review the scope of work and how it can be accomplished within one year’s time. The top 25 communities will be notified on Nov. 2, 2017 and advised the amount they will receive to renovate their historic buildings.
Per the grant agreement from National Trust for Historic Preservation, the work must begin no later than July 1, 2018 and be completed by June 30, 2019. Las Vegas will get the job done!
ORP: What would you like to say that will emphasize the benefit Las Vegas and the area will derive from receiving the National Trust for Historic Preservation Partners in Preservation grant?
Cindy: Please vote every day for our E. Romero Hose & Fire Museum, Share this with friends who grew up here and care about our town and our history. Las Vegas can be the “little engine that could.” VoteYourMainstreet.org
What: Partners in Preservation
When: From Sept. 25 – Oct. 31
Where: Vote Your Mainstreet Project
Why: Create a museum inside E. Romero Hose & Fire Co. building on Bridge Street
Process: Cast 5 votes a day EVERY DAY, Sept. 25 – Oct. 31.