The Creative Spirit
Architecture, ornamentation, and art reveal another dimension of the San Luis Valley’s history, development, and creative spirit. Visitors who tour the Valley may admire the wide range of architectural styles found among the homes, churches, and downtown buildings. Many of the Valley’s towns feature galleries that present a diversity of artists and artistic expressions. Some artists carry on the legacy of traditional arts and crafts, such as weaving and carvings, while others express their creativity through more contemporary art forms.
1 - Alamosa Downtown Walking Tour – A walk through historic Alamosa reveals excellent examples of 19th and 20th century architecture including Victorian, commercial brick, Mission Revival, and Art Deco. Murals by Josef Steinhage distinguish the Sacred Heart Church. In addition, Alamosa has numerous art galleries that exhibit work by local artists, sculptors, jewelers, potters, photographers, and goldsmiths. Walking tour pamphlets are available at the Colorado Welcome Center at Alamosa | (719) 589-3681
2 - Our Lady of Guadalupe Church – Considered the oldest parish in Colorado, the congregation of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Conejos began meeting in a modest structure that was completed in the year 1858. The original church, constructed in 1863, was all but destroyed in a fire on Ash Wednesday in 1926.
3 - Antonito Architecture and Murals – Antonito is home to the historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Depot, the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Depot (built with locally quarried rhyolite stone), the S.P.M.D.T.U. Concilio Superior building, and St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, one of several mission churches in the area. Murals depicting historic scenes and cultural traditions can also be found throughout the town and Conejos County.
4 - Old San Acacio Church – Many consider this building to be the oldest standing church in Colorado. Built in the 1860’s, the church marks the site of Capilla de Viejo San Acacio, the original Hispano settlement. Local legend claims that the church was built as an act of faith after the settlement was saved from a band of Ute warriors. A day-long tour of this and many of the other mission churches in Costilla County is available | 719.672.3685
5 - Stations of the Cross Trail and Shrine and Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center and Museum – High atop a mesa overlooking San Luis is the Shrine of the Stations of the Cross. This shrine exemplifies the tradition of Christian devotional art within the Hispano settlements of the Valley. A series of powerful bronze sculptures are arranged along a path that ascends the mesa, making the entire shrine a reenactment of Jesus’ journey up Cavalry Hill. The Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center features devotional and secular works of art, including contemporary murals and historic “santos,” carved wooden figures of saints. In the museum’s gift shop, visitors may purchase crafts by local Hispano artists.
6 Crestone: Little Shepherd in the Hills Episcopal Church – Crestone originated as a mining town, but the valuable ore quickly played out. Today, Crestone is internationally known as a mecca for world religions and New Age beliefs. Home to a Hindu temple, a Zen center, a Carmelite monastery, and several Tibetan centers, this small town at the base of Kit Carson Peak is a truly unique community. The oldest of Crestone’s spiritual centers is the Little Shepherd in the Hills Episcopal Church, a quaint log structure. Other interesting architecture found in Crestone includes the Old School House, the monastery, and Buddhist stupas or temples. The church is located on Alder Street just north of Galena Street
7 - Villa Grove Trade, Escuela – Villa Grove is a picturesque crossroads that was once a bustling railroad trade center. The small town is home to a false-front general store, two cafes, an art gallery, and a production pottery shop called Escuela (school). Escuela offers pottery classes. Inquire at the Trade for information about Escuela | 719-655-2203
8 - Downtown Saguache – Saguache made its mark as a town in 1874 by becoming the “anchor” of one of Colorado’s most important agricultural regions. Saguache began as a trading post on the Old Spanish Trail and flourished as a supply center for the surrounding mining camps. Since the railroad never extended to this corner of the San Luis Valley, this endearing sleepy downtown had limited potential for growth. Pamphlets describing the downtown are available at the Saguache County Museum (719.655.2488), Hazard House Museum, and the Saguache Crescent, one of the few linotype newspapers still in publication.
9 - Windsor Hotel – Construction on the original Windsor Hotel was completed in 1874. As one of the oldest hotels in Colorado, this audacious, first-class brick structure offered fine accommodations in the early glory days of Del Norte. The building has been undergoing restoration as a living history museum and a symbol of the old west/new west. The restoration project has been funded in part with over $600,000 in grants from the Colorado Historical Society’s State Historical Fund. The restaurant, lobby, parlor, and museum are ready for visitors. | 719-657-9031
10 - Downtown Creede: Walking Tour – The Creede self-guided walking tour familiarizes visitors with many of the town’s landmarks, galleries, and studios. The tour, just over a mile long, reveals Creede’s history and charm. Guidebooks may be purchased at the Creede Historic Museum and the Chamber of Commerce | 719-658-2004
11 - Downtown Monte Vista: Walking Tour –The walking tour of “Monty” reveals a variety of building styles and architectural enhancements in a well-preserved downtown. Stone from several quarries between Monte Vista and Del Norte were used in building construction throughout Monte Vista and the San Luis Valley. The self-guided tour is less than a mile long and pamphlets are available at the Monte Vista Information Center | 719.852.0660
12 - Colorado State Veterans Community Living Center at Homelake – Homelake was established in 1889 as the Colorado State Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home for aging Civil War veterans, the first such facility in Colorado. Many of the original buildings constructed with rhyolite blocks quarried west of Monte Vista still stand as part of Homelake’s legacy. A walking tour takes in the chapel, old dining hall, and other buildings of the past including the Homelake Veterans' History Museum, along with the modern facility. Homelake Cemetery is the resting place for veterans from the Civil War to the present and is laid out in a circle around a Civil War and Spanish-American War monument in a wooded grove. Ongoing preservation work is being funded in part through grants from the Colorado Historical Society’s State Historical Fund. | 719-852-5118