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There were many buildings, but few remain

Town boards of the Pagosa Country frontier during the early 1900s gathered support money from wherever they could find it.

During those early years no property or sales taxes were levied.

For example, we find written on the town magistrate’s (today the title is “Municipal Judge”) docket for 1906 that monthly fines of $5 each were levied against certain ladies who were, “inmates of a house of ill repute.”

The biggest portion of town revenues was paid by the owners of bars. Prohibition ended that practice.

A major fire in 1904 ravaged about half of Pagosa’s main business block. In fact, over the years, fires destroyed nearly all of the old buildings in town.

Pagosa Springs never had the substantial building districts that we see even today in nearby towns such as Silverton, Creede and Ouray. In the first place, Pagosa Springs never had the wealth provided by nearby lodes of precious metals. In addition, there is not a lot of rock near town that is suitable for building.

Pagosa Springs had a number of the classic, false-front buildings constructed from lumber, but most of these burned.

A man named A.A. Putnam built a brick manufacturing plant on his property just west of Pagosa Springs on the old stage road to Durango. Incidentally, Putnam is the source of the name “Put Hill” for the westerly road (U.S. 160) leaving Pagosa Springs on the way to Durango. The highway was moved north during the 1930s to its present location.

Some of Putnam’s bricks were used to build the Phillips Building on Pagosa Street. Erected in 1898, the Phillips Building remains, but down through the years has been known as the Hatcher Building, Hersch Building and, perhaps, by other names.

The Pagosa News in July of 1891 reported, “The News visited A.A. Putnam’s ranch last week where Mr. Putnam is now busily engaged in the manufacture of bricks. He has completed the burning of a kiln of lime … expects to make 200,000 bricks this season.”

There are a few concrete block houses in town, probably built after 1910 and probably using blocks supplied through the Montgomery Ward catalog. The structure housing the Alley House restaurant is one of those buildings, probably erected by John F. Colton, an early Pagosa Country lender.

This story was posted on February 14, 2013.