6 Reasons You Should Care About Historic Preservation in Colorado

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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.

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Before Orange, Before Black: A Brief History of the Colorado Women’s Prison

Long before “Orange” became the “New Black,” female inmates at the Colorado Women’s Prison, part of the State Penitentiary in Canon City, were navigating close quarters on strict schedules with limited access to educational resources. Learn more about this historical women’s penitentiary that is reused today as a museum. 

Sewing Industry Room, 1909. Photo from History Colorado OAHP records, courtesy Canon City Public Library.
Sewing Industry Room, 1909. Photo from History Colorado OAHP records, courtesy Canon City Public Library.

Established by an act of the Colorado Territorial Legislature in 1871, the Territorial Prison in Canon City was constructed using natural stone quarried on the site of the 25-acre prison grounds. It was the first of six territorial penitentiaries to be constructed before Colorado became a state and was renamed Colorado State Penitentiary when Colorado achieved statehood in 1876. The location of the prison was decided with the support of Denver legislators. In turn for Denver’s support, Canon City voted Denver as the state capital over Golden.

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The Wooden Canvas – Arborglyphs Reflect Hispano Life Along the Pine-Piedra Stock Driveway

Ruth E. Lambert
Ruth E. Lambert – Cultural Program Director, San Juan Mountains Association

A quiet walk among the aspens reveals a history that is often forgotten. Stately white trees with green or gold leaves, depending on the season, stand as sentinels of a past time. On their skin, incised with care, are elaborate carvings that give names, places and images—a record of travelers through the forest. These are arborglyphs: tree carvings that provide a glimpse of past lifeways. They are a wooden canvas, a reflection of Hispano history. They are ever-changing as the trees grow and expand.
Too soon, they will be gone. Wind, fire, disease or age will claim these trees. As they fall, their messages will decay and this window into the past will close. The names will be forgotten, and the art of the wayfarer will be lost. Continue reading “The Wooden Canvas – Arborglyphs Reflect Hispano Life Along the Pine-Piedra Stock Driveway”

Once a School, Always a School: Prioritizing Usage and Preservation

Headshot of Claire
Claire L. Lanier, Preservation Programs Outreach Coordinator at History Colorado

These days, it’s not uncommon to turn a historic church into a coffeehouse, or an old gas station into a hip new restaurant; adaptive reuse is one of the most creative and increasingly popular ways to preserve a historic building. What’s become rarer, in fact, is opting for the original use of a building post-rehabilitation, and this is no truer than for schools.  As communities have grown through the twentieth century, early- and even mid-century schools have been abandoned for larger, newer school complexes. Continue reading “Once a School, Always a School: Prioritizing Usage and Preservation”