A historic trolley stop near Washington Park was given new life by a small group of volunteers from the Community College of Denver’s Architecture, Engineering and Construction program.
HistoriCorps, a 10-year-old nonprofit which works to restore historic structures, specifically works with students to help give them training outside the classroom. Liz Rice, the workforce manager with HistoriCorps, added that the organization enjoys working with students who come from the community where the project is located.
As community members, the students are working to “save places that matter to them,” she said.
For HistoriCorps, the training component and getting community members involved go hand-in-hand.
“It’s not just saving places, it’s the education, the training,” Rice said. “It’s all about public engagement.”
Brad Eckert, a project manager with Denver Parks and Recreation, said the trolley came up as a potential restoration project over a year ago. Residents of the area brought it up to the department as a project they’d like to see happen. The stop is located at South Marion Parkway and Downing Street.
The community college works with other organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to get students out of the classroom to get real work experience, said Mark Bell, the building crafts program construction training leader at the school. This was the first time the school partnered with HistoriCorps. Eleven students worked on the project over 12 days last month, Bell said.
In addition to the physical work, Bell said it’s beneficial for students to see how building projects need to interact with the city for logistical items such as road signs, parking and even having a port-a-potty on site. “It’s one thing to read it out of a textbook,” he said of construction experience.
“(Students) actually see the materials being put into place,” he said. “It tells you a whole lot more.”
In an ideal situation, students will bring the experience back to conversations in their other courses, he added.
The type of construction can also make a difference. In typical Habitat for Humanity builds, for example, students are working with more modern construction styles. In a historic project, Bell said students are working to restore work that might not be seen anymore.
With the trolley stop, Bell, who is trained as a carpenter, said there was wood working styles that were the “epitome of carpentry,” and not used as frequently today.
That’s where HistoriCorps comes in, Rice said. The organization helps train workers to do the work in a way that blends seamlessly with the historic piece.
“We’re doing our to best to make it look like we were never there,” Rice said.
HistoriCorps coming in to train volunteers can also help make restoration projects more attainable for organizations with a tighter budget, Rice said. Parks and Recreation provided funding for the project, while HistoriCorps provided training and the Community College of Denver provided volunteers.
Eckert said that having the volunteers in place and the training behind them was the final piece of the puzzle the city needed to get the project done within its budget.
HistoriCorps has a partnership where the nonprofit is located in Denver Mountain Parks office space and helps renovate historic cabins in those parks, Rice said. This was the first time the organization worked on a more urban project.
For Eckert, projects like this are a win for all involved.
“People see something that gets done, it’s restored, but there’s also the takeaway for the students,” he said. “They get to learn hands-on skills and take them further on in their careers.”
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