You are here


-A A +A

The county seat (1876, 7,703 feet) originated as a cow camp to serve the nearby Los Pinos Ute Indian Agency. It is the coldest city in the nation, according to Weatherwisemagazine, but is warmly defended by proud residents, who have branded the mountain on its south side with a Wfor Western State College. Locals claim this is the world's largest letter. It was installed in 1923 by students, including Effie Miller, who recalled years later: “We walked from the campus and took off our shoes and waded the river … measured and roped off the letter, gathered rocks and melted snow to mix the whitewash.” The tougher the terrain, the harder Coloradans struggled to brand it as theirs—with painted rocks, mountaintop cairns, names carved into rocks and aspen trees, and, ultimately, with homes and businesses.

Since the Denver & Rio Grande arrived in 1882, Gunnison has been the principal town in this high-country county. Open irrigation ditches still line some of the gridded, tree-shaded streets. Smith's Opera House (1888), 100 North Boulevard, is a two-story Italianate brick building on the town's only parkway. Neither the parkway nor the opera house attracted the elite anticipated by boosters. The two-story frame commercial building at 2310 North Main Street is a rare Colorado example of the Italianate style executed in wood, complete with frame quoins and elaborately milled window trim. Hospitable landmarks include the two-story, lap-sided Mary Lawrence Bed and Breakfast (c. 1885), 601 Taylor Street, with milled Italianate trim and later Tuscan porch columns. Of the grandiose, four-story, Second Empire Style La Veta Hotel (1884), 219 South Boulevard at Gunnison Avenue, only the first story survives.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.