The county seat (1880, 7,036 feet) takes its name from the Spanish word for exit because of its location at the west end of the Arkansas River canyon. D&RG town developer and former territorial governor Alexander C. Hunt laid out a V-shaped town grid bounded by the converging Arkansas and South Arkansas rivers and the tracks hugging the riverbanks. The D&RG built a splendid depot, roundhouse, hotel, hospital, and shops at Salida, a strategic division point for trains headed south over Poncha Pass to the San Luis Valley, west over Marshall Pass, or north to Leadville. The large, two-story Queen Anne Style depot at the foot of F Street (the main street) was replaced by a 1930 Streamline Moderne depot, itself now gone. Local granite quarries and three brickyards fed a building boom that continued until the early 1900s.
Salida became a major rail, smelter, and supply town, with a population peaking at 5,065 in 1930. A low rate of growth since then has left Salida with one of Colorado's most intact downtown historic districts. First Street's fine collection of masonry commercial buildings includes the Salida Mail Building (1880), 127 East 1st, with a magnificent red brick facade, stone trim, and griffins topping the parapet; the Union Block (1880s), 130 West 1st, now the Salida Sweet Shop, with an old-time soda fountain; and a homey, two-story clapboard bed and breakfast. Salida is most remarkable for fine, elaborately fronted double houses and terraces and small apartment buildings with Neo-Romanesque detailing. These include the A. M Carpenter Terrace (1903), 223–249 E Street, and the Swallow Apartments (1909), 348–350 F Street, perhaps by the same architect or builder.
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