Museum director Sally Johnson will lead the walks, called “Local Legends and True Tales Walk,” which will start at the museum at 5 p.m. today and next Thursday, and at 1 p.m. this Saturday and next Saturday.
Johnson said she has done a lot of research, and all the old buildings have stories to tell. The walks will be conducted down alleyways behind the first few blocks of East Main Street.
“We will start at the museum and go downtown, and several of our downtown old historic businesses have quite a history behind them,” she said.
Johnson will not only explain the history of each historic building, but will also share stories about bootleggers, ghosts and eccentric characters from Montrose’s history.
“There is history here that people have forgotten,” she said. “I’ll talk about some of the famous murder trials that happened here and some of the merchants have invited me to their basements… We have three jails in the alleys that people don’t know about.”
If visitors want to prepare a little before taking the walk, they can buy the book Montrose: Take a Closer Look by Cathleen M. Norman and Marilyn S. Cox, a former museum curator. The book is on sale at the museum.
Page 43 of the book tells the story of the E.J. Matthews Mercantile, which was located in a building at the corner of East Main Street and South Cascade Avenue, where the Daily Bread Bakery is now located on the ground floor.
“The store offered groceries, produce, hay and grain,” the book reads. “By 1904 the firm became known as Callaway Brothers or the Corner Grocery… By 1908, a cigar store operated in the storefront behind the grocery store. J.F. Krebs purchased the building in the early 1900s…” The building is still in the family, and is owned by Barb and Stu Krebs.
Architectural features of the building include a tall molded cornice and decorative brickwork in the shape of a diamond on the east elevations, the book states.
Johnson has also uncovered interesting characters, like a woman known only as May, who was formerly a model in New York City and wore gloves everywhere she went.
Another building that’s stayed in the family is the Hartman Brothers Store, built by early day entrepreneurs Sid and Joe Hartman in 1912 at a cost of $20,000, according to the Norman and Cox book. The original Hartman brothers started out selling their own inventions, such as windmills, hay derricks and other farm gadgets” as well as bicycle parts and repairs. They later expanded the business to include car repair and a car dealership, which for many years was the largest on the Western Slope.
Although it’s been modernized in recent years, Montrose City Hall has its own history. It was designed by local architect J.H. Antrobus and was constructed in 1927. The Fox Theater on South Cascade Avenue was also built in the 1920s and was designed by Dick Dickson in the Exotic Revival style with a dome and minaret on the roof “as a means to convey the fantasy within,” according to Norman and Cox’s book.
The museum is located in the town’s old train depot and houses both indoor and outdoor exhibits, said Zilla May Brown, president of the Montrose County Historical Society. On the grounds outside are many examples of old farm equipment and conveyances, such as the stagecoach that once ran from Montrose to Ouray and Silverton and back, Brown said, and also includes an old ice wagon and a railroad caboose.
“All of our collections are made up from things donated by local people,” Brown said. “There’s nothing Hollywood about it and it’s all authentic and local.”
Inside, the museum has many examples from ranching and farming life, medical equipment from local offices, telephone displays, clothing from past eras, and many photographs on the walls.
“We have the largest collection of historic Montrose photographs in the area,” she said. “We also have artifacts from the Gunnison Tunnel construction, and it’s a large and varied collection.”
Admission for the guided walking tour will be by donation. For more information, call 249-2085.