Why Not Move Into an Abandoned Mine Instead?


If you have ever doubted the ability of capitalist logic to turn even the humblest of objects into a commodity for the rich, I present to you exhibit #394,284,019: Aspen, Colorado, where millionaires are apparently scrambling to turn the cabins of former silver miners into multi-million dollar homes.

Meet Jenna and Jason Grosfeld, who are a jewelry designer and a developer, respectively, and the proud owners of one of the aforementioned miner’s cabins after buying one in 2012 for the rational price of $4.8 million. Lest you think they are tiny home adherents or are looking to escape the extreme pressures of being rich through the comfort of some cozy living quarters, let the Wall Street Journal disabuse you of that notion:

Los Angeles developer Jason Grosfeld, 45, and his wife, Jenna, 42, a jeweler designer, purchased the historic cabin for $4.8 million in 2012 and moved it temporarily from its 8,000-square-foot lot while they dug 45 feet down to create a double basement with a swimming pool, spa and basketball court. The cabin, its interior renovated into a clean, modern space with simple materials and eclectic furniture, holds a guest room and office, is back on top of the foundation. Off to the side, what appears like a separate, wood-clad contemporary box with a metal roof and lots of glass, is actually an addition, attached to the cabin by a breezeway.

Yes, they bought the cabin, built what essentially amounts to a massive pleasure bunker underneath it, and then attached the cabin to a…box, all of which cost an additional $20 million. The couple “felt lucky we had the opportunity to mix the aesthetics.” Yes, who doesn’t want to relive the charm of mining life where the threat of death and silicosis were ever present, but with a spa attached? A truly bold aesthetic choice.

It’s here that I am begrudgingly forced to relate that some of the extreme measures taken by couples like the Grosfelds are due to city regulations that prevent homeowners from tearing down the town’s miner’s cabins. As the WSJ reports:

“Owners can completely renovate the inside of historic homes and cabins, but they must restore the structure and façade as close to the original as possible. Lots can be split, but the new house and any additions to the old house must look different enough to be identified as a discrete building but not so different that they’re architecturally incompatible with the original house. Extra square footage can be put underground, often dug while the old Victorian dangles in the air above it.”

“We do anything we can do to make sure the historic building looks as original as possible,” Amy Simon, Aspen’s historic preservation officer, told the WSJ.

If the goal is historical preservation, why stop at turning the humble miner’s cabin into luxury housing? Why not repurpose the abandoned mines themselves? They’re already underground, and ready to become whatever you want them to become—a spa, a movie theater, a “let’s ride out the Anthropocene with all of our water and food stored down here” Howard Hughes kind of thing. Time to expand your limited imaginations, rich people!

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