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Place-based Essays

Essays in SAH Archipedia are broadly grouped as either place-based or thematic. Place-based essays include overviews of architecture in specific U.S. states and cities. Thematic essays examine architectural and urban issues within and across state and regional boundaries. Like individual building entries, essays are accompanied by rich subject metadata, so you can browse them by style, type, and period. SAH Archipedia essays are comprised of peer-reviewed scholarship (born-digital and print-based) contributed by architectural historians nationwide.

Oak Creek

By: Thomas J. Noel

Oak Creek (1907, 7,414 feet), laid out as a grid in Oak Creek Canyon, was named for the native gambel oak. It became the county's second largest town after the railroad arrived in 1909. Between the 1920s and the 1940s Oak Creek reigned as the most populous town in Routt County, peaking...

Yampa

By: Thomas J. Noel

After beginning as a cluster of homesteads, Yampa (1894, 7,892 feet) emerged as a hub for the cattle, lumber, and coal industries. The still active Yampa Lumber Mill retains an old-fashioned horror for environmentalists—two of the metal cone kilns for burning sawdust that were once common...

Delta County

By: Thomas J. Noel

After the Utes were expelled from the Gunnison and Uncompahgre river valleys in 1881, town builders, ranchers, and farmers arrived. Delta County was created one year later but developed slowly without the inducement of gold or silver. Slow growth meant a more stable population than those...

Delta

By: Thomas J. Noel

The county seat (1883, 4,961 feet) was founded as Uncompahgre City by George Crawford and others. The 540-acre townsite was named for the river (un-come-PAH-gray: Ute for stinking or reddish water) but was renamed Delta when pronunciation problems impeded promotion. The new name suited the...

Cedaredge

By: Thomas J. Noel

Cedaredge (1894, 6,100 feet) was named for its location at the edge of Grand Mesa's Utah junipers, which easterners called cedar trees. North of Cedaredge on Grand Mesa, three rustic log and slab lodges serve tourists visiting the mesa's 280 lakes and reservoirs: Alexander Lakes Lodge...

Paonia

By: Thomas J. Noel

Paonia (1882, 5,645 feet) was named by founder Samuel Wade for its many introduced peonies. The town is better known today for its sweet cherries, apricots, plums, pears, peaches, and grapes. Coal mining and tourism have allowed this town to flourish in recent decades, with a population...

Gunnison County

By: Thomas J. Noel

Studded with 14,000-foot mountains and subjected to Colorado's coldest weather, this county is named for explorer John W. Gunnison, who also gave his name to the river. The Spanish had christened this tributary of the Colorado the Rio San Xavier before despairing of finding anything...

Gunnison

By: Thomas J. Noel

The county seat (1876, 7,703 feet) originated as a cow camp to serve the nearby Los Pinos Ute Indian Agency. It is the coldest city in the nation, according to Weatherwisemagazine, but is warmly defended by proud residents, who have branded the mountain on its south side with a...

Crested Butte

By: Thomas J. Noel

The once grimy coal mining town of Crested Butte (1878, 8,885 feet) (NRD) has been reborn as one of Colorado's slickest resorts. The street grid is laid out in a beautiful mountain valley named for the most prominent of many nearby peaks, whose top resembles a cock's comb. In 1881...

Marble

By: Thomas J. Noel

Marble (1890, 7,950 feet) is near the place on Yule Creek, along the headwaters of the Crystal River, where George Yule found an outcropping of high-grade white marble in 1874. Marble's quarriers exhibited their 99-percent-pure calcium carbonate at the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893...

Pitkin

By: Thomas J. Noel

Pitkin (1879, 9,000 feet) sprang up as a silver mining town named for Colorado governor Frederick W. Pitkin. The 1904 Pitkin Hotel (Masonic Block), 329 Main Street, and the tiny Denver, South Park & Pacific depot (1882) at the northeast corner of State and 6th streets, with its...

Tincup

By: Thomas J. Noel

Gold panned out of East Willow Creek in a tin cup gave birth to Tincup (1880, 10,160 feet), one of Colorado's most picturesque “ghost towns.” Set in a lush mountain meadow, this quaint, dirt-streeted log and frame town is well maintained by a summer community who annually condemn one of...

Hinsdale County

By: Thomas J. Noel

Hinsdale County, founded in 1874 and named for politician George A. Hinsdale, first chose San Juan City as a county seat. Both San Juan City and the current county seat, Lake City, followed the western custom of kiting, or adding “city” to a name as a tail is added to a kite. The...

Lake City

By: Thomas J. Noel

The county seat (1875, 8,671 feet) was founded by Enos T. Hotchkiss as a stop on his toll road between Saguache and the new gold rush town of Howardsville. Hotchkiss lingered at Lake City after he discovered the Golden Fleece lode. He platted the town on the usual grid, in the valley...

Archuleta County

By: Thomas J. Noel

State Senator Antonio D. Archuleta introduced the bill to create the county named for him in 1885. Most of this mountainous county is either in San Juan National Forest or part of the Southern Ute Reservation, which occupies its southwest quadrant. The Denver & Rio Grande reached...

Pagosa Springs

By: Thomas J. Noel

The county seat (1878, 7,079 feet) took its name from the Ute word for “boiling water” or “healing water.” Ute legends speak of a plague that fell upon the tribe. In desperation, they held a council on the banks of the San Juan River. The Utes danced and prayed around a huge...

La Plata County

By: Thomas J. Noel

La Plata County (1874) takes its name from the La Plata (Spanish for silver) Mountain Range, where Spaniards discovered silver in the 1700s. Other minerals also lay in the rugged, snowy mountains in the northern part of the county, while the broad mesas and river valleys in the south...

Durango

By: Thomas J. Noel

The county seat (1880, 6,512 feet) was founded by the D&RG just south of then thriving Animas City (c. 1877), which soon was eclipsed and annexed by the railroad town. Animas City lay on the river the Spanish named for lost souls (El Río de Las Animas Perdidas), and when Durango...

Bayfield

By: Thomas J. Noel

Bayfield (1889, 6,900 feet), called Los Pinos until 1899, is a quaint rural town 10 miles east of Durango in a grove of cottonwoods and willows on the Los Pinos River, at the northern edge of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The main street, Mill Street, is lined with clapboard and...

Ignacio

By: Thomas J. Noel

Ignacio (1882, 6,432 feet) was named for a Ute Indian chief who led the tribe from the 1880s until his death in 1912. This is the headquarters of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, which houses the Southern Ute Boarding School (1902) and a former hospital (1933) and girls' dormitory (...

San Juan County

By: Thomas J. Noel

San Juan County (1876), in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, has “three months of winter and nine months of mighty late fall.” The growing season averages only fourteen days in Silverton, the county seat, and the county does not have a single farm. Even sheep and cattle only summer...

Silverton

By: Thomas J. Noel

The county seat (1874, 9,318 feet) has been preserved by its economic poverty and geographic isolation as a quaint mining town used as a set for many films, including Naked Spur, Ticket to Tomahawk, and Maverick Queen. After a false start with an 1860 gold humbug, the...

Ouray County

By: Thomas J. Noel

This mountainous realm is drained by the Uncompahgre River and its tributaries, which water ranches and farms in the relatively flat northern half of the county. The mountainous southern half, consisting of the lofty Sneffels and Courthouse ranges, lies largely within the Uncompahgre...

Ouray

By: Thomas J. Noel

Ouray (1875, 7,706 feet), the county seat and only sizable town, was started by prospectors from Silverton who found silver along the Uncompahgre River near its confluence with Oak and Canyon creeks. Francis Carney, owner of the Blake Placer at the north end of town, did not find gold or...

Ridgway

By: Thomas J. Noel

Ridgway (1891, 6,985 feet), named for Rio Grande Southern construction superintendent Robert M. Ridgway, emerged as a rail and ranching hub where the Rio Grande Southern joined the D&RG. Rip-roaring cowboys raced down Main Street on Saturday nights, starting a tradition continued by...

Montrose County

By: Thomas J. Noel

Montrose County (1882) is generally dry, broken tableland, with the notable exceptions of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument, Uncompahgre National Forest, and the settled valleys of the Gunnison, San Miguel, and Uncompahgre rivers. After the Ute Removal farmers,...

Montrose

By: Thomas J. Noel

The county seat (1882, 5,794 feet) was named by town company president Joseph Selig for the Duke of Montrose in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Legend of Montrose (1819). This is a growing community with a diversified economy that combines agriculture, mining, service industries,...

Nucla

By: Thomas J. Noel

Nucla (1904, 5,862 feet), begun as a socialist commune by the New Utopian Community Land Association, incorporated in 1894. Shares were sold throughout the country, and a 15-mile-long gravity-fed canal was constructed to bring water to the area. By the 1920s, as Ellen Peterson explains in...

Uravan

By: Thomas J. Noel

Uravan (1936, 4,990 feet) is a spooky relic of the atomic age, a latter-day boom town where a uranium and vanadium mill are now decaying. The U.S. Vanadium Company developed the town. It was later run by the Union Carbide Corporation, which closed its operations in 1984. Uravan appeared...

San Miguel County

By: Thomas J. Noel

San Miguel County (1883) ranges from snow-packed mountains on its eastern boundary to arid, high-country plateaus on its Utah border. Its buildings vary from deluxe ski ranches in Telluride to gentlemen's ranches on Wilson Mesa, to working ranches around Norwood. Nearly 75 percent...

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