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Crested Butte

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The once grimy coal mining town of Crested Butte (1878, 8,885 feet) (NRD) has been reborn as one of Colorado's slickest resorts. The street grid is laid out in a beautiful mountain valley named for the most prominent of many nearby peaks, whose top resembles a cock's comb. In 1881, the town became the D&RG's rail hub for even more remote mining towns in the surrounding Elk Mountains. Platted and promoted by sawmill owner Howard F. Smith, Crested Butte remains a town of largely frame buildings.

Rubble piles at the corner of 3rd Street and Belleview Avenue are all that remains of the long line of 150 kilns at the base of Big Mine Hill. After the last coal producer, the Big Mine, closed in 1952, Crested Butte looked like a goner. It slumbered until 1966, when the Mount Crested Butte Ski Area opened on the former Malensk Ranch, reinforcing a winter sports tradition traceable to the 1886 founding of the Crested Butte Snow Shoe and Toboggan Club. Because the ski area is three miles north of town and behind a mountain, Crested Butte was spared some of the intense development that has transformed Aspen, Breckenridge, and Telluride. Many nineteenth-century structures survive, albeit with often fanciful restorations and additions. Behind the wonderful scrolled wrought iron arch of the Crested Butte Cemetery (1879), tomb-stones tell of the short, hard, and dangerous lives of immigrant miners. The cemetery chapel contains the elaborate wooden altar, statues, and altar from St. Patrick's Catholic Church, now empty and for sale at 108 Maroon Avenue.

The Crested Butte Historic District (NRD) is roughly bounded by Whiterock and Maroon avenues, between 1st and 8th streets. New buildings within the district, such as the Crested Butte Brew Pub (1991), 226 Elk Avenue, the Crested Beauty Bed and Breakfast Inn (1992, Alex Ortiz), 329 Whiterock Avenue, and the fire station (1974), 306 Maroon Avenue, all play on traditional massing and materials.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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