Ouray County Heritage & Culture
Everything from Performing Arts to Deep Historic Roots
Ouray County offers something for every history buff, from easy access to ghost towns, to scenic ranches and world-class museums. Prior to the mining era of the 1860s-1950s, Ouray was Ute Indian Country. As mining grew, so did the ranching and railroad industries that supported it. Today, Ouray County celebrates its unique Western heritage with museums dedicated to mining, railroading, ranching and the Utes, as well as private collections and a beautiful historic fairgrounds that hosts the annual Labor Day Ouray County Fair & Rodeo.
Photo Courtesy of Don Paulson
Ouray's MESKER Fronts
Not everyone walking down Ouray’s Main St. notices what has become to be known as one of the largest, best-preserved concentrations of MESKER decorative building fronts in the state, if not the country. Ouray is home to more than 10 percent of the documented MESKER fronts in Colorado. If you take the time to look around, you will notice numerous examples of stamped metal facades, cornices, columns, pediments, pilasters, scrolls and other decorative features on many of Ouray’s Main St. buildings that were built in the late 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s.
In the 1880s, Ouray was developing from a rough and tumble mining camp with false front wooden structures into a fast-developing city and supply center for the numerous booming silver mines in the area. When the D&RG Railroad arrived in 1887, construction began for of four of Ouray’s most significant structures: The Beaumont Hotel, The St. Joseph’s Miners Hospital (today’s Ouray County Museum), Ouray County Court House and Wright’s Hall (The Wright Opera House) - buildings with the first of many MESKER fronts.
The Wright’s Hall MESKER front has been described by Darius Bryjka, the nation’s leading Mesker scholar, as one of the earliest and most spectacular Mesker. Bros. Iron Works fronts in the country, due to its preserved original façade that incorporates many unique details.
Over the years, Ouray’s MESKER front buildings have adapted to a changing number of owners, tenants and uses. Changes have occurred to the structures for reasons of modernization, maintenance and repair. However, for the most part, these structures have survived relatively intact and are well cared for.