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History & Heritage

Embark on a thrilling journey through Pueblo's storied past and the captivating history of Southern Colorado!

Long before Pueblo became a bustling American trading post and city, it was a crossroads frequented by Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Ute peoples. The Spanish made their mark on this land in 1521, but it wasn't until after Mexican independence in 1821 that Pueblo began to transform. The Arkansas River, once the international border between the United States and Mexico, flowing right through the heart of present-day Pueblo. This strategic location turned Pueblo into an economic powerhouse, culminating in the establishment of El Pueblo, a vibrant trading post, in 1842. However, the post faced challenges, with Utes and Apaches launching attacks in 1854, leading to its abandonment.

The very name "Pueblo" echoes the legacy of that old trading post, a testament to a history rich with adventure, conflict, and resilience. Join us as we delve into the dynamic tapestry of Pueblo's past, where every chapter unfolds a tale of survival, triumph, and the birth of a remarkable city.

Explore History & Heritage Destinations

Colorado Mental Health Institute Museum

This unique museum features many artifacts from 1879 to present including a restraint chair and many relics to ponder. Open Tuesdays or by appointment.

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Creative Corridor & Murals

Pueblo is home to a vibrant arts culture and features one of Colorado’s Creative Corridors. The area is packed with galleries, museums, street sculpture, murals and fountains, cafés, live music, and street performers that are all ready to challenge your imagination and inspire your visit. The Creative Corridor is focused around the three historic city centers of Pueblo: Downtown Main Street, Union Avenue Historic District, and the Mesa Junction. Each retains its uniqueness, while providing an enjoyable stroll from one end to the other. View the Corridor and Public Art Map

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El Pueblo History Museum

Representation of the region’s many cultural and ethnic groups through innovative exhibits, a reproduction adobe trading post, and hands-on fun.

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Goodnight Barn

Built in 1870, by Charles Goodnight at his Rock Canyon Ranch in Pueblo, CO. Under restoration. No admittance, by appointment only.

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Hose Company #3 Fire Museum

Operated by the Pueblo Firefighters Historical Society. Beware! Paranormal activity possible. Tours by appointment only.

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Pueblo Heritage Museum

Pueblo’s heritage comes alive through unique exhibits that provide a historical representation of Pueblo and Southeastern Colorado.

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Pueblo Railway Museum

The Pueblo Railway Museum operates, preserves and displays railroad equipment and history for the full train experience. 

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Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum

Conveniently located at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum (PWAM) is a must-see attraction. Visit one of Colorado’s largest collections of military, space, and civilian aircraft, vehicles, and artifacts spanning over a hundred years of history. Our two hangars and outdoor exhibits comprise over 85,000 square feet. Exhibits include both civilian and military aircraft, ground vehicles, missiles, and the Southern Colorado Space Museum.

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Pueblo Zoo

Pueblo Zoo is a 25-acre zoo located in Pueblo, Colorado in the United States. The zoo is open year-round and is home to over 420 animals of more than 140 species. The Pueblo Zoological Society manages the zoo, which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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Roselawn Cemetery

Over 125 years old and 60,000 people buried including Spanish American War through Iraq War veterans, Medal of Honor recipients and historical pioneers.  

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Rosemount Museum

A 37-room mansion built in 1893,  and formerly home to the John A. And Margaret Thatcher family. The mansion contains almost all of its original furnishings.

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Steelworks Center of the West

Exhibits related to the CF&I and their impact on the American West. CF&I was a strong force in the historical development of Pueblo and Southern CO.

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Pueblo's Early Years

Prior to its development as an American trading post and city, the Pueblo area was frequented by Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Ute people. The Spanish first assumed control over the land where Pueblo sits in 1521, but little occupation or settlement occurred until after Mexican independence in 1821. The international border between the United States and Mexico was initially the Arkansas River, which ran right through the area of present Pueblo. Trade with Mexico made Pueblo a hub of economic activity, best symbolized by the establishment of El Pueblo, a trading post, in 1842. The post was largely abandoned after attacks by Utes and Apaches in 1854.

The Colorado Gold Rush of 1858–59 and the people it brought to the area led to the platting of Pueblo and the neighboring community of Fountain City in 1860. Pueblo became the namesake of Pueblo County, organized as one of the original seventeen counties in Colorado Territory, which Congress established in 1861. The name “Pueblo” came from the name of the old trading post. The town was first platted in 1860 and replatted in 1870 following its organization in 1870.

The first driver of economic growth in Pueblo was the arrival of the railroad. William Jackson Palmer brought the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad to Pueblo in 1872, thereby connecting the city to the rest of the rapidly developing Front Range. Palmer hoped to extend the railroad all the way to Mexico; he even named the streets in South Pueblo after small towns in Mexico to emphasize that connection.

Pueblo officially became a city in 1873, when the census showed its population had topped 3,000. While Pueblo never rivaled Denver in size, it did compete with the capital in economic importance because of its proximity to the coal fields south of town.

The Denver & Rio Grande was an important force behind Pueblo’s industrial growth and eventual consolidation. Coal from the hinterlands of southern Colorado came through town on the railroad. When the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad reached Pueblo in 1876, regional agricultural products also began to move through town. Starting in the 1880s, smelters in Pueblo began to process ores mined in Leadville. With railroads and smelters linking it to productive mines and markets, Pueblo grew into an important industrial center during the late nineteenth century.

The opening of the steel mill in 1882 made it possible for Pueblo to become the city it is today. Making steel requires iron ore, limestone, and energy. William Jackson Palmer picked Pueblo as the site of the Colorado Coal & Iron Company (later renamed Colorado Fuel & Iron) because of its proximity to coal, limestone, and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The original purpose of the steelworks was to manufacture rails for Palmer’s railroad. For most of its history, Pueblo’s coal operations were far bigger than its steel business, but the city reaped enormous economic and cultural benefits from both. Immigrants and domestic migrants flocked to Pueblo to work in the mill, making it one of Colorado’s most diverse cities. Irish, Italians, Germans, Slovenians, Serbs, Croats, Greeks, and Mexicans all worked and made homes there.

Source: https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/pueblo-0

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