Stark Brothers Store and Home Comfort Hotel - Completed 2019
The Stark family maintained the longest residency of St. Elmo. They came to the Chalk Creek area in the early 1880s and resided in St. Elmo continuously from the early 1890s through 1960. They acquired the majority of properties in town after the mining boom and protected them from looting and vandalism. The Starks are a major reason there are so many historic buildings remaining today.
What would become the Home Comfort Hotel & Stark Bros Store was initially built as a bank in the early 1880s. After seeing several other uses, the Stark family opened the Home Comfort Hotel around 1900, adding the store in the lobby shortly after. When Roy Stark was appointed postmaster in 1914, a post office was added. Roy and later his brother Tony, ran the post office until it closed in 1952. The circa 1910 photo shows the hotel with the completed rear addition. The post office addition was yet to be added.
Over a hundred years of harsh St. Elmo winters took a toll on the building. A State Historical Fund grant funded assessment of the structure performed in 2016 found two major flaws. The untreated logs and sills providing the foundation were rotted, causing the external walls to slowly sink, and the roof, which had undergone multiple repairs, needed to be taken down to the original sheathing and replaced. Cost to repair the structure in period correct manner was estimated at $247,172.
Funding for the construction phase was provided by a 2017 Colorado State Historical Fund grant of $185,379 with a required 25% cash match of $61,793 provided by HSE. Our fabulous donors enabled the cash match, with the Colorado State Historical Fund grant effectively adding three dollars to every dollar donated.
Construction commenced in June under the direction of Mike Perschbacher and the Older than Dirt Construction Company. Mike’s team specializes in historic preservation contracting. The goal of this approach is to make the necessary repairs using construction materials and techniques that closely match the existing structure – thus preserving as much of the architectural historical content as possible.
The Home Comfort building was built in three major sections. The original structure was completed by 1882 and had a horizontal log foundation. Repair was performed using 6x6 treated lumber to match the log construction, while significantly reducing rot potential. “Prop rocks” were used instead of concrete to support the lumber, in keeping with the time period construction techniques.
The perpendicular and side additions in back of the Home Comfort were completed by 1908 and used stumps simply sitting on the ground as a foundation. Stumps on the north side of the building were so rotted that Mike was surprised that the building was still standing. The repair for this section used side by side vertical logs to match the original approach. The logs were sealed with bituthene on the bottom to prolong life. Also, a small amount of concrete was poured under the logs subject to higher loads. Free draining gravel was placed around the foundation to keep water away from the structure.
Two approaches were used for the roof work. On the pitched roofs, the tin corrugated roofing was removed and labeled relative to location. The old material beneath was removed and new Oriented Strand Board (OSB) underlayment and bitumen sealant was installed. The tin corrugated material was then replaced, leaving the look of the roof unchanged. On the flatter pitched sections, which are prone to leaks, a new standing seam metal roof was installed. The mechanically sealed seams should provide an effective life of at least 100 years
Thanks to the use of preservation contracting, the Stark Bros Store and Home Comfort Hotel looks today much like it did a hundred years ago, and should remain intact into the next century.