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Oak Creek

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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 at almost 2,000, and as a coal mining hub. Thirteen bars, a lively red-light district, rambunctious union halls, and a boisterous Labor Day Parade marked the flush times.

With the closing of most area coal mines, this blue-collar town dwindled to a 1990 population of 673. Conveyor belts sheathed in corrugated metal climb the hillside 2 miles north on Colorado 131 at the Edna Coal Mine (1945), the oldest strip mine in Colorado. Reminders of the more prosperous days include the frame ruins of the company town of Pinnacle (1900–1946), 1.25 miles southwest of Oak Creek off Routt County 25, where the Morrison Coal Company once maintained a community of fifty homes, a store, a dance hall, and a boarding house.

Oak Creek's main street (Colorado 131) is lined with 1920s buildings reflecting the town's heyday, including the false-fronted frame former United Mine Workers Hospital, northeast corner of Sharp Avenue. Bernard's Oak Creek Gas Station, 130 East Main Street, is a frame structure with a barrel-vaulted roof extending over the gas pumps. The Oak Creek Inn (c. 1908), 102 Bell Avenue, is a two-story clapboard boarding house. Other examples are the two-story sandstone Yampa Valley National Bank (1911, O. E. Davy, builder), southeast corner of Colfax Avenue and Sharp Street, and the two-story Beaux-Arts Neoclassical Oak Creek High School (1928, Temple Hoyne Buell), a once elegant beige brick building, now stuccoed.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Thomas J. Noel

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