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Loose bricks fall from Leadville’s historic Tabor Opera House; no injuries reported

Loose bricks falling from the three-story façade of Leadville’s Tabor Opera House on Saturday closed the sidewalk and parking spots in front of the historic building, which has been the subject of extensive renovations in recent years.

The venue, which opened in 1879 and lords over the town’s main drag, Harrison Avenue (a.k.a. U.S. Route 24), began shedding bricks around 4:30 p.m. on March 23, leading to “an emergency building incident,” officials said.

“I just so happened to be coming into town at that exact moment, which was fortuitous,” said Sarah Dae, executive director of the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation. “There was a large fire ladder stretched out over the building, which is not what any executive director wants to see.”

Local fire, police and sheriff’s deputies teamed with city planning and public works officials to reroute traffic, barricade the sidewalk and “gently” remove the debris from under the tin cornice on the southwest corner of the building.

No injuries were reported.

The massive opera house is made of stone, brick, and iron, trimmed with Portland cement, according to Its 16-inch thick brick walls and ornately-decorated interior now sit on the National Register of Historic Places — with a major, multimillion-dollar renovation having started in 2020.

That’s the year the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation launched “a historic rehabilitation to save the Tabor,” organizers wrote. “Over the summers of 2020 and 2021, skilled construction crews rehabilitated the most badly damaged exterior walls, the south and west elevations. The team repaired brickwork, restored windows and doors, and stabilized the south storefront columns.”

Phase 2 work in summer 2023 included rehabilitation of the east and north exterior walls. On Monday, the Preservation Foundation said it had already raised funds and will seek bids from contractors to restore the cornice and underlying brickwork this summer. Work is scheduled to begin in earnest in June, they said.

“Over the past four years, construction at the Tabor Opera House has successfully secured and rehabilitated more than 95% of the brickwork on all four sides of the building,” they wrote, “with the only exception being the brickwork under the cornice.”

“We don’t have an exact amount or weight of bricks that fell, but it wasn’t any of the new ones that have been part of the rehabilitation project,” Dae said. “There was a lot of bird material from nesting, as well as some insulation and just general fill, I would call it, behind the cornice materials that had deteriorated.”

As part of its rehab plan, the board is also seeking to raise more than $25 million to restore the interior, including the theater, ballroom, storefronts, offices, stairways, balcony, backstage, as well as bring in modern utilities, plumbing, HVAC, and an elevator.

Dae said she knew the front of the building was in desperate need of repair, but was hoping it would hold out until rehab could begin in June. Tabor Opera House’s annual budget of $2 million is largely from fundraising for rehab efforts. And its May-October artistic season, with anywhere from one to three shows per month, costs about $250,000 to produce.

“This in general just underscores the value of continuing to fundraise for, and the urgency toward, rehabilitating this precious national treasure,” Dae said.

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