The Arkansas River in this area once formed the northern border of the Spanish colonies and later became the border of Mexico. Indian groups settled here to benefit from the relatively warm winter weather in this area, followed in the 1700s by French trappers. It is believed that trappers first established a plaza known as El Pueblo on the north bank of the Arkansas River around 1842. On Christmas Day 1854 Ute Indians attacked the settlement killing 54 people and the settlement was abandoned. Land to the south of the Arkansas River became US territory in 1848 under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. The 1859 Colorado Gold Rush brought the settlement back to life as a trading post and in 1870 Pueblo became a town within the Colorado Territory. To avoid taxes levied in Pueblo the railroad went to the new town of South Pueblo on the south bank of the river. In 1881 a steel furnace was built south of the Arkansas River with the town of Bessemer house its workers. More furnaces followed creating a booming steel town and railroad hub. In 1882 a few blocks north of the river became the town of Central Pueblo. By 1894 all of the towns had amalgamated into the city of Pueblo, then the largest city in Colorado. Heavy rain in the summer of 1921 caused reservoirs along the Arkansas River to give way leaving the main business district under 3 metres (10 feet) of water. Pueblo was rebuilt and thrived until the steel crash and recession of 1982. New technology industries have replaced the steelworks, but the boom days are over.
Historic District, Union Avenue at C Street
Pueblo has several Historic Districts, far too many to fit into the day that we spent in the city. Union Avenue is the centre of one historic district, running from just north of the Riverwalk down to the Arkansas River. There are many well preserved 19th century buildings to be seen. The building shown here is 230 South Union Avenue. It was built in 1882 to General DeRemer and was one of the first buildings in Pueblo to be steam heated. The Riverwalk is a reminder of the 1921 floods. It was the original route of the Arkansas River but after the flood the river was diverted along a new channel further south. The old river bed became used for other purposes such as cooling ponds and parking lots. In the mid-1980s plans were put together to beautify the old river channel several residents proposed once again having a river running through the old channel and creating a river park similar to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas. Work on the first phase of the Riverwalk began in 1996 and the second phase in 1998. A third phase is planned after the Pueblo Police Building and Pueblo County Health Department have been relocated. The Riverwalk is still relatively new and has yet to fully develop the atmosphere of its counterpart in San Antonio, but it is getting there. Click Tab 2 to see the Riverwalk from Union Avenue Historic District.
Pueblo Union Depot
Five different railroads served Pueblo and each originally had its own station. The Union Depot was built to to amalgamate the five stations into one. Designed in 1889 by architect Frank V. Newall, the Richardsonian Romanesque style building opened in 1890. If you have read the introduction at the top of the page you will know that the railroad went to South Pueblo on the south bank of the Arkansas River. The amalgamation of South Pueblo into Pueblo didn’t change that, but the 1921 flood did. The Arkansas River was re-routed to the south and for the first time the railroad was on the same side of the river as downtown Pueblo. The flood also changed the look of the Union Depot as the tower had to be reduced in height due to structural damage. By the 1990s passenger train services had ceased and Pueblo Union Depot was purchased by local people who have turned it into a venue for events. The tracks behind the Union Depot are now the home of Pueblo Railway Museum. The museum exhibits locomotives, rolling stock and artefacts from the five railroad companies that served the area. Click Tab 2 for a picture of the Pueblo Railway Museum at the depot.
John A Thatcher hailed from Pennsylvania but he moved to Colorado where he established a successful dry goods business. He built on his success by branching out into banking, mining and cattle ranching. In 1866 he married Margaret Ann Henry from Platteville, Wisconsin. In 1891 the Thatchers’ engaged New York architect Henry Hudson Holly to design a mansion for them. It was completed in 1893 and named ‘Rosemount’ after Mrs. Thatcher's favourite flower. The mansion passed to their son Raymond C. Thatcher who lived in it until he died in 1968. Rosemount had been owned by the same family for 75 years and still had most of its orginal furnishings. After Raymond's death the mansion was donated to the city of Pueblo, who then donated it to the Metropolitan Museum Association to operate as a house museum. The Rosemount Museum is open to the public for guided tours Tuesday to Saturday excluding the month of January. Photographs are not allowed inside the house, so we cannot show you the original furnishings that give the impression that the Thatchers are still living there. Click Tab 2 to see a picture of the Carriage House.
Exhibit on Ludlow Tent Colony Massacre, El Pueblo History Museum
El Pueblo History Museum showcases the the culture and history of Southern Colorado and this exhibit recalls one of the blackest days in the region. Ludlow was a town about 112 km (70 miles) south of Pueblo. It is now a ghost town but in 1913/4 it had a large population. In September 1913 coal miners in Southern Colorado went on strike to improve working conditions and safety. Their employer, Colorado Fuel & Iron (CF&I), evicted striking miners from their company owned homes so the strikers and their families moved to tent cities set up at Ludlow, Walsenburg and Trinidad. Ludlow was the biggest with about 1,200 striking miners and their families. At its peak more than 80% of miners were on strike so the mining companies brought in strike-breakers to keep the mines working. Sporadic violence between strikers, strike-breakers and local sheriffs resulted in casualties on all sides. In October, the Colorado National Guard was deployed but the violence continued to grow. On the morning of April 20, 1914, a skirmish broke out between striking miners and the Colorado National Guard which ended with the deaths of over 20 people, including one guardsman, striking miners, their wives and their children. The tent city was burned out and one of the strike leaders, Louis Tikas, was found shot in the back. The Ludlow Massacre triggered increasing violence at the other tent cities. The bad press resulting from the massacre of women and children forced CF&I owner John D. Rockefeller Jr. to act. A new system was set up to give the miners a voice within CF&I and the strike ended in December 1914.
City Hall & Memorial Hall from Union Avenue
Pueblo, Central Pueblo, South Pueblo and Bessemer all had their own town halls. The consolidation of the four towns into the City of Pueblo required the construction of a new City Hall which opened in 1889, three years after the amalgamation of the four towns. That City Hall soon proved to be inadequate and by 1907 city council records show that they considered that a new City Hall was greatly needed. The debate continued for many years until in February 1915 key businessmen and taxpayers met to discuss a new City Hall and Auditorium. They reviewed preliminary plans for both buildings. In November of that year the people of Pueblo voted in favour of a bond issue to fund both City Hall and the auditorium. In May 1916, the city council chose a design by Pueblo native William White Stickney for the buildings. Problems acquiring some of the land and design changes to control costs pushed the start of building work into 1917. In 1919 it was decided that the auditorium would be called the Memorial Hall in honour of the the soldiers, sailors, and marines of Pueblo county. The Memorial Hall officially opened in late 1919 while City Hall did not open until mid 1920, some 13 years after the need for it had been identified. Both City Hall and Memorial Hall are still used for their original purposes.
Sleigh & Carriage, Pueblo Heritage Museum
Like the Union Depot, the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Freight Station Building has has also been put to good use. It is now the home of the Pueblo Heritage Museum. The building owes its existence to the 1921 flood as the Victoria Hotel that stood on the site was so badly damaged that it was demolished and replaced by the freight station. After rail freight traffic dried up in the late 1980s the building was purchased by the City of Pueblo, The building was leased to four historical societies who used it to create a museum to preserve and display historical artefacts from the Pueblo area.
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