Grand Junction Historic Walking Tour
Beginning at the RR Depot, walk through historic downtown, and spend time in the museum or a shop.
The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Depot has served Grand Junction since 1905. the two-story, white brick structure with terra cotta ornamentation brings a touch of the Italian Renaissance architectural style to the town. The station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 as part of a multi-property submission, Railroads in Colorado from 1858 to 1948. The nomination was completed by Colorado State Parks with a grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund. Ironically, also in 1992, Amtrak stopped using the historic depot, opting for another nearby structure. Historic preservation resulted in the vacant depot being stabilized for reuse someday.
The rusticated sandstone building at 226 Pitkin is the only one left unaltered, of four Italian grocery stores from Grand Junction's "Little Italy" in the early twentieth century. Nunzio Grasso, a local stonemason, constructed the building in 1909. The first owner was Carl Stranges, an Italian immigrant. His family operated the business into the 1960s. The vacant building was listed as one of Colorado's Most Endangered Places in 2001. Road reconstruction was altered to preserve the building, and Stranges Grocery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. The building is significant for its architecture, being one of only a few of its type remaining in town, and for its representation of European ethnic heritage and commerce.
This museum offers a variety of interactive exhibits that trace the history of western Colorado over the past thousand years. The Native American galleries offer pottery and other artifacts from the period before Columbus's arrival to the 19th and 20th centuries. There are also displays that show the evolution of firearms on the frontier and a special room dedicated to the early Spanish explorers. Perhaps the highlight of the museum is a recreation of what Grand Junction looked like a hundred years ago, with full sized buildings from one-room schools to saloons. For those wishing to learn more, the Loyd Files Research Library on the second floor offers rare books, diaries, historic photographs, and other one-of-a-kind items for historians and genealogists.
The Melrose Hotel is a boutique hotel in downtown Grand Junction currently with 16 rooms. The two-story brick building was constructed in 1908 as a hotel and was expanded onto the adjacent lot in 1911. The history has been marred by a murder in an owner's family in the 1990s that might have occurred in the hotel. While the Melrose Hotel is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is on the City of Grand Junction's Register of Historic Sites, Structures, and Districts. The Melrose is the only one of the twelve historic hotels in town that still operates as a hotel.
This former hotel was completed in three phrases that reflect the growth of Grand Junction between 1892 when the hotel first opened as the Grand Hotel, and 1924 when the building reached its current size. The building's signature cupola was completed in 1908-the same year that the hotel changed its name to the St. Regis Hotel. The Italianate style of architecture can be seen throughout the exterior of the former hotel, which served as the leading hotel of western Colorado and the social capital of the city of Grand Junction for many decades. The hotel's ballroom and grand dining room hosted many events and celebrities such as boxer Jack Dempsey. The hotel struggled as rail traffic declined and most visitors to the city chose other accommodations. By the 1970s, the hotel had very little business from travelers and most of the building was vacant or occupied by low-income rental units. Thanks to the efforts of local preservationists and several grants, the building was saved from demolition and is now home to restaurants and retail spaces.
The Margery Building spans one side of a city block along Main Street in Grand Junction. The vernacular Victorian commercial structure was designed and built in 1905 to 1906 by the architect W.C. Boyer. The owner was a millionaire who named the building for his 13-year-old daughter. This rare surviving local example of the building form still houses downtown businesses. The upstairs holds a ballroom that has been used for everything from dance marathons and ballet lessons to community meetings. The Margery Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, reflecting Grand Junction's transition from a frontier town to a more permanent small city.
Constructed in 1923 by publisher and local businessman Walter Walker, the Avalon was and remains western Colorado's largest and grandest theater. This three-story venue combines Beaux-Arts and Renaissance architecture, just as the interior has combined the functions of a performance venue, movie house, and civic center over the past century. The glass windows of the building's front facade were covered in brick during a 1947 remodel, but thanks to historic preservation grants and the support of local citizens, those bricks have been removed and the brick and glass facade of the building now appears much as its original designers intended. In recent years, funds have been raised to fully preserve the historic theater and expand the structure to include a modern addition that doubles as a place to hold meetings and other events complete with a roof-top terrace.
The Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building and Courthouse, also known as the U.S. Post Office in downtown Grand Junction, was constructed from 1916 to 1918. The dimensions of the original building were about 81 feet deep by 89 feet wide along Rood Avenue. The architect of the Italian Renaissance style structure was James Wetmore. A major addition in 1940 lengthened the building 45 feet but kept the same architectural styling. The U.S. Postal Service vacated the building in 1965 and moved to a nearby building. The building was renamed in 1972 to honor Mr. Aspinall, who served Grand Junction in the U.S. Congress from 1949 to 1973. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Handy Chapel is the only original church building still standing in Grand Junction. The town founder, George Crawford, deeded lots to African-Americans in 1883 within the original square mile of town for one dollar. It took nine years to raise the nearly $970 needed to build the church on the lots, and it was finally finished in 1892. The church building was placed on the list of Colorado's Most Endangered Places in 2011 by Colorado Preservation, Inc. due to its deteriorating condition. HistoriCorps made Handy Chapel and the adjacent Chapel House one if its restoration projects in 2011. A larger restoration project took place on the church and the house from 2012 to 2013.