Steamboat Art Museum

History Of The Building

2020 marked the 115th anniversary of the First National Bank/Rehder Building and its colorful history. Since its construction in 1905, it has housed the Ford Garage offices, an auto parts store, a dentist’s office, an insurance office, and a uranium company office. Later, it was divided into various retail and commercial spaces from an ice cream shop to photography studio to home furnishings. The 1920 addition was the Ford Garage, a creamery and cheese factory, a farm implement repair shop and eventually three restaurants.

Today, the Rehder Building is included on the National Registry of Historic Places, the Downtown Historic District, and is a cornerstone of the Arts and Culture Creative District designated by the State of Colorado. SAM is fortunate to occupy one of the largest buildings open to the public in downtown Steamboat, allowing us to present educational opportunities not only with our fine art exhibits of the highest caliber, but also reflecting the history of the building and community.

The Rehder Building is significant because of its architectural style, materials, age, and degree of preservation, symbolizing the progression of a frontier town in the early 1900’s to a thriving commercial community in the 21st century. The original bank building was constructed in 1905 during a unique period in Steamboat’s history, when the town was prosperous but still relatively isolated from the outside world. Moreover, the building has proved its ability to adapt to changing community needs without sacrificing its historic and architectural integrity.

The building has two styles represented: Richardsonian Romanesque and Renaissance Revival style. According to the Molly Brown House in Denver, these styles were especially popular with Western architects because it reflected the size and splendor of the western landscape, while using local materials. The 1905 building has a commanding front façade that is dominated by a central, Romanesque sandstone archway. There are large display windows with flat arches on either side that frame three, recessed front doors. The walls of the first story are made of 12” x 20” blocks of native beige rock-faced sandstone set in regular courses. The second story is made of hand-pressed local red-clay brick. Cut sandstone window heads, corner quoins, belt course and parapet, plus two corbelled brick stringcourses create visual interest in the second story façade.

A handful of unique exterior details add to the visual impact of the building. “First Nat’l Bank” is carved into the main entryway sandstone arch, the word “Bank” is painted in gold letters on the transom window above the front door. The entry doors and upstairs windows are original. The ceiling of the entry way is covered with ornate pressed metal. The front windows are set in the original architrave wood trim on native sandstone sills. A handsome metal plaque denoting the building’s designation as historic draws attention from history and architecture buffs and general passersby alike.

From 2009-2015, phased major construction projects to the exterior and interior of the main building transformed it into a unparalleled exhibition space and the upstairs into administration offices, funded by donors, grants and the City of Steamboat. In 2014, we launched a Capital Campaign for the final rehabilitation phase to the 1920 addition, (unusable since its acquisition in 2009), and the major project was completed in 2017. The creation of twice the exhibition space, an art resource library, a workshop space, and art storage areas allowed us to fully utilize the entire historic building and has revitalized half of a central city block.  Our commitment to the stewardship of the largest historic building in the heart of Steamboat and rehabilitate it to its period of historical significance has made SAM an important cultural feature for our community.

As art reflects a snapshot of a place or era in history, the Rehder building reflects the evolution of our town from its frontier roots to a thriving municipality. Today, our museum is receiving accolades for its unique blend of contemporary and historical architecture that honors the building’s past, present and future.