While flipping through the pages of Peggy Winkworth’s book, I knew I had found a treasure written especially for me. A quick search on the net sent me on a memorable walking tour focused on my favorite theme, continuity and change. With my camera in hand and change for the parking meter, I set off on a scavenger hunt in downtown Durango, Colorado. As you follow in my footsteps through this photo essay, know how much I appreciate Peggy Winkworth’s inspiration in Walking Durango History, Sights, and Stories by Peggy Winkworth.
My first stop was Maria’s Bookshop at 960 Main Avenue. Thanks to the friendly staff who chatted with me about the adventure I was about to begin, for understanding the relevance of Durango’s local history enough to have the book on display by the front door, and especially for having a public bathroom.
I purchased the Walking Durango book feeling good about supporting a local business. Using the map on the back cover, I decided to start where I was near 10th Street. I quickly found the picture clue on page 41. Thus began my walk through downtown Durango.
The Schneider building started out as a men’s clothing store, then became the Palace Grocery and Meat Market until the 1940s. Today I found a Himalayan Restaurant at the center and Dreams of Tibet next door. “Tashi delek”
A fresh coat of paint on this business sign pays honor to its past even though it hasn’t been a drug store since 1981.
The Georgian style architecture adds to Durango’s eclectic collections of commercial buildings. For 50 years Durango’s main post office served the community, and today this old world style building continues to serve the community housing La Plata county offices.
Safeway opened Durango’s first national chain grocery store in the building with this brick pillar. Although Safeway stores first started in Idaho in 1915, they opened a self-serve grocery store after World War II in this building. It was the first of its kind in Durango.
At the end of the old Safeway building, I made my own discovery. Durango Craft Spirits was open for business. Although some people would consider it too early for a drink, it was the perfect time to rest my feet and chat with Amy McCardell about the building’s history as well as the distillery’s success. I learned that Durango Craft and Spirit is also a first in town. The McCardell distillery is Durango’s first grain-to-glass distillery since prohibition.
Thanks for the “ whiskey talk” Amy.
I crossed the street and headed down the other side of Main Avenue. At the corner of 10th Street, I read about a historic boxing match that took place in Durango in 1915. Did you know Jack Dempsey, a boxer who eventually became a heavyweight champ, was a Colorado native?
My eyes zig-zagged across the street looking for the next clue in my scavenger hunt playbook. I spotted colorful tiles used to update the brick storefront. These rare Carrara tiles were popular during the Art Deco period of the 30s and 40s, adding to Durango’s diverse eclectic style.
Almost 125 years ago, this eye-catching hotel was built out of red brick and white sandstone. Although the ownership of the building passed from Henry Strater to various other owners over the years, it has always been a first class hotel. Today, booking a room at the Strater Hotel is like staying in a living history museum filled with walnut furniture and Victorian decor. Go on in. It’s ok to explore the hotel’s public places.
In 1900, Adolf Coors decided to come to Durango. He merged with La Plata Bottling Company to bottle beer brought from Coors made in Golden, Colorado. They called it Coors Golden.
Although this building was built in 1898 and housed the Savoy Hotel, in1964 it became the General Palmer Hotel, named after the building’s founder. General William Jackson Palmer was a man of many talents, and is honored in Durango as a man who brought the narrow gauge railroad to Colorado. How appropriate to be located next door to the The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The first hotel was inexpensive and not a popular place to stay due to the noise and soot of the train. Today the hotel boasts being Durango’s Premier Victorian Downtown Hotel.
My tour ended at the beginning of the Walking Durango guide book since I started in the middle an walked my way to #1. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is the center of Durango. The center of its tourism, center of Main Avenue Historic District, and center of Durango’s beginnings and its growth. John and I had already visited the Railroad Museum and we had discussed taking the train to Silverton like so many Durango visitors do, but I will tell that story in another blog.
I, like so many, am fascinated by the historic steam engine that travels from Durango to Silverton and back. When I heard the train whistle, I rushed down from Main Avenue just in time to see the engineer back the locomotive into the train yard. Sure enough, here came a conductor down the sidewalk heading right towards me and my camera. As he passed by, I asked him if he enjoys his job. His response, “I love it. I waited all my life to get this job!”
I am thankful for Peggy Winkworth and her book, Walking Durango History, Sights, and Stories. I promise someday I will return to Durango to complete that last half of the scavenger hunt.