Pagosa’s Past: Pagosa Springs was on the rise

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
The first Pagosa Springs town hall was in this building on the bank of the San Juan River at the corner of San Juan and Pagosa streets. The town fire department was in the north end of the building.

By John M. Motter
PREVIEW Columnist

John R. Curry, editor of Silverton’s newspaper, published a letter written from Pagosa Springs in March of 1881. It said, in part, “Pagosa Springs, the largest, hottest, and most singularly curious hot springs of their class in the world, are no longer isolated, as they have been in times past, shut off from the great traveling thoroughfares of the country by a formidable range of mountains, a trip across which any season of the year, by such conveyances as were available, was unpleasant and tedious to the extreme.

“Now these difficulties have been overcome by the approach of the Denver and Rio Grande railroad, which was extended over the range in question and has a station at Chama only forty-five miles distant from the Springs.

“J. L. Sanderson and Co. and Wall and Witter have established lines of coaches between Chama and Durango, the flourishing city of the Animas Valley … This has given initiative to hotels and building houses … persons coming here now to see these wonderful springs and to bathe in their benefit-giving waters, can feel assured that comfortable lodging will be provided and something to eat at reasonable prices.”

The letter was a response to Curry’s unfavorable article the previous fall, when he reported traveling through Pagosa Springs. He chose to journey by freight wagon along the road between Silverton and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad ending atop Cumbres Pass.

Of Pagosa Springs, he said, “At Pagosa Springs, there are at present very slim hotel accommodations; it is certainly the best point for someone to locate and erect a hotel of 30 or 40 rooms that we know of in southwestern Colorado.” He stayed overnight at the “Hotel de Blair.”

By May of 1881, Pagosa Springs could boast of its first public bath house, a frame building erected by Thomas Blair. It had a large plunge bath, fully 4.5 feet deep, and several single bath tubs, sufficient to accommodate all visitors. Pagosa Springs was on the rise.

This story was posted on October 27, 2020.