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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Echoes of the Past

Old buildings have always fascinated me. Although unreadable, etched into the wood and stone are the memories and stories of generations gone by, echos of life lived. Many of these relics of the valley have been torn down or have succumbed to the elements. I am including some pictures of a few of them that still remain, and a few others that remain only in our memories.

In about 1954 the one room school houses of the Valley were all vacated because of a thing called consolidation. That year a new elementary school was opened in Westcliffe.

The Canda, or Pine Grove School (pictured), is a landmark along Horn Road. Bob, Pam, Bill, and Joanne are its current Canda guardians.

I always thought that this one was the old Junkins Park School. A thank you to Clint Seiling who verified this for me.

The Silver Cliff School is now an apartment house, and the Westcliffe School (pictured) is a museum.

Remnants of a few other schoolhouses still cling to the land they have occupied for more than a century. The Colfax School is now a residence, as is the Silver Park School on Highway 96. The Willow Schoolhouse has been restored. However, the Greenleaf, Adobe, Knuth, Beck, Dry Lake, and many others exist now, only in the memories of a very few.


A portion of Colony Lane was once Hansen country. Just past Ralph Koch’s and across the road, Harry and Evelyn Hansen and family lived for many years on the Lange place.

Miles (“Happy”) Coleman told me that this little adobe on Colony was the house that Annie Hansen moved into when she was first married. Although the big barn still stands near the house, the roof has been breached, and it appears that time and weather will lay claim to it in the near future.

About a half mile North of this adobe, stood the house where Ruby (Hansen) Geroux was born. I used to visit when Raymond and Helen Koch lived there. The house is gone, but a small shed and some trees still mark the spot.

Next, is Geneva Hunt’s home, which is above Tony Blei’s old place and below the sight where Chuck and Phyllis Kastendieck’s cabin once stood. Part of the roof is gone, and the South wall is completely missing now, so it won’t be long.

Myrtle Cody’s house, almost hidden now, still stands on Schoolfield Road, just across from where Gene and Mickey Degree once lived. I can still remember when Myrtle lived here and hosted a picnic for a crowd of us. The barn behind Myrtle’s house, is leaning and soon may disappear.

Built in the 1860’s, John and Walt Comstock’s place (Kennicut Ranch), North on Highway 69 is a historic landmark. I think it is probably one of the oldest buildings still standing in the Valley. Walt and John were both born in it (1903 and 1905 ), as was their mother in the early 1870’s. John and Walt both died in1990. To my knowledge the house never had indoor plumbing or running water. The outhouse was used, and water was hauled from a Spring on the ranch.

The stone Mercier house once marked the Southern edge of Westcliffe. Although town has expanded, this feature of the Westcliffe terrain still stands where it always has, ever since it was built. When Mary Lou Livengood, lived there, over 40 years ago, it doubled as an office for Art Brawley’s business.

The Hillside store and post office, gone for at least 20 years now, was once a gathering place for local residents.

The Westcliffe Courthouse (left), with some changes, is still used today. The building that was once the Westcliffe Post Office (right) on Main Street has been added on to and renovated several times since this picture was taken. Over the past many years, it has been four or five different restaurants, and a couple of retail stores. (Notice the old brand Board)


This old building is not actually in the Wet Mountain Valley, but I have often stopped along Highway 69 to ponder it. It is located in what was once known as Farisita, about ten miles South of Gardner. Farisita was named for the Faris family who, in the early 20th century, owned much of the surrounding land. Considering the shape of the windows, it looks as if it may have been an old church.

Just a few more pictures in closing. The old brick high school (left) was torn down shortly after the class of 1974 graduated. It was replaced by a new school that is now the old school, which today houses the Middle School. A new high school was built a little over 20 years ago on land that for many years was the football field.

The train depot (right) still remains on Main Street. The last time I was in this building was when it was the home of Evie Miller. The tracks were taken out in about 1937.

Abbot’s Lodge once used for retreats by the Canon City Abby, sat at the edge of the National Forest. The Abby used to have a Catholic boys’ school, which is now closed, as is St. Scholastica, the Canon City Catholic girls’ school. In the 1970’s, when Ralph Hey and I were coaching, we occasionally played them both in basketball.

Abbot’s Lodge Today

John and June Coleman’s house once sat near the corner of Colfax and Marble. It is one of the most recent buildings to succumb to the changing landscape of the Valley. Ed and wife Sharon, and Christy and Husband Mark, still live on a part of the ranch.

As I read, Wendell Berry’s book Fidelity, I am reminded once more of those innate longings of the human heart: longings for love, relationship, belonging, community, and a sense of place. If old buildings could talk, these are the stories they would tell; stories of people who were deeply connected to the ground they walked, and the people who walked that same ground with them.

And yet, time is a brutal editor of life, constantly rewriting the landscape. Houses, barns, and schools are changed, torn down, or crumble to dust. People come and go, new people occupy the land, and another chapter of the human story will be written. As I think back on the Valley and the people, places, and stories I have known one word comes to mind, GRATITUDE.

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14 août 2023

Amen, gratitude is also what I feel for those short 17 years spent in the valley.

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