Saturday, June 19, 2010

Durango: "A Distinctive Destination"

"Have you taken the drive along Rim Drive?" asked our server.

She was a student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, and in the course of a conver-sation about the College, she asked the above question.

Rim Drive circles the campus, which covers a mesa about 400 feet above the city. Classes were not in session, so we had the opportunity to park in three different lots along this drive.

From the hiking/ bicycle trail along the drive, we enjoyed some postcard views of Durango.

The Animas River flows through downtown Durango, and especially at this time of year with the river flushed with water from the spring runoff, the river is the setting for canoeing, kayaking, and rafting.

These kayakers were floating in one of the calmer sections of the river.

Several rafting companies begin their trips on the edge of town, but for navigating some of the more challenging rapids, the trips begin miles upstream.

Durango is a Nationally Registered Historic District, and the National Trust for Historic Preser-vation named Durango (CO) to its 2007 list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

Durango was selected from 63 destinations in 27 states as a uique and "lovingly preserved" community.

From the Historic Walking Tour of Main Avenue Durango, this "cast iron and pressed metal front was made in St. Louis and probably came to Durango on the train.

These early 'pre-fab' products were popular because they were durable, fire resistant, and less expensive."

Street-side rooms in the El Rancho Hotel provided good viewing points during the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic criteriums (see entry of June 9) through downtown.

"The oldest bank in south-western Colorado (the First National Bank of Durango) operated here from 1882 to 1980. To the left of this building was the 'saloon district,' which in 1893 had 10 saloons in this small area."

"This Richardson/ Roman-esque style building housed the Colorado State Bank from 1892 until the Bank's failure during the silver crash of 1907. The Burns National Bank had operated here until its recent acquisition."

At the turn of the century, the Newman Building was described as a "three-story 'skyscraper' with an electric elevator.

About 15 months ago, a fire damaged about a dozen businesses located in the building, but the decorative work on the building's exterior was virtually unscathed."

"The brick storefront was 'modernized' with a veneer of Carrera Glass, a stuctural glass popular in the slick, stream-lined surfaces of the architectural styles of the 1930s and 40s.

Carrera Glass is no longer made, but the discovery of a stash of this glass that a WW II veteran had brought back from Europe and had stored in his back yard for 50 years made it possible to replace broken tiles on the storefront.

Downtown Durango is a thriving business district. Whether it was a weekday or a weekend, it was very hard to find a parking place near our destinations.

But walking around town has been enjoyable, with preserved architec-tural variations effectively combined with more modern storefronts.

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