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The county seat (1858, 6,185 feet), originally named La Plaza de Los Leones for founder Don Miguel Antonio Leon, was transformed by the 1870 arrival of ambitious German settlers who replatted and renamed it. Among the newcomers was storekeeper Frederick Walsen, who became the first mayor and opened a pioneer coal mine.

Walsenburg replaced Badito as the county seat in 1872 and, following the D&RG's arrival in 1876, evolved into a rail and coal mining hub. By 1900 the U.S. census taker found twenty-six different nationalities among the residents of Walsenburg, who worked in mines with names such as Ideal and Sunshine. A mile west of town, visible from U.S. 160, lie ruins of the giant power plant for the Walsen and Robinson Mine.

Notable Huerfano County characters fill the colorful mural on the exterior of 418 Main Street, a 1991 project of the Walsenburg Arts Council, painted by Jason Crum, Dean Fleming, and Ken Martinez. The well-preserved, Beaux-Arts Neoclassical red brick and white terracotta First National Bank of Walsenburg (1904) is at 501 Main Street. At 724 7th Street, the Bonicelli Gas Station (1925) retains some of its original Spanish Colonial Revival flair, while the Streamline Moderne Vogue Super Service Station (1939), 300 Main Street, uses glazed tile block and glass brick with rounded windows. The coal mining era lingers in the form of blue-collar taverns and modest homes, including tiny brick duplexes at 1003 and 1007 West 7th Street. Adobe outbuildings and garages are reminders of the town's Hispanic origins. Among the region's vernacular attractions is the Roadside Shrine, overflowing with pastel plastic flowers in a large natural grotto on U.S. 160, 7 miles west of Walsenburg.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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