Seven Colorado historical museums that echo the past
Ihave a penchant for the past. Out in the wild, I enjoy exploring ghost towns and abandoned mine sites. Stuck in civilization, I like to explore historic museums, especially those located in Colorado’s mountain communities. Here are a few of my favorites.
The museum occupies what was once a Sisters of Mercy Hospital. Rooms depict doctor, lawyer and dentist offices, among others, and there’s a jail cell complete with a stuffed prisoner. My wife, a retired nurse, likes the operating room display where the anesthetic of the day was ether and whiskey. The basement level depicts a mine whose rock and mineral collection includes fluorescent stones shimmering under ultraviolet light. It sets my blacklight memories from the ‘70s aglow. 420 Sixth Ave., Ouray, 970-325-4576, ouraycountyhistoricalsociety.org Located in Silverton, the museum experience begins at what was once a three-story jail that includes a walk-in cell with shackles. A tunnel leads to the Mining Heritage Center, where displays show how mineral extraction has evolved through the years. My favorite was the potty car from a nearby mine, which consisted of an ore cart with an outhouse-worthy hole cut in its top. 1557 Greene St., Silverton, 970-387-5838, sanjuancountyhistoricalsociety.org
Occupying the former Chafee County Courthouse, the museum’s lower level features an array of historic artifacts and a recreated school classroom. Upstairs, a model railway depicts 140-miles of the Upper Arkansas Valley between Leadville and Royal Gorge. Built by the local model train club, it displays miniature buildings and people in amazing detail. There’s a boy’s treehouse bearing a “no girls allowed” sign and a bear sneaking up on a man caught with his pants down. I’ll bet he wished he had one of those potty cars. 506 East Main St., Buena Vista, 719-395-8458, buenavistaheritage.org/ heritage-museum Located in Glenwood Springs, the museum occupies an historic brick home complete with a restored living room, dining room, bedrooms and kitchen. Hanging on a wall is a short biography of Kid Curry, a onetime member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Facing capture, the Kid killed himself; he lies buried in Glenwood’s Rosebud Cemetery, a place which my wife regretfully declared she was “dying to see.” 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs, 970-9454448, visitglenwood.com/thingsto-do/cultural-historical/ The park lies at the quiet end of Main Street, with the main museum occupying a onetime schoolhouse originally built as a saloon. Beyond the schoolhouse lies vintage buildings relocated from other locations. Walking around is like exploring a ghost town, except here there are no cracked boards, broken glass or resident poltergeists to deal with. 120 Main St., 970-668-3428, townoffrisco.com/play/historicpark-and-museum/general-info/ Located in downtown Grand Junction, this stands as the largest museum between Salt Lake City and Denver. Displays range from prehistoric Indian and Spanish colonial artifacts to devices from the 20th-century uranium boom. They tell us that modern-day uranium prospectors have borrowed some of their ’50s vintage Geiger counter gear to learn how it works. That alone gives the museum a glowing recommendation. 462 Ute Ave., 970-242-0971, museumofwesternco.com/ museum-of-the-west/) Unlike museums that feature orderly displays of well labeled artifacts, this sprawling museum offers an array of buildings stuffed with stuff. My favorite is the car collection featuring automobiles ranging from Model-a Fords to MG roadsters and Kennedy-era Lincolns. My wife, whose father worked for Bell Telephone, loved the telephone exhibit. Superman must have also liked it. He left his suit and cape in one of the phone booths. 803 E. Tomichi Ave., 970-641-4530, gunnisonpioneermuseum.com