One of Park City’s most unique buildings sits at the southeast corner of Park Avenue and Heber Avenue. Why is it so unique? For starters, the building faces Heber Avenue, and yet its address is 628 Park Avenue, so it’s interesting the address is with the perpendicular street. The former Eley Motor Co. and Kimball Art Center building across the street at 638 Park Avenue also shares in this street numbering intrigue.
The answer lies with historic maps and photographs. Maps show another structure just to the north of the building, originally. That other building, a blacksmith shop, was along Heber Avenue. It was eventually torn down, however, for Heber Avenue to be widened. Six-twenty-eight Park Avenue, then, took over as the building along Heber Avenue. Historic photographs, like the one shown here, allow us to see that the original entrance to the building was also on Park Avenue, not on Heber Avenue as it is today.
But a building with an odd street number is not necessarily anything to write home about, or to write a Way We Were article about. The real reason 628 Park Avenue is so unique is that its construction offers a glimpse at Park City’s shared heritages.
Of course, Park City got its start as a community because of the silver, lead, and zinc mining industry that developed around the ore in its hills. One could argue Park City would not exist without the mining developments here. Perhaps it would only have popped up as skiing grew around the country from the 1930s through the 1980s. Or perhaps it would have been settled as a milling and ranching community, as the Snyderville area had been (despite our mining history, our current most famous building is probably the McPolin barn, a remnant of the vibrant ranching that was the secondary major business in the area).
As the mining industry began work on Treasure Hill and in Woodside Gulch, Empire Canyon, and Ontario Canyon, a community developed in the valley below. Naturally, Main Street was the business district, although a few businesses popped up on Park Avenue (and Chinese residents and sex workers set up shop on or near Swede Alley). One of those Park Avenue businesses was a boarding house, located at 628 Park Avenue.
This home is a central passage plan house, where a central passage goes down the middle from the entrance, with a room, or rooms on either side. Additionally, one extra unique factor for 628 Park Avenue is the building was made with concrete, incredibly rare for a home built in the 1880s, especially in Park City. John and Mary Harwood lived in the home and roomed boarders who worked in non-mining businesses (until a 1901 law outlawing it, mine companies required their single miners to live in company housing near the mine). The building remained a boarding house and/or apartments through at least 1957.
In 1964, just as the Treasure Mountains resort was getting underway, a ski shop took over the building. Timberhaus Ski Shop turned the lower level into retail space and kept the apartments on the second floor for employees to live in. In 1973, they built the addition on the building’s now left side, with a greenhouse style window making up most of the front façade. They also added a front entrance between the historic structure and the addition and closed off the original entrance on Park Avenue. The addition replaced a small one-story section toward the back left of the property. Timberhaus operated in the building from 1964 to 1985.
With the 1973 addition, 628 Park Avenue became an amalgamation of Park City’s mining community history and new skiing community. That skiing community, while still present, is no longer new. Park City’s ski resort development history is sixty years old this year (if you count the planning and development of Treasure Mountains or if you count Snow Park, the locals only resort, that history is even older). Park City’s skiing history is just as important as our mining history. One could argue Park City would no longer exist if not for its reinvention into a ski resort destination and tourism economy.
Timberhaus’ addition to the building is fifty years old this year – that number is often a threshold for considering a building historic, so this one building is now historic for two different eras and architectural styles. It is an important symbol of the transition from our community and economy’s reliance on one industry to another. Park City Municipal does not currently recognize early Ski Resort and Community Development Era buildings in its historic sites inventory, meaning these important buildings – built ca. 1963-1975 – are not protected from demolition, destruction, or reconfiguration.
In its listing for 628 Park Avenue, the building is designated as “significant” as opposed to “landmark,” meaning the building is still important, but it has been downgraded. This is due to the configuration of the original 1880s structure having been altered by the 1973 addition. But with the length of time that has passed since the addition and due to its importance in Park City’s pivot to skiing, 628 Park Avenue is possibly more historic than ever.
It is unique because no other building in Park City exemplifies our first mining era in combination with our first ski era. No other structure in town shows quite so drastically the meeting of one world with another.