Walking Durango

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During one of my local public library visits, I found five copies of a small paperback tucked in the local history section. 

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”

R. C. Schneider building in historic Durango, Colorado
S. G. Wall Druggist store in Durango, Colorado

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.

Post Office in Durango, Colorado
Original Safeway in Durango, Colorado

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.

Durango Craft Spirits Distillery in Durango, Colorado

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.

Cinder Dick Straight Colorado Bourbon Whiskey at the Durango Craft Spirits Distillery and Tasting Room
Jack Dempsey mural on the side of the El Ranch Tavern in Durango, Colorado

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.

Stater Hotel on the walking tour in Durango, Colorado

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.

A. Coors Building in Durano, Colorado

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.

General Palmer Hotel in Durango, Colorado
Steam engine of the Durango Silverton Railroad in Durango, Colorado

My tour ended at the beginning of the Walking Durango guide book since I started in the middle and 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, a conductor walked down the sidewalk heading right towards me with 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!” 

Train conductor on the Durango Silverton Railroad

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.

Fun sights along my walking tour of Durango, Colorado


14 thoughts on “Walking Durango”

  1. It was a pleasure meeting you and John in our favorite Durango RV park. Your blog is beautiful, so well done, the writing is delightfull and the photography is inspiring. Thanks for posting, I can’t wait to hear all about Cheyenne.

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    1. Carole says:

      Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for your positive comments on “Walking Durango.” I hope you, too, get to go walking Durango during your next trip to Colorado. Stay cool in AZ.

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  2. Brad says:

    Wow Carole,
    What beautiful, brilliant colorful pictures. The colors just pop off the screen. Thank you for sharing the narrative of your travels. Loved hearing about the narrow-gauge railroad, and sights, in Durango. Safe travels to Carole and John.

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    1. Carole says:

      Hi Brad,

      Thanks for you encouraging comments about “Walking Durango.” We are delighted that you are able to follow our adventures.


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  3. Scott Chandler says:

    Between the photos and your descriptions of all these unique places and people, I can’t believe I lived so close to Durango and never explored its tasteful antiquity. Thank you for providing me an imaginative experience with one of Colorado’s many simple pleasures!

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    1. Carole says:

      Hi Scott,

      We are so happy that you enjoyed our adventures in Durango and hope that you will be able to explore this amazing historic town in your future.

      Keep Rambling

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  4. Sue Setter says:

    What a marvelous adventure and many memories being made. I will be happy to join you on the second half of this Durango adventure! Beautiful words written making me feel a part of the journey. Look forward to the next stop, where ever that may be.

    1. Carole says:

      Hi Sue,

      We truly treasure the memories we are making during our travels. Thanks for being a part of our Ramble Dog adventures.

      Live life without a lease.

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  5. Karen Clark says:

    Oh my gosh, I can’t decide which I enjoyed more…your writing which made me feel like I was walking Durango with you or the amazing pictures you so perfectly added to your post. Thank you so much for taking us on these tours of towns throughout your travels. Where to next?!

    1. Carole says:

      Hi Cuz,

      We are having such a great trip. The creative challenge of sharing our trip is turning out to be extremely rewarding. Thanks for your interest and for your positive vibes.

      We have been visiting the granddaughters almost a month now in Cheyenne, Wy. I have collected many experiences from our time in this amazing capital city to share on Ramble Dog soon.


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  6. Annette says:

    I am enjoying reading this blog! Your description and photos make me feel like I am there!

    1. Carole says:

      Hi Annette,

      I have been mesmerized by the history of Durango. Thanks for following along with us on our journey.


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  7. Stephanie Bruggeman says:

    I enjoyed your lively walking tour through some of the sights in Durango. You have inspired me to visit someday soon.

    1. Carole says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      You would love Durango. I could spend a whole summer there. Thanks for going on our journey with us.


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