History Colorado intern, University of Colorado-Denver student, and Koch Fellow Kirby Page-Schmit sat down with Chris Johnston, the new Assistant State Archaeologist, to ask him about his life, work, and plans for his new job.
So where are you from originally?
I’m from Colorado, I grew up in Steamboat Springs, and lived there most of my life. I moved down to the front range full time in 2006 or 2007.
I’m from Georgia, born and raised a southerner through and through, and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes, when it comes to historic places, people from the east think they have all the good stuff.
But three decades ago I moved to Colorado and was astounded to find some of the richest, most vibrant historic places I’ve seen. I still remember my drive up I-70 seeing quaint mountain towns like Georgetown for the first time and being blown away. This place is something special.
You probably already know that Colorado is The Place To Be for entrepreneurs, engineers, technology gurus, brewers, outdoor-lovers, and even athletes. But you probably didn’t know it’s a burgeoning hotspot for something else: historic preservation. And here are six reasons you should care about that.
Historic preservation is more than simply preserving buildings and sites. It generates jobs and economic growth while simultaneously allowing future generations to know the places that we have come from to better understand how we got to where we are today.
History Colorado’s Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation assists in documenting and preserving properties that are vital to our state and nation’s heritage. Part of this process is working with the National Park Service to list buildings in the National Register of Historic Places.
The first time my wife and I traveled to the San Luis Valley, we fell in love with it. We got to know the valley well, and in March 2005 we were invited to see the Medano Ranch, a 50,000-acre spread just west of the Great Sand Dunes. The Pedro Trujillo Homestead is located on the property, and we were taken there to experience the remoteness and beauty of its setting. An hour at the site, with its free-flowing artesian well and breathtaking views of the dunes, left us changed forever. As a boy I tagged along with my parents on 4-wheel visits to many Colorado mountain ghost towns. Everything I had learned on those trips told me that the Pedro Trujillo structure was a treasure. My wife and I decided it needed to be preserved—and soon. In a few more years, there’d be nothing left to save. Continue reading “Privately Funded Preservation: Saving the Trujillo Homestead”
In early 2008 I visited my childhood home in North Carolina with my wife Laurie and oldest son Andrew. Laurie was pregnant with our younger son James. Having children was already making me feel nostalgic about my own childhood, but something else emphasized it on that visit.