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 site at the junction of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison rivers. Delta is an oasis town dependent on irrigation, as it averages only about seven inches of precipitation a year.
Delta traces its roots to a fort established by Antoine Roubidoux, a French trapper from St. Louis, around 1826. Called Fort Roubidoux or Fort Uncompahgre, this log trading post survived until the Utes burned it in 1846. In 1991 the fort's log buildings were reconstructed as a living history museum in Delta's Confluence Park.
Delta is a progressive town of around 4,000 which won a 1992 All-American City Award. It has municipally owned power and water companies and fine county school and social service systems. With help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Delta undertook a Main Street facelift in the 1980s. Storefronts were restored, parking meters were removed, a mini-park was added, more than a hundred street trees were planted, and a dozen bright murals were painted in what is now promoted as “The City of Murals.” Cowboy artist W. Richard Doherty of Delta began the mural project with Delta County Ark (1987), showing males and females of twenty local wildlife species on the Moderne, beige brick Municipal Light and Power Company building (1937), 1223 South Main Street. Cedaredge watercolorist Connie Williams painted the rosy Ute Country (c. 1989) on the Sears, Roebuck store, 5th and Main, and A Tribute to Agricultureon the Delta Super Market, 6th and Main. Her Delta County Labelsportrays local fruit brands on the Davis Clothing Company store, 401 Main.
The Delta County Courthouse (1957, Eugene D. Sternberg), 501 Palmer Street, is a low-slung, straight-forward, Modernist composition of steel, brick, and glass. The Delta County History Museum (1989, Edward Chamberlin Associates), northwest corner of East 3rd and Meeker streets, incorporates an old firehouse in a new museum featuring the Jones Dinosaur Gallery and a “world class” butterfly collection.
Skyland (1943), 917 Dodge Street, is Delta's largest industrial plant and Colorado's largest fruit processor. It produces frozen, canned, and juiced products from apples, cherries, apricots, and peaches. The Adolph Coors Company built two large grain elevators here to store locally grown Moravian barley. One of Delta's best-known landmarks is the giant cottonwood, 85 feet high and 22 feet in circumference, known as the Ute Council Tree, Road 15.50 and Road G 96. Under its branches Chief Ouray and his tribesmen supposedly smoked the peace pipe with palefaces.
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