Proud of the role Lake City played in the development of the American West, residents of this remote mountain town have worked hard to preserve their history and ever-evolving frontier culture for all to enjoy. With more than 200 historic structures, including homes, outbuildings, barns, churches, public buildings, motor courts, and the oldest operating courthouse in Colorado, National Register Historic District designation was awarded the town in 1978.
The historic district consists of a portion of the 1875 town plat and several circa 1880 residential additions. As shown on the Walking Tour Map, a stroll through the district takes visitors along 500 feet of boardwalk and interspersed gravel paths that lead to numerous historic buildings housing shops, restaurants and residences. Many of the buildings feature plaques that provide details of the structure’s history. For a more fascinating glimpse into Lake City’s yesteryear, the Hinsdale County Museum at 130 N. Silver Street offers guided tours of the historic district, as well as ghost, historic home, and cemetery tours. For hours and additional information on Hinsdale County Museum & Historical Society, go to www.lakecitymuseum.com, www.lakecity.com, or this guide’s Business Directory “Museum & Tours.”
Lake City’s dedication to historical preservation gives even present-day activities an Old West feel. Beautiful garden plots at the Third Street Market tempt visitors to sit and stay, while the multi-functional Town Park offers a playground for children of all ages, a sand volleyball pit, picnic tables, and seasonal special events that include the 4th of July Celebration, Lake City Arts & Crafts Festival in July, the “Colorfest” Arts & Crafts Festival in September, and the Uncorked Wine & Music Festival in September. The Moseley Arts Center, located in the historic Hough Building at 300 N. Silver Street, features musical performances, art shows, dance shows and more. For hours and additional information on Lake City Arts, go to www.lakecityarts.org, www.lakecity.com, or the Business Directory “Entertainment & Live Music.”
Even during the rough and tumble mining days of the late 1800s, the relatively unique civilized nature of this area was noted. One resident wrote that Lake City “men are intelligent, even aristocratic, many of them quote Shakespeare.” With educational, religious, and service institutions appearing early-on, the support of cultural activities and organizations in Lake City and Hinsdale County is a tradition strongly rooted in the past. That tradition continues.
National Historic District
The Town of Lake City boasts more than 200 historic structures that preserve the memories of times gone by. Houses, outbuildings, churches, commercial blocks, public buildings, 1930s to early-50s motor court cabins – each has a story to tell and a place to claim in the history of this community. Whether you tour the district with a knowledgeable Historical Society guide or see what you can see with a self-guide pamphlet in hand, the past awaits from rustic cabin to Victorian mansion, from Hell’s Acres bawdy-house to eminent courthouse, from lofty opera house to even the lowliest outhouse.
The Lake City Historic District consists of a portion of the 1875 town plat and several circa 1880 residential additions. It was designated as a National Register Historic District in 1978, honoring Lake City’s role in the development of the American West. To protect the Lake City Historic District, the town adopted its Historic Preservation Ordinance and Design Guidelines in 1984. The Town Board of Trustees published the design Guidelines in handbook form in early 2001.
The Historic District contains commercial and residential buildings of various sizes and styles. Many commercial structures were built of wood, with front-facing gable and false-front façade. There are also a few masonry buildings located on the Hough, Bank and Finley “blocks.” Residences include chinked-log pioneer cabins, simple miners’ cottages, and the Queen Anne style homes of merchants and mine owners. Most homes have front porches and decorative features. Tall cottonwoods planted by early Lake City citizens are carefully tended today. Fences, boardwalks and outbuildings are also features of the district.
Historic Preservation in Lake City
Lake City is a small mountain town, incorporated in 1875 in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The town was shaped by nineteenth-century silver and gold mining and twentieth century tourism.
Its remote location and mountain elevation also influenced Lake City’s growth and design of its historic architecture. The town is located 55 miles southwest of Gunnison and 55 miles northwest of Creede, at an altitude of 8,671 feet.
The Lake City Historic District consists of a portion of 1875 town plat and several circa 1880 residential additions. It was designated as a National Register Historic District in 1978 for the town’s role in the development of the American West.
To protect the Lake City Historic District, the town adopted a local Historic Preservation Ordinance and Design Guidelines in 1984. The Town Board of Trustees published the design Guidelines in handbook form in early 2001. Preserving the Lake City Historic District is one of the town’s major priorities.
Architecture of the Lake City Historic District
The Historic District contains business buildings and homes of various sizes and styles. Many commercial structures were built of wood, with front-facing gable and false-front façade. There were also a few masonry business buildings, such as the Hough, Bank and Finely “blocks.”
Homes range from chinked-log pioneer cabins to simple miners’ cottages and Queen Anne style residences of merchants and mine owners. Most homes have front porches and decorative features.
The tall cottonwoods planted by early Lake City citizens are carefully tended today. Fences, boardwalks and outbuildings are also features of the district.
A new residence should respect the character of the historic neighborhood. Lake City dwellings reflect an assortment of sizes and styles. The design of a new house should reflect those nearby.
New construction should blend in with, rather than overpower, the size and scale of other houses in the neighborhood. A new residence should not attempt to copy historic architectural features of neighboring houses, because this detracts fro the district’s authenticity. The “character defining features” of a historic house – such as exterior materials, roofs, porches, windows, doors and decorative features – should be carefully preserved.
Construction within the Complimentary Treatment Area should follow several of the Design Guidelines for Residential Treatment Area.
Business Treatment Area
The historic commercial buildings reflect styles typical between 1870s to early 1900s. These include wood frame, false front structures, as well as large masonry business blocks.
Lake City’s commercial buildings typically were one to two stories tall and 25 feet wide. Larger buildings, like the Hough building and Bank Block, were broken into 25-foot wide storefronts.
Buildings were rectangular in form and conformed to the long, narrow lots. They were built in the front lot line, so that the storefront met the sidewalk and provided people with easy access. Most wood frame buildings had false fronts. Design of new construction should compliment these historic design traditions.
New commercial construction should reflect rather than overpower the historic buildings. The form, height, exterior materials, and decorative elements of a new building should compliment those nearby.