Kathy Green and Chuck Kroger, founders of BONE Construction, literally helped build modern-day Telluride. BONE, which is an acronym for “Back of Nowhere Engineering,” projects include creating the Society Turn Business Center at Lawson Hill, rebuilding Baked in Telluride after a 2010 fire and converting Telluride Town Park’s outdoor ice skating rink into the current Hanley Ice Rink Pavilion, among numerous other builds.
“It wasn’t unusual for us to work with someone five or 10 times,” Green said.
When asked if she could estimate how many projects BONE handled, she laughs.
“I don’t even know if I have the records to count, because we did tiny things, like put skylights in the apartments that are above the Toggery,” she said. “We did tiny, tiny things for people and friends.”
This year, after nearly 40 years in business, Green decided to close down BONE. She said she decided to put the company to rest instead of selling it as testament to her late husband Kroger, who passed away in 2007.
“I would rather have Chuck’s legacy and reputation live on unblemished,” she said.
The couple moved to Telluride in 1979, after meeting at the Grand Canyon and marrying in Las Vegas. They came to town with an idea, but not much else, Green explained.
“We knew that we wanted to build houses. We wanted to build spec houses. … We didn’t even know that term. We didn’t have a business plan,” she said.
After buying a lot in town and beginning to build, the very first BONE-constructed house sold before it was even completed, which provided some capital for future projects.
“We were like, ‘Wow, this is simple,’” Green said. “ …We bought two lots with the money that we made on the first house. We started building our second house, and as we were building, interest rates went to like 18 percent. We owned that house for quite a long time, and consequently we became custom builders instead of spec builders.”
Kroger, Green said, “loved the challenge” of building on steep grades, using a blend of stick and steel framing.
“We built a lot of hillside houses,” she said. “Maybe half of the houses in the top row of town. I’d have to look at a map.”
She added the largest build BONE ever tackled was 6,500 square feet.
“We did some very fun, complicated, design-oriented projects,” she said.
But BONE was more than a construction business. It was a lifestyle. Kroger was a well-known climber and adventurer. As Green put it, “he had his 15 minutes of fame in Yosemite in like 1970 (it was 1968-69),” when he did four big-wall routes on El Capitan in one season, the first ever to do so.
“That was a big deal. Now, they do practically four routes in 24 hours,” she said with a laugh.
Kroger, who also created Telluride’s Via Ferrata, worked as a carpenter in between epic journeys, often leaving on short notice once he stored up enough cash. That type of free spiritedness was at the “core” of BONE Construction, Green said.
“All of our early employees were climbers. Then it was more Telluride mountain people. They were avid skiers or kayakers or whatever,” she said. “We just kind of expected that they would tell us with one-week’s notice that ‘I got a chance to go ski or snowboard for two weeks.’ We’d have some deadline and be like, ‘Oh, OK.’ … We always let them take off and do whatever they wanted to do. Somehow we made our deadlines and got the houses done.”
She reminisced about the house-building parties in the early years, too, when friends would get together and help one another out, whether it was cutting cords of wood to help heat the homes or making a meal for everyone to enjoy.
“If someone was building their own house, on the weekend we’d have like a barn-raising. Every one would show up, the concrete truck would show up and pour the foundation. Then, a few weeks later, we’d be there framing the walls all weekend long,” she said. “A lot of people that came to town 40 years ago ended up with homes because of those efforts. That was really fun. It was very spirited. We’d fix a big dinner and celebrate. It was kind of communal here.”
Green, who was the Telluride Foundation’s 2008 Citizen of the Year, said she’ll remain busy, though. She’s part owner of the Society Turn Business Center, teaches silk dyeing at the Ah Haa School for the Arts and is a member of the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission. She recalls those early years with a sense of pride.
“We lived here because we loved the mountains and loved the wild, crazy things you can do here. It was magical, and I still think it’s magical,” she said. “I loved people like that, like Chuck.”