August 6, 2010

Summer Brewery in South Park City needs repairs
Unique funding event to kick off during Living History Day on August 14

By Laura Van Dusen Correspondent

Gathering before 1873
Before the 1873 fire, customers gather outside the Summer Brewery in Fairplay. The original brewery was built in 1866 by Charles and Leonhard Summer. (Photo courtesy of South Park Historical Foundation.)

An unsafe electrical system and foundation deterioration resulting in water damage of the Summer Brewery building in South Park City have been identified as the most urgently needed repairs by the board of trustees of the South Park Historical Foundation, owner of South Park City Museum in Fairplay.

South Park City is a museum depicting "an accurate representation of a mining town between 1860 and 1900," and the Summer Brewery building "is the town's (South Park City's) largest and most impressive structure and houses the 'Bayou Salado' exhibit," says the museum's Web site at

To fund the project, a grant request was submitted by the foundation this past March to the State Historical Fund. If the project schedule proceeds as planned, construction would begin May 15 of next year, with completion by Oct. 1, 2011.

South Park City opens on May 15 of each year. The Summer Brewery building may remain closed from May 15, 2011, for one or two months until the electrical work is completed. The exterior repairs and renovations will follow the completion of electrical work. If the grant is approved, the South Park Historical Foundation must acquire matching funds (funds provided by The South Park Historical Foundation) for 25 percent of the project. The foundation will kick off a fund-raising event during Living History Day at South Park City on Aug. 14 of this year to help in acquiring the necessary matching funds.


The original Summer Brewery, also called South Park Brewery, was built in 1866 by Charles and Leonhard Summer, according to an e-mail from Jim Sapp, a member of the board of trustees and the manager of South Park City's Web site. The brewery made South Park Lager Beer. It was a log structure and occupied the same location where the current Summer Brewery building stands today, on Front Street at the South Park City Museum.

"The institute (South Park Brewery) was reduced to ashes by the fire on the 27th day of September, 1873, when almost the entire town of Fairplay was burned," says a March 27, 1879, article in The Fairplay Flume titled "South Park Brewery."

It was in 1875 that the brewery was rebuilt as a two-story structure with native red sandstone quarried from the Red Hill Pass area a few miles northwest of Fairplay. 

In 1893 a third story was added, also of native red sandstone, as living quarters for Leonhard Summer, his wife Adelia and their two children, according to the book "A Town is Born, the Story of South Park City" by E. J. "Gene" Amitrani. Amitrani was a curator of South Park City in the early 1980s.

The brewery produced beer until the late 1890s. On Sept. 10, 1900, Leonhard Summer ended his life with a fatal gunshot wound. It is believed, according to an article in the September 13, 1900, edition of The Fairplay Flume, that the suicide was the result of "financial reverses."

"He was at one time quite well to do and owned considerable property but lost the most of his money in the panic of 1893," it says.

His body was found behind the bar in the Summer Saloon (another original building in South Park City currently being used to display the work of local artisans).

 According to information included in the grant application, after 1900 little is found in records regarding the building until 1907, when it was bought at a tax sale by an unnamed miner and used for storage.

In 1914 the building was bought by Arthur Willmarth, who started a newspaper called The Park County Republican.

Four years later Willmarth sold out to The Fairplay Flume. The two newspapers combined into The Park County Republican and Fairplay Flume, which is still the official name of the newspaper for Park County, known as The Flume.

After 1918, little is known of the use of the building until 1957, when the South Park Historical Foundation bought the entire area, including the brewery building, the Summer Saloon building and five other buildings. This was the beginning of the South Park City Museum.

Grant amount

In October 2008 a grant was applied for to pay for all repairs - interior, exterior and electrical - necessary for the Summer Brewery building. The amount requested was $141,375 and that represented 75 percent of the total cost to do all preservation and repair work for the entire building. That grant request was denied.

The board of trustees believes the reason no funds were released was due to the poor economy two years ago. The board applied for another grant in March of this year. The board decided that, although economic conditions have improved in the past two years, "It would be better to apply for grant assistance for just a phase of the project at this time rather than (for) everything," as explained in the grant request.  

The estimated cost for phase 1 repairs for the electrical system and building exterior is $120,445. The grant request is for 75 percent of that amount. 

The remainder of the total cost, approximately $30,111, would be covered by matching funds.

Some funds have already been acquired, but the foundation still needs to raise approximately $25,000, according to Sapp.

The proposed project

The brewery building is about 131 years old. The board believes it is time to make a major commitment to preserve and rehabilitate the building to make it safe and increase its lifespan, according to the grant application.

The electrical system upgrades for phase one is one of the most urgent areas needing renovation. Needing to be replaced is an inside service panel and several wire runs that are not in conduit - in other words, not in a pipe, tube, or tile to protect the electrical wires or cables.  

The electrical wiring and connections are in poor condition and present a safety hazard. The showcase and display lighting is unsafe, inadequate and difficult to access. The type of incandescent lighting currently being used causes glare and has no heat shielding.

Exterior repairs also are included in phase 1. The mortar joints for the red sandstone exterior walls have cracked, allowing moisture and surface drainage to seep into the building in several locations. Locations on the exterior walls show signs of the old soft mortar deteriorating. Many joints have been patched with mismatched mortar. On the east and back sides of the building, mortar joints have eroded away, allowing water leakage through the foundation. On the backside, there are cracks in the foundation because the stones have separated and moved inward. Foundation walls are deteriorating because there is no perimeter drainage system, there is improper grading away from the building, and because of broken gutters or lack of roof gutters and downspouts. These problems are most prevalent on the east and back of the building.

On the corrugated metal roof, some of the overlapping seams have begun to curl and separate. The flashing around the brick chimney has eroded. Both of these conditions have caused water leakage into the building. There are several places where the roof has sagged because of under-sizing for the snow load.

22 windows and doors

There are 22 windows and exterior wood doors for the building, most of which are either severally weathered or cracked. These windows and doors all appear to be original from the time of construction of the brewery. The wood mullions (divisions between units of windows and doors often used decoratively) and frames are not badly rotted, just weathered. Restoration of the windows and doors needs to be done before further deterioration occurs. Door and window frames in contact with the stone wall need caulking. Most exterior door hardware appears to be original and in good condition. Cleaning and repainting is all that is needed on the door hardware.

The main entrance and exit points to the building are old and unsafe. The stair treads sag, handrails are weak, and the framing support for the stairway has settled. The covered entrance and exit ways were not part of the original brewery, but were built by the South Park Historical Foundation when the building was converted to the museum for South Park City in about 1958. The entrance and exit ways would be completely rebuilt and would, in addition to their practical use, serve as a display for the museum's Bricks - N - Bottles fundraising event described below.

The Project Engineer is Neil Katz of Colorado Springs who has been the architect for South Park City for approximately the past 19 years.

The information on needed repairs was taken from the South Park Historical Foundation grant application to the State Historical Fund.  The new entrance and exit work is described on the museum's Web site.

The Brewery Building today has a wood entrance that was not part of the original brewery building.  It was added in 1958 prior to the opening of the South Park City Museum.  (Photo courtesy of Jim Sapp)

Bricks -N- Bottles

A unique approach to fund-raising will commence on Living History Day on Aug. 14. Living History Day is when board members and volunteers, dressed in period costumes, occupy South Park City as it was between 1860 and 1900. They will be role playing as schoolteachers, railroad workers, saloon customers, merchants, townspeople and others to depict the history of early South Park.

The "bottles" part of the Bricks -N- Bottles campaign is the opportunity to have 'Your Name' on the label of an antique or "nearly antique" beer bottle of South Park Lager beer from the Summer Brewery. The minimum donation for this special beer bottle is $50, depending on the size and color of the bottle.

For a $50 donation, 'Your Name' would be shown on the label of a small amber beer bottle. A donation of $250 would show 'Your Name' on a large amber bottle, and with a donation of $500, 'Your Name' would be displayed on a large colored bottle. The Web site shows the colored bottle as light blue.   

The "bricks" part of Bricks -N- Bottles is a chance to have your name, phrase or message, limited to three lines of 20 characters each, on a brick paver, for a donation of $250 or $500, depending on the size of the brick paver.

The personalized bottles will be showcased in an enclosed wall shelf, while the pavers will be displayed on the floors in the new entrance and exit rooms of the renovated brewery building.

Some of the bottles are being donated from the collection of Harley Hamilton, president of the board of trustees of South Park Historical Foundation and an avid antique bottle collector.

Donations can be made through; by mail to South Park Historical Foundation Inc., 100 4th Street, P.O. Box 634, Fairplay CO 80440; or at a display in the visitor center at South Park City.