Ridgway

The town of Ridgway Colorado is situated in the fertile flood plain of the Uncompahgre River at the junction of the two breathtakingly beautiful mountain valleys stretching to the east and west of town. At an elevation of 6,983 feet, Ridgway is known as the gateway to the San Juan Mountains. The town is also situated at the junction of Colorado Highway 62 leading over Dallas Divide to the west toward Telluride and U.S. Highway 550 south to Ouray, Silverton and Durango. These highways join to form a circular loop through the area designated the San Juan Skyway.

The valley, in which Ridgway nestles was first occupied by the Ute Indians, who were forced to move over when precious metals were discovered in the San Juans. With the arrival of the Rio grande Southern, the last major narrow gauge railroad line built in Colorado, the town began to boom with building lots selling for up to $500. The town got off to a fast start as construction workers and railroad people moved in and speculators invested in building lots. Despite a serious depression in silver prices, in 1893 , which put Mears’ new railroad into receivership and finally into the hands of the Denver and Rio grande, Ridgway maintained momentum. By the turn of the century it was experiencing heavy railroad traffic with the mines of the region and with the flourishing cattle and sheep ranchers who brought their livestock down to loading pens along the railroad line for shipping to distant markets.

The town also served as a social gathering place for the region, attracting trainloads of people from Ouray and Telluride for horse racing and rodeo events at the Ridgway Tract and Fairgrounds and to fancy balls at the 012 Room Mentone Hotel on Clinton Street. Dances and shows at the Sherbino theater were added when that building was completed in 1925. Ridgway remained a prosperous small town with ample commercial activity and retail business through the twenties.