Only a few weeks after moving to Georgetown, CO, in order to take the position of Director of the historic Hotel de Paris Museum, Kevin Kuharic had already earned himself a nickname among the locals: Walking Guy. “I walk everywhere in town. I run errands, I walk the dogs, I do my shopping here. I am rarely in the car, perhaps once each week. I don’t miss being on the road,” said this recent transplant.
Kuharic sees “no reason to live anywhere else but Georgetown. I’ve already done the city thing by living in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. I took all it had in stride, both the good and the bad. When I came here, the mountains gave me comfort. They were my new skyscrapers.” He admits, “The wind is more challenging than the cold and snow.” Colorado is not a stranger to Kuharic. “I lived in Pueblo in the 70’s and it imprinted on me.” He is happy to be back.
The Hotel de Paris is not only on the Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark, but it is also a part of the National Trust. “The property has credentials.” Kuharic has credentials himself.
For an impressive 21 year stint, this enthusiastic and solid man worked in historic preservation at the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, which dates to the mid 19th Century. “It is literally, sacred ground,” he said with a serious tone. “Each decision could be interpreted in so many ways. The cemetery was self-segregated by religion, politics, racial and cultural degrees.” Kuharic handled each challenge gracefully, something he attributes to the fact that his family is relatively new to America. “Three of my grandparents came through Ellis Island.” Because of this, Kuharic believes he doesn’t carry some of the historic baggage that can complicate issues for others.
After 19 years, he was ready for a change and a challenge. The old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. In 2008 a tornado made a direct hit on the Oakland Cemetery. “We were literally the bull’s eye to the 130 mph storm. Within the first 24 hours I was working with FEMA, GEMA (the Georgia branch), Fullerton County, City of Atlanta, archeologists from the Department of Natural Resources and Historic Preservation.”
This life changing event, including being exposed to human remains, massive numbers of dead birds and animals and the emotional toll on loved ones, turned his world upside down. “It had gone from a beautiful place to a hideous place.” Two years later, Kuharic smiled as he watched joggers, parents pushing strollers, and countless others enjoying the restored beauty of the cemetery. “I’m very proud; I left on a high note.” During Kuharic’s tenure he was presented four awards by four Mayors.
His decision to come to the Hotel de Paris, “a little known place in an isolated town, was a huge leap. But, the size and location passed the ‘sniff test’” after he visited last March. When Kuharic arrived at the historic hotel, it was in the middle of a serious water abatement project. “This is a challenging property, which is good; if there is no challenge, why be here?”
His goal, now that the water issue is settled, is to “work magic here. We want to create a brand, develop programming, and as he did at Oakland Cemetery, let people know that the Hotel de Paris Museum is a place for their enjoyment, a place that belongs to them. “We’re only 45 minutes from Denver. I think of Denver as being just around the corner.”
Kuharic has extended hours to visit the Hotel de Paris Museum to weekends in May, Daily, June through September, and weekends October through the Christmas Marts in December. “We’ll be open an additional 22 days this year.”
There is so much to be discovered at the Hotel de Paris Museum. “These people are not long gone. These are objects that they purchased themselves and used. How far can they be?”
For more information about the Hotel de Paris Museum in Georgetown, CO, look to: www.hoteldeparismuseum.org.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Providing for others.
What is your greatest fear?
Running out of time.
What is the trait you most admire in others?
Resiliency. Instead of subscribing to the philosophy “when a door closes, a window opens,” I tend to believe when a door closes, a window must be built.
Which living person do you most admire?
I’m stumped. I had difficulty choosing a hero when I was a child. Some things never change!
What is your greatest extravagance?
Acquiring books I might never read. There is an on-going book sale sponsored by the Georgetown Friends of the John Tomay Memorial Library. I pass by it almost daily, so I am tempted regularly.
What is your greatest trait?
I listen and pay attention. I was once told my biggest problem is that I give a damn.
When and where were you happiest?
1983. I was a foreign exchange student. For two weeks during the summer, I bicycled through the Netherlands and Belgium. I carried all my food and gear with me and slept in the woods at night.
Who are your favorite public figures?
I admire Christo because his art challenges me; his work is not as one-dimensional as some people think. It’s as if he takes giant highlighting markers and points out sublime features we miss in our daily routines. The epic scale is staggering.
I am also inspired by my friend Mary Norwood, who ran for Atlanta mayor but was narrowly defeated. She’s a very capable person who accepted her circumstances, regrouped, and keeps trying. She’s continued to move on and up through life. I suspect she’ll either be mayor in the next election or just go ahead and run for governor of Georgia.
Who are your real-life heroes?
My friends Betty Sherwood and Tom Purdom. Both were Southern writers who possessed a quiet power.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Leading the tornado disaster recovery at Historic Oakland Cemetery (Atlanta, Georgia). I was honored as an individual with an Award of Excellence for my contribution from the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. This award was my fourth from the City of Atlanta; each one was from a different mayor over the course of twenty-one years.
Where would you like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
My collection of vintage family portraits.
What do you most value in your friends?
Their efforts to grow as people and their interests in others.
What is it that you most dislike?
Bigotry. I’m in awe of the human condition and hate double standards.
What is your greatest regret?
Losing track of friends and family.
What is your motto?
Timing is everything.
What book can you recommend?
Slavery By Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon; I’m also very fond of Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.
Seen any good movies lately?
Mother and Child
When you have your own time, what do you enjoy doing?
Writing. I just started a blog about Hotel de Paris Museum. Over the last decade I’ve written a history book, an art appreciation book and an historical article. Right now I’m searching for publishers. I’m also contributing to a third historical book, which has been picked up the University of Georgia Press.
If you had one wish, what would it be?
Society’s widespread realization that winning does not necessarily mean someone else has to lose.
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Kevin, You continue to amaze me.
Thanks for sharing yourself and thanks to Blacktie for presenting your story.......! GREAT JOB...!