By Virginia McConnell Simmons
Mark M. Jones, AIA, who died from hantavirus in May, is leaving a lasting imprint on the town of Del Norte and other areas in the San Luis Valley. He will be remembered for his expertise as an architect, his high standards of design and workmanship, and his vision for revitalizing the town where he had lived since the 1990s. His imprint is on many buildings, large and small.
The California native was a graduate of USC and UCLA’s programs in architecture and planning. He later worked on retrofitting several buildings at Stanford University prior to his move to tranquil Del Norte, but quiet retirement was not in the cards. Although his work here included a wide variety of projects, such as the new Rio Grande Water Conservation District’s building at Alamosa, historic preservation was his special interest in the Valley. His work included contributions to several projects, from Alamosa’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Mogote’s Presbyterian Church, and the chapel at Monte Vista’s cemetery to preliminary investigations of the old hotel that now provides housing for Creede Repertory Theatre’s performers, but the Windsor Hotel and the main street in Del Norte became a special focus.
That town’s boom had begun with mining at Summitville in the early 1870s, but, like struggling economies in other parts of rural America, its decline was slowly playing out when Jones moved to Del Norte. Windsor Hotel in the center of town was then in its early stages of restoration by the Windsor Restoration and Historical Association, Inc. This project, which conducted fundraising and achieved designation in the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties, culminated in the opening of the Windsor Hotel and Dining Room in 2012.
Jones played an indispensable part in the transformation of this structure. The association’s president, Suzanne Off, has described the generous contributions he made to its restoration: Besides providing his own architectural expertise and “impeccable taste,” as Off says, he furnished office space, architectural drawings, “wallpaper archaeology,” locating a source that could replicate the original tin ceiling, finding a builder in the Valley who could rebuild the staircase, writing grants and ensuring that all obligatory codes were met.
Then he went to work on the neighboring main street. Acquiring property in the 600 block of Grand Avenue, he rebuilt structures to house his own office and two professional businesses. Across the street, he restored two historic storefronts. There, he cleaned and repaired the original stone masonry, even obtaining rock from the original stone quarry near Del Norte when necessary. Interiors were gutted and restored to make them suitable for today. These handsome spaces now house a professional office and a retail store with landscaping and off-street parking.
In this historic town, Mark Jones created fresh, attractive and functioning buildings that will enhance the life and economic growth of historic Del Norte for many years to come. A memorial service and celebration of his life will take place in Del Norte on June 25. Editor’s note: Colorado Central ran an article on Mr. Jones in our March 2001 issue. It can be found online at www.cozine.com/2001-march/architect-mark-jones-reclaiming-history/