Along US Route 50 just east of Montrose, Colorado there’s a collection of 17 rundown looking buildings that saw their best days 100 years ago. It’s the Museum of the Mountain West founded in 1997 by Richard Rike, starting with one building and with boxes of artifacts he had been collecting since he was eight years old. From what I could see from the highway, I would have blown on by, but my brother lives in Montrose and knows Mr. Fike. We decided to explore, and it was a pleasant surprise.
In a two hour guided tour for $10 each, we started in a bar with a violano, a machine built in 1928 that plays a violin and piano duet, originally for a penny and now for free during the tour. We heard other machines that played music; there was a faro table and a roulette wheel and just about anything else you might have found in a bar in the late 19th Century. We moved on to doctor’s office, a dentist’s office -- you don’t want to know what went on there – a pharmacy, a general store, a milliner’s shop, a one room school, the teacher’s quarters, a Lutheran church restored to its 1913 original configuration, a blacksmith’s shop and a gunsmith’s shop, a Chinese laundry – everything you would find in a small western town in the late 19th Century.
There are 500,000 artifacts, absolutely anything and everything you might think of. I was reminded of pictures of my great grandfather’s medical office and drugstore in Trinidad, Colorado. As I looked at this amazing record of American life from the 1880s to the 1940s, I wondered at the old machines all through the exhibit. I think young people today would be as puzzled by what they saw as their forebears would have been when confronted with an I-pad or a Blackberry or this blog.
For more details on the museum, see their website:
If you are passing through Montrose, visit this museum. It will be an experience you won’t forget.