Old maps restored, 35 years after fire

Historic documents available once more

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In an unsuccessful attempt to spring her boyfriend from jail, a teenage girl set fire to the Douglas County Courthouse on March 11, 1978.

The fire forced the county to spread its services around Castle Rock for the next couple years, including placing the court and commissioners chambers in the bowling alley, said former mayor and current Douglas County Public Trustee George Kennedy. In addition, it damaged many of the county’s historic documents and records.

And while some of those records, including most from the public trustee’s office, and many from the treasurer’s office are gone forever, a lot of the old records, maps and documents from the clerk and recorder’s office were recently restored.

In recognition the recent restoration of 51 maps dating from the 1860s through the 1970s, an old pauper’s book, a ditch book and a brand book that kept record of cattle brands, the clerk and recorder’s office placed some of the documents on display at the commissioner chambers for a reception on May 28.

“It’s been a three-pronged journey of restoration, preservation and digitization,” said Nancy Sotomayor, recording manager at the clerk and recorder’s office. “It’s taken about a year to complete the project. The maps either had smoke damage or water damage and some of them had both. They were in very poor condition.”

The project, which cost $40,000, was approved by the county commissioners in March 2012. It included the digitization of everything in the county vault so if another fire or disaster were to happen, records would be protected.

“It’s so important to preserve these records,” said Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith. “Probably once a week somebody will give us a call, looking for a record. Oftentimes, because it is a land record, it will have to do with a dispute; somebody is claiming that this is their property or not their property, so it is great to have these maps to go back and settle some of this.”

Two of the restored maps, including one from 1891 that shows the original platting of Perry Park, have been framed and are expected to be hung in the Wilcox Building.

For Bill Noe, the county’s planning director and land use administrator in 1978, the reception brought back a lot of memories of working overnight the night of the fire and through the ensuing days and nights to relocate the maps to a climate-controlled location in the state historical society building in Denver.

“We took all the plats and laid them out page by page, and dried them as best we could,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing we salvaged what we did.”

With the exception of the maps bound for the Wilcox Building, the other restored documents are not on public display, but since they are public record, Sotomayor said anyone can come into the clerk and recorder’s office and ask to see them.