One of the stops during the 2008 Lincoln Highway Association conference in Evanston, Wyoming, will be the remains of the Sunset Motel. The string of six rooms—three with built-in garages—are on Bear River Drive, the LH on the east end of town near WY-89. Built in 1932 in Mission or Spanish Colonial Revival style, this portion of the motel has been saved—the question now is what to do with it.
I asked Jim Davis about the motor court. He’s Director of Administrative Services for Evanston and also on the Advisory Board for the Wyoming Main Street Program, on the Advisory Board for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a staff member for the Evanston Historic Preservation Commission, and a founding member and past chair of Tracks Across Wyoming.
The good news about the Sunset Cabins is that they are still standing. Bad news, we still haven’t figured a new use for them and they remain threatened. The Evanston Preservation Commission had them listed as locally significant; however this does nothing to protect them as Evanston does not have a demolition ordinance or any such preservation ordinance. The cabins remain with the ownership of the city and we are still trying to figure a way for us to find adaptive reuse in order to secure their future. A little over a year ago we placed a restored Lincoln Highway marker at the site in order to draw attention as to the significance of this site.
One of the problems with any restoration effort is how to adapt and reuse. Jane Law, City of Evanston Urban Renewal Coordinator (and who kindly arranged for these photos), says, “We have heard artist studios, concessions, but nothing that gets everyone stirred up enough to get something done…. It would truly be a shame to ever lose them, they are quite unique and really pretty cute. The state is restoring some motor cabins in Ft. Bridger, so maybe we can get some more interest there for them to come a little further west.”
Another issue is having the resources for every worthy project:
At present we really have our hands full restoring, rehabilitating, and preserving our wonderful and unique roundhouse and railyards site…. We are also trying to rehabilitate a historic hotel in our historic downtown; that has been a very long process with years of delay. Our Renewal Agency just purchased what remains of our downtown theater. That will be quite a project in itself. There was a terrible fire there in May and the building is just a shell now, but not wanting a hole in the block or a mini parking lot, we stepped up and will try to make that a viable business for our downtown. So we have our hands full, BUT the Sunset Cabins are something our Historic Preservation Commission should address. I do think those coming next year [to the LHA conference] will like them and could play a big part in thinking of a reuse. [my emphasis]
Jane also sent a detailed and fascinating hisstorical survey of the site that I’ll review soon in a separate post.