At 13,365 feet in elevation, Fort Peabody rests on the line between Ouray and San Miguel counties and has been steadily degenerating since 1904, when it was last occupied. Now, San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes and the OS&R staff have been discussing signage and stabilization for the site, but difficult logistics and conflicting opinions could complicate the project.
The site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties, has not undergone any type of restoration in the past. At the San Miguel Board of County Commissioners’ mid-June meeting, the county gave the go-ahead for OS&R to take some initial steps on the project, including reaching out to interested parties and trying to reach a consensus on the course of action that should be taken.
Even though it is still in its early stages, OS&R Coordinator Linda Luther says this project is a simple one, but one that has “extremely difficult logistics.”
OS&R staff is proposing to develop language for the historic interpretation of the site, determine how a plaque would be mounted and pinpoint exactly what stabilization would entail before going ahead with the project. As of yet, OS&R has not extensively contacted the interested parties, which include Ouray County, the U.S. Forest Service and writer MaryJoy Martin. But from what Luther has heard so far, she believes this project could be a long process.
“The preliminary indication is that not everyone has the some opinion that we do,” she says. “I'm thinking this is going to get real complicated.”
Luther says the Ouray County Historical Society, for example, believes the site would be better to remain a ruin. The Forest Service, while not dismissing the project, has requested that National Environmental Policy Act documentation be done for the Fort.
Don Paulson, curator of the Ouray County Museum and member of the Ouray County Historical Society, says that while the society has not formally met to discuss the issue, it would be in favor of stabilizing the site so it does not deteriorate further, but not in rebuilding the site so it looks like it did at the turn of the century.
“Then it would no longer be historic,” he says.
Luther says San Miguel County Commissioners would like the fort to be “a more restored version than it was in the past.”
The fort is immersed in the history of Telluride mining and labor unions. Named after then-Governor James Peabody, who had ordered the state militia to quell strikes from the Western Federation of Miners going on at the time, Fort Peabody was constructed by the Colorado National Guard and occupied from 1903 to 1904 to keep deported miners from returning to town. Martin, author of The Corpse on Boomerang Road, calls the site “vital to the nation’s labor history.
“Fort Peabody's mute wood and crumbling walls tell the story of conquest, class struggle, and the role of government in the labor disputes of a century ago,” she says.
Luther says she does not have a timeline for the project, but that the next step is to direct staff to convene meetings for the various involved parties.
“It’s going to be a process is what it’s going to be,” she says.