As town of Jackson staff and the Teton County Historic Preservation Board work to create a historic register and craft guidelines to preserve the town’s Western character, a newly formed foundation is doing its part to also protect the integrity of Jackson’s historic buildings.
On Friday the Teton Historic Preservation Foundation, established in July, was granted a historic easement for the Genevieve block on the east side of downtown Jackson. The block contains several historic buildings, including those that house Cafe Genevieve, Healthy Being Café & Juicery, and Persephone Bakery.
The historic easement, which was given by an anonymous donor, was the “cherry on top of the sundae, so to speak” in preserving the historic structures, said the foundation’s spokeswoman, Susan Eriksen-Meier.
The sundae of which Eriksen-Meier speaks was the successful 2019 “Save the Block” campaign, in which Jackson Hole Land Trust and an anonymous family partnered to create a plan to prevent the Genevieve block from being razed and developed into a large hotel. The community raised $7 million, and the property was able to be purchased at a price reduced by the seller.
Now holding what is only the second historic easement in Wyoming — Eriksen-Meier said the first was in Sheridan, and the nonprofit that held the easement is now defunct — the Teton Historic Preservation Foundation is charged with ensuring that any future renovations or upgrades to the buildings align with their historic character. The relationship between the buildings’ owners is far from adversarial, though.
“It’s more of a partnership with the owners,” Eriksen-Meier said. “They’ll come to us and say, ‘There’s a problem with the plumbing or something and we have to redo this section of the building. Is that allowed? If so, what are the parameters?’
“And at that point ... if they can replace thing with the correct materials, we’ll certainly help them with resources like that. Or, if they don’t know what is historically appropriate, we’ll help them with that sort of thing, too.”
The foundation will also assist property owners on the Genevieve block to find funding sources that are available for maintaining historic structures, Eriksen-Meier added.
Ali Cohane, who with her husband, Kevin, owns Persephone Bakery at 145 E. Broadway, said she is “super excited” about the partnership with the foundation. Cohane said plans are already in place to add 150 square feet to the building as well as give the front of the business a face-lift “while maintaining the character, but just bringing the building up to a little bit better standards.”
Preservation of the historic buildings and the anonymous donor providing the business owners at Persephone, Cafe Genevieve and the Juicery the opportunity to buy their properties are things for which Cohane is thankful.
“Obviously it’s crucial,” Cohane said. “It’s the whole reason we get to keep our businesses there. We’re so grateful.
“That land is very valuable in downtown Jackson, and without that preservation easement it would be too simple to develop it into something else, and small business would go away.
“We are eternally grateful for that.”