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Boulder Contractor Turns Up Gun In Renovation

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BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – One of the Pearl Street Mall’s oldest buildings, which has proven before to be a time capsule hiding in plain sight, is now revealing more pieces from Boulder’s past.

Lee Kendrick, an electrician with Arvada-based KM Electric, was working in the basement of the building at 1215 Pearl St. earlier this month. The building, formerly the home of Chico’s, is being renovated in anticipation of its new client, Gaiam yoga supplies.

Kendrick found himself sitting in the damp, dark basement of the 135-year-old building when something caught his eye in the rubble of the original rock and dirt foundation.

“I sat on a cinderblock, and I just looked down and it was just sitting there,” he said.

Using a screwdriver, Kendrick removed what turned out to be the rotting remains of a revolver.

“I said, `Holy cow, this is a gun.”

Only a few bits of the original wooden handle remained, and the barrel was all but destroyed by what appears to be decades spent embedded in the foundation. The cylinder of the gun is also rotted out, revealing what appear to be .22-caliber shells still in place — which may have been live rounds until they rusted out.

Based on what’s left of the gun, Kendrick believes the revolver is likely a Smith & Wesson “No. 1.” According to the National Firearms Museum, the seven-shot No. 1 was produced between 1860 and 1868. An estimated 120,000 were manufactured.

If the revolver is a No. 1, it would predate the building where it was found by about a decade.

The building — which was constructed in 1876 during the gold and silver rush — is one of the city’s oldest, according to Camera historian Silvia Pettem.

“(Boulder) was a frontier town with dirt streets and it was kind of at a transition point between frame buildings and more permanent buildings of brick and stone,” she said. “This building … was one of those early brick buildings.”

Pettem said it would have been common to find gun-toting individuals in Boulder at the time, although the city was hardly the “rough-and-tumble” wild West.

Kye Javes, a deputy and firearms instructor with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office who has an interest in antique arms, said the No. 1 revolver would have been common in the Boulder area in the late 1800s.

“It was a very successful firearm at the time,” he said.

Javes said records with Smith & Wesson show that J.W. Storrs, of New York City, was the sole sales agent for the company between 1857 and 1869. While Javes said that Smith & Wesson kept excellent records of ownership, historical records connected to the gun’s serial number — which is not readily visible — probably wouldn’t reveal the person to whom Storrs sold the revolver.

Auction listings place the value of a No. 1 revolver, in good condition, at about $600.

While Javes said it’s unusual for someone to find a buried antique firearm, it’s not unheard of in Boulder County.

He said an Erie resident who was digging up a toilet connection in the early 2000s reported finding an H&R revolver underground.

The gun recovered from the Pearl Street building marks the second time that location has revealed historical artifacts.

In the mid-1980s, the building’s owners broke through a sealed wall to find an office from the 1920s or 1930s that was perfectly preserved.

“They found a lot of artifacts of the day,” said Geoffrey Keys, who manages the 1215 Pearl property. “It was virtually untouched.”

Keys — who said he offered the revolver to a local museum that politely declined — said there is a lot of history still to be found under buildings in downtown Boulder, many of which contain underground tunnels that haven’t been touched in decades.

“There may be a couple things left to be discovered here,” he said.

In 2006, the owners of the adjacent building at 1212 Pearl St. were renovating when they discovered that the stairs leading to an upstairs level had been removed in 1933.

When the new owners climbed onto the roof of the building and found a way into the second level, they discovered an office space that had been sealed off for more than 70 years. They found boxes of vintage papers and correspondence from a business that operated in the building from 1915 to 1933.

- By Heath Urie, The Daily Camera

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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