DENVER — The jagged, red, flagstone sidewalks that line so many Denver neighborhoods were mined in Colorado in the 1880s.
Despite the lack of heavy machinery, the people who founded the city laid the massive rock themselves.
Over the years the earth underneath the sidewalks has shifted, creating uneven sidewalks that the city of Denver will require homeowners to fix at their own expense.
Those homeowners, wanting to maintain the historic character of their streets, will once again do some heavy lifting.
"They're a very important part of the character and uniqueness of Denver," said John Hayden, president of the Curtis Park Neighbors, which has been gathering large slabs of flagstone dug up by the city.
City workers will soon start moving through sections of Denver to inspect the condition of sidewalks. If they determine repairs must be made, they’ll leave nearby homeowners information about the cost to have the city’s contractor come in and lay down even cement.
"It costs about four times as much to replace the flagstone as it would to just put down cement," Hayden said.
Instead of completely replacing the flagstone, Hayden said he hopes to reuse slabs that aren’t broken, maintaining that historic look.
Most recently his neighbor brought an empty trailer to 33rd and Curtis streets, where flagstone sidewalk ramps had just been replaced. Three men struggled for several minutes to prop a single, massive slab up, dust off the spiders and dump it into the trailer. The collection has grown to about 100 pieces.
The slabs will stay there "until we can find a way to put them back down in places where they're needed, preferably for lower-income residents in the neighborhood that can't afford to replace the flagstone themselves," Hayden said.
Saving the flagstone pieces is one thing. Hayden said the real costs come in laying the stone. Curtis Park Neighbors is working to raise money to help people who can't afford it.
The City of Denver does offer a financial assistance program, and it has also approved cheaper methods of repair that had not been approved before this year.