AURORA | From 1918 right through the Vietnam War, the Red Cross building on the old Fitzsimons campus was the center of activity for recovering service members.
Vaudeville and films entertained soldiers as they recuperated, and the building served as a lounge for soldiers gearing up to finally leave the Army hospital campus.
But for more than 15 years now, the once-thriving building has sat unused as the booming Anschutz Medical Campus has sprung up around it. Today, research, education and hospital buildings tower over the small boarded-up building on East Montview Boulevard. And whether the old Red Cross building will soon be swept away in that sea of development is anybody’s guess.
The University of Colorado, which serves as a de facto property manager for the Anschutz Campus, owns the building and doesn’t appear to have any immediate plans to raze the building or otherwise get rid of it. But CU spokesman Dan Meyers said the school is looking at various options.
“Over the past several years the campus has explored many options in our attempt to preserve the building and restore it to some functional status,” Meyers said in a statement. “We continue to consider the options and needs and are engaged with city leaders in a discussion about those issues.”
Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said the main issue facing the building is Montview Boulevard. While there are no current plans to widen the two-lane road on the north end of the Anschutz Campus, Hogan said one day the road will have to be widened.
“You can’t have a two-lane street running through the middle of the campus and say to the world that this is a place where the world needs to come,” he said.
Hogan said the building is historically important and he would like to see it saved, but it is in such disrepair that it could be difficult.
“I would love to save it, but when it costs somewhere north of seven figures to save, the question has to be asked, ‘Is it worth saving a building that will never be used?’” he said.
Even if there aren’t any specific plans to get rid of the building soon, the idea that the building could be knocked down isn’t sitting well with some local historians.
“There are a lot of people from all over the country who have a tie to it because of the military. That alone is worth preserving,” said Lynne Evans, an Aurora woman is spearheading a campaign to save the building.
Evans is a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, but said she is not acting in that capacity as she tries to save the Red Cross building.
Instead, Evans said she is just a member of the public who sees value in a site that meant so much to so many soldiers.
So far she has launched a Facebook page and has been in contact with anyone who will listen about why the building should be spared.
Aurora City Councilman Bob LeGare said that if CU decides they need the property for something else, they shouldn’t hesitate when it comes to getting rid of the Red Cross building because it has fallen into such disrepair.
“I don’t think the building should be preserved,” he said.
The building today sits on the south side of Montview Boulevard between CU’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the school’s main library.
When it first opened in 1918, the building was one of the original buildings on the old Fitzsimons Army Hospital campus. It’s red-tile roofed matched several other buildings on the campus.
In an architectural quirk, the Red Cross building was built in the shape of a red cross. Evans said there were several around the country built in that shape, but Aurora’s is that last one remaining.
In 1942, the two new wings were added to building. Those wings not only substantially changed the building’s structure, but have proven a problem in recent years.
Evans said the building qualified for a grant in the early 2000s, a short time after city officials in 1999 added the building and adjacent World War I monument to the city’s official list of historic landmarks. But the grant required the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority, which owned the property at the time, to keep those wings. Evans said the wings were poorly constructed and officials wanted to tear them down and renovate the original structure, so they gave the grant back.
“The building has kind of been in limbo ever since then,” she said.
There were concerns years ago that the building would have to come down when RTD ran a light rail line down Montview, but the transit agency has since shifted the line to the north.
Still, Evans said the building’s future is murky.
She said she hopes public pressure will help save the building, and maybe it can be incorporated somehow into the campus with another business moving in.
“Any number of businesses could go into that building,” she said. “They just have to find a tenant for it.”