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They changed the face of Evergreen

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Lake House builder remembers a great crew, great experience

By Stephen Knapp

It was just about this time of year, 20 years ago, that Scott Mackenzie was getting ready to change the face of Evergreen. The professional contractor and longtime Herzman Mesa resident was beginning one of the most challenging — and most rewarding — projects of his career.

“Here’s a funny story,” says MacKenzie, now retired to Truth or Consequences, N.M. “When they had the original meeting about building a lake house, I went there to oppose it. I didn’t want to see some gawd-awful building at the end of the lake wrecking the area and ruining the views.”

On the other hand, Mackenzie is a reasonable man, and willing to be persuaded.

“When I saw the design, I went, ‘Wow, this is going to be nice.’ Not only did I not oppose it, I wanted to build it. And I stood up and told them that.”

Given the project’s high profile and local importance, he wasn’t alone. Competition for the Evergreen Park and Recreation District contract was fierce.

“The bidding was quite intense,” Mackenzie recalls. “Everybody knew this was going to be a big thing for Evergreen, and everybody wanted to be part of it. I got the job by going so low nobody would touch my price. I basically made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.”

Then, reasonably enough, he invited his local competitors to join the crew.

“We used almost exclusively Evergreen contractors. I didn’t think some Denver company should be building what is supposed to be our lake house. And, at that time, we had a very talented group of people right here in Evergreen, particularly carpenters. We couldn’t have found a better crew anywhere else. We all got along famously.”

A good thing, considering the trials ahead. The autumn of 1992 was fading fast when they marked out 5,000 square feet of the natural lawn spread between fen and fairway on the lake’s western end. There was much to do before the ground froze solid.

“Water was the biggest problem, as you can imagine. That lake house is mounted on more than 50 pilings, and you hit water almost the minute you start drilling. We had to drill down to bedrock, then ram pipes into the holes, then pour cement into the pipes. It was a pretty big job.”

With a firm base underfoot, work could proceed less swimmingly, so to speak. A forest of mighty logs began to rise above a small mountain of expertly laid stone. Long about February, skaters noticed that the lake house was looking a lot more like the Lake House. But if construction was advancing on schedule, all was not smooth sailing.

“It was an incredibly cold winter,” laughs Mackenzie, warming to the memory. “The doors and windows didn’t go in until much later, and that wind would blow right through. Whoo, it was cold!”

By the time the wind lost its bite, the essential structure was complete, and most of the spring and summer of 1993 were devoted to interior finishes and landscaping. And just about the time winter was heaving back into view, the Evergreen Lake House was receiving its official welcome into the mountain community.

“It took a year to build, and I had a good time building it.”

And now Mackenzie has a good time visiting it. Not a year passes that he doesn’t drive up from the Land of Enchantment to stand enchanted before his great labor of love.

“I just hang out on the deck and talk to people. It really is a beautiful building.”

He’ll get no argument on that score. During one recent visit, Mackenzie let it drop that he’d kept something of a photographic diary of the project — 11 rolls of 35mm film, 36 snaps per roll. On his next swing into town, he brought the snaps. With EPRD set to celebrate the Lake House’s 20 birthday next year, the collection was a very welcome gift.

“I wish now that I’d taken more pictures, mainly because I don’t remember all the faces involved,” says Mackenzie. “It was a really great crew. And a really great experience.”