Paonia (1882, 5,645 feet) was named by founder Samuel Wade for its many introduced peonies. The town is better known today for its sweet cherries, apricots, plums, pears, peaches, and grapes. Coal mining and tourism have allowed this town to flourish in recent decades, with a population climbing to more than 1,500. Of a dozen major coal mines in the area, only the Bear Mine at Somerset, the Cyprus (formerly the Westmorland), and West Elk still fill the large coal silos lining the D&RG tracks. The D& RG depot (1902), a single-story clapboard depot with plain board trim and a shingled trackside bay, was moved here in 1974.
Local artist Ginny Allen depicted community history in her mural for the Bear Building on Grand Avenue and a large mural of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition on the north side of the Cave Cafe, southwest corner of 3rd Street and Grand Avenue. This picturesque town at the end of a spur road off Colorado 133 is a quiet, rural place surrounded by mountains. It has attracted writers and artists, including sculptors, who find Paonia's Lands End Sculpture Center one of Colorado's finest bronze foundries.
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