Telluride & Mountain Village Visitor’s Guide
HISTORIC WALKING TOUR 1
By historic standards, Telluride is a fairly modern town. The first European settlers didn’t arrive until 1876, settling on the Valley Floor, west of the present town’s site. Once gold was discovered, the boom was on. In a short 20-year span, the town grew from a hodgepodge of cabins and shacks to rows of elegant Victorians and stately brick buildings. Businesses on main street were decorated with elaborate façades, many of which remain today. Because of its important contributions to early mining, Telluride was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1964. To protect the town’s character, Telluride established the Historic and Architectural Review Commission (HARC), which reviews new building or remodeling plans before construction begins. The buildings on this self-guided tour have withstood the passage of time, although most have been restored. 1. SAN MIGUEL COUNTY COURTHOUSE In 1886, a courthouse was erected on the south side of West Colorado Avenue. This building burned shortly after construction, but the bricks were saved to build the present courthouse less than a year later on the opposite corner (Colorado Ave. and Oak St.). Recently renovated, it is still used today. 2. NEW SHERIDAN HOTEL & OPERA HOUSE This Telluride landmark was built in 1895. For fine dining, the Continental Room had 16 velvet-curtained booths, equipped with phones so diners could call for service and not be interrupted by waiters. The Sheridan Bar remains much the same with its imported Austrian cherry wood bar. William Jennings Bryan delivered a speech, though not his famous “Cross of Gold,” on a platform in front of the Sheridan. The Opera House, a lovely theater with a Venetian scene painted on its roll curtain by J. Erickson, was added in 1914. 3. ROMA BAR BUILDING Once one of Telluride’s oldest bars, this building contains a period piece downstairs—an 1860 Brunswick-Balke-Collener Company bar of carved walnut with exquisite 12-foot French mirrors on the back bar. The Roma was one of the wildest and most raucous saloons in town. It was renovated in 1983 and again in 2006 to become Honga’s Lotus Petal. 4. ST. PATRICK’S CATHOLIC CHURCH This church was built in 1896 on Catholic Hill for $4,800. By 1899, it had 200 members. The wooden figures of the Stations of the Cross were carved in the Tyrol of Austria. In 2005, the interior of St. Patrick’s was remodeled. 5. OLD WAGGONER HOUSE Charles Waggoner, president of the Bank of Telluride (yellow brick building with pillars on main street; see E on map), contrived a scheme purportedly to save his bank in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. By siphoning money from New York banks, he kept most Telluride depositors in the black. Waggoner testified in court, “I would rather see the New York banks lose money than the people of Telluride, most of whom have worked all their lives for the savings that were deposited in my bank.” Waggoner was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was paroled after six years. He never returned to Telluride. 6. TOWN HALL On the corner of Fir Street and Columbia Avenue is Telluride’s first schoolhouse. This one-room building was built in 1883 for the sum of $3,000. The first class held there had 53
students and one teacher. After a new school was built, the town offices occupied the building. The tower for drying fire hoses was added at that time. 7. TELLURIDE HISTORICAL MUSEUM The building itself was built in 1896 by Dr. Hall and served as a hospital for the miners, townspeople and county poor. It was renovated in 2002. An amazing collection of photographs and artifacts reconstructs the colorful days of Telluride’s mining past and early days of skiing. 8. NORTH OAK HOUSE Built in 1900, this house was a survivor of the 1914 flood. A spring cloudburst caused Cornet Creek to turn into a torrent of mud and rocks that swept through town, depositing five feet of mud and debris from the Liberty Bell Mine down to Colorado Avenue. One woman was killed, and the Sheridan Bar was filled with mud halfway to the ceiling. This house has been completely restored to its original condition, enabling it to be on the National Register of Historic Homes. 9. DAVIS HOUSE E. L. Davis built this stately brick house in 1894. Davis was a mining and real estate entrepreneur who held numerous mining claims in the Ingram-Bridal Veil Basin and Bear Creek area. He owned all the land where the former Rio Grande Southern Train Depot now stands, as well as onethird interest in West Telluride. Davis sought to bring business to the town as vice-president of the Telluride Board of Trade. After Davis’ death, the house was sold to Dr. Oshner, who used it as a hospital, particularly during the 1918 flu epidemic. The house was renovated in 1983. 10. L.L. NUNN HOUSE This white Victorian was bought by L.L. Nunn for his Telluride Institute, where “pinheads” from Cornell University came to expand their knowledge of the production of power. Today, Cornell University has a “Telluride House” funded by Nunn’s estate. Next door, on the corner of Aspen Street and West Columbia, is the house in which Nunn lived, which was built in 1887 and remodeled extensively in 1980. 11. RIO GRANDE SOUTHERN RAILWAY DEPOT This area was bustling and noisy after the railroad arrived in 1891. The depot was surrounded by boardinghouses and warehouses, some of which still stand on San Juan Avenue. In 1991, it was restored to accommodate a restaurant. Today, it houses the Ah Haa School for the Arts.