If you don’t know longtime Evergreen resident Jon Holbrook, there’s a good chance you’ve seen him around town.
You might have seen Jon running the Freedom Run 5K, as he does most years, or met him while participating in one of the many events for Evergreen Newcomers and Neighbors. You may have run across him in acting in service to the Evergreen Area Council for the Arts, or observed him pitching in for Mountain Foothills Rotary’s many charitable undertakings.
But even if you’ve never laid eyes on Jon, you’re almost certainly familiar with his work. The Evergreen Hotel on Main Street is a good example of his talents, as is the cozy charm of Creekside Cellars and the lovely, turreted face of Saigon Landing just around the corner on Douglas Park Road. For that matter, Jon designed and built four separate homes for his family in the Soda Creek and Upper Bear neighborhoods, not to mention performing tweaks great and small on mountain-area homes near and far. Jon, you see, is an architect, just as he always knew he would be.
“As a child I liked to draw and paint and build models,” Jon says. “I liked Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets, and if they’d had Legos back then I probably would have been a maniac with them. I pretty much knew I wanted to be an architect from the time I was in junior high.”
Attending high school in Vero Beach, Florida, he structured his course-load along engineering lines, providing a solid foundation for the degree in architecture he won from Georgia Tech in 1968. Jon was well on his way to his ultimate goal of serving the architectural needs of the National Park Service. He’d get there, but not right away, and not by any route he could have foreseen back in junior high school.
“It was the height of Vietnam, and I wasn’t keen on joining the Army,” he says. “I joined the Coast Guard instead, went to Officer Candidate School and became a Coast Guard civil engineer.”
Jon did two tours with the USCG, and spent those four years bobbing about the vast Pacific designing, building and re-fitting shore facilities, air stations and navigation sites on remote green specks manned by small companies of homesick troops. He was enjoying a relatively posh posting on Oahu in 1972 when his second hitch was up. He nearly got away clean, but there was an…um…hitch.
“I volunteered to extend my tour for 18 months to finish a project.” The Coast Guard took him up on it, and on the day after he would otherwise have been sipping a cold one on a stateside-bound airplane he found himself instead sipping a cold one in the officers club and chatting up lovely cocktail waitress named Christy.
“Her dad was Pearl Harbor’s supply corps officer and managed the officers club.”
Jon and Christy were married in 1973 – a week after Jon went off of active duty – and moved to Denver the following year. Neither had family in Colorado, but Christy had taken a shine to the Centennial State while earning a degree at Colorado Women’s College and wanted to see more of it. Jon took a civilian gig with a Denver architectural firm and the couple started scouting home sites in the green foothills above town.
“We found a rental property on Upper Bear Creek. We stayed there about a year and a half.”
They would have stayed longer only Jon, still in the Coast Guard reserves, got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I was offered the staff architect position at the Coast Guard’s San Francisco office. The Coast Guard gets into a lot of historic preservation and I did a lot of really interesting projects, including the lighthouse on Alcatraz. But in the fall of 1979 we decided we really belonged in Colorado."
Jon found agreeable work with the General Services Administration in Denver, but the Holbrooks’ stone wasn’t done rolling. In 1983 he took a post as assistant chief of civil engineering in the Coast Guard’s Seattle district, but returned to Colorado two years later to resume the same job – same desk, in fact – he’d occupied two years earlier. It would be another 10 years before Jon’s youthful goal found fulfillment.
“In 1993 I got the job I really wanted – the National Park Service. It’s fun to work on buildings and projects that will be appreciated by so many Americans and foreign visitors. NPS has over 400 units, and a lot of them are memorials and historic landmarks located everywhere from Boston to Saipan.”
If Jon retired from the Park Service in 2004, he didn’t really retire. He’s still an architect, as he always knew he would be, managing NPS contracts for a national firm.
Don’t be surprised when you see Jon about town. He and Christy have definitely found a permanent home in Evergreen, even if it’s not any of the homes Jon designed and built.
“The last one was just too big for us,” Jon shrugs. “We found a house we liked on Upper Bear Creek that was on the market, so we bought it. It’s two doors down from the one we rented 40 years ago.”