Adams State receives State Historical Fund grant to preserve Marvel House exterior


The History Colorado's State Historical Fund (SHF) awarded Adams State University a planning grant of $25,474 to preserve the exterior of the university's Marvel House, which serves as the President's Residence. The university will provide a 25 percent match to the grant of $8,491, according to Tawney Becker, Adams State grant specialist.

The grant will fund development of construction documents to rehabilitate the building's stucco exterior and improve its energy efficiency and access. Constructed in 1932, the structure is included in the City of Alamosa Historic Registry. It was renamed "The Marvel House" in 2005, in recognition of the contributions to Adams State made by its fourth president, Dr. John Marvel, and his wife, Frances.

"The Marvel House is an excellent example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, popular in the 1920s and '30s," Becker noted. "The style is evident through the rusticated stucco exterior, gabled roof clad in half-barrel roof tiles, exposed brick soldier course and window sills, and the stucco courtyard wall." She said the university plans to apply for an additional SHF grant to perform the stucco rehabilitation and other exterior improvements.

Becker added the Marvel House is also significant as a work by the well-known Denver architect William Bowman (1884-1941). In addition, it represents the early years of Adams State's founding and the tenure and passionate architectural interests of its first president, Ira Richardson (1871-1958). Bowman also designed ASU's Richardson Hall (1925) and Rex Gym, another 1930s Spanish Colonial Revival stucco building now known as the Rex Activity Center.

The construction documents will be prepared by preservation architect Belinda Zink. Since 1993, she has specialized in historic preservation projects statewide, particularly in the San Luis Valley and southern Colorado. In 2008-11, Zink successfully led the exterior rehabilitation of Rex Activity Center, which provided valuable insights into stucco preservation that can be applied to work on the Marvel House.

"Preserving and maintaining one of the campus's most visible and well-known historic buildings contributes to the campus identity and sense of place," said Scott Travis, Adams State associate vice president for Facilities Planning, Design, and Construction. "By protecting the exterior and improving the structure's functionality, these efforts will help to preserve a place that matters."

By Julie Waechter