The county seat (1875, 4,066 feet) was originally King's Ferry, established in the 1840s as a place for Santa Fe trail travelers to cross the Arkansas River. The early 1870s railroad tent camp called Otero was renamed La Junta (Spanish for junction) because both the Santa Fe Trail and railroad routes forked here, with branches to Pueblo and Trinidad. Live-Stock shipping developed after the Santa Fe steamed into town, and La Junta has been an agricultural center ever since, housing about a third of the county's 20,000 residents.
The grand old courthouse, centerpiece of a tree-shaded square, 2nd to 3rd streets between Colorado and Santa Fe avenues, was demolished for a boxy replacement that is monumentally nondescript. The Kit Carson Hotel (1896, John Gwyn; remodeled, 1906, 1933), northeast corner of Colorado Avenue and 2nd Street, is brick with Art Deco detailing added in a 1933 remodeling. East of Colorado Avenue on 3rd Street, the Rourke Opera House, now the Fox Theater (1913, George W. Roe), 11 East 3rd Street, retains original Moorish elements despite remodeling. The three-story Masonic temple (1924, George W. Roe), on East 3rd Street, has a poly-chrome brick frieze in a diamond pattern and an inset, pedimented bay with four Ionic columns in the upper south wall. The stately First Presbyterian Church (1905, George W. Roe), southwest corner of 3rd St. and Santa Fe Avenue, has been reduced to a first-floor video store. La Junta has demolished or mutilated many of its landmarks. Happy exceptions are two large catercorner Victorians in the elegant Colorado Avenue residential district that have been refurbished as bed and breakfast inns: the Jane Ellen Inn, a four-square at 722 Colorado Avenue, and My Wife's Inn (1898), a more ostentatious Queen Anne Style house at 801 Colorado Avenue.
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