Like thousands of other small mountain communities in Colorado, Ouray started out as a mining town when gold and silver were discovered in 1875. Unlike others though, because of the majesty of the surrounding mountains, the cascading waterfalls and the natural hot springs, visitors flocked to Ouray as much for its beauty as the miners did for the riches they hoped they would find.

Prior to the discovery of precious minerals and the influx of miners, for centuries the Tabeguache Ute Indians migrated to this idyllic setting during the warm months, hunting the abundant game and soaking in the magical hot springs water. They worshiped this spectacular valley, referring to it as their sacred place. Little is left of their visits, only the name, Ouray in honor of their famous chief who was instrumental in keeping peace between the Ute Indians and the many settlers.

Once the City of Ouray was founded, the town soon had more horses, mules, and burros than people as the feverish activity of searching for gold, silver and other metals flourished. Within four years of its founding, the area around Ouray had over 30 active mines. Along with the extraction of the metals, developed a booming support industry to supply the operations' needs.

Buildings of all sorts sprang up on what was to become Main Street, many of which are still occupied. From the restored Beaumont Hotel (built 1886) and St. Elmo Hotel (1898), to the unrestored Livery Barn (1883) or the Western Hotel (1881), Ouray presents an abundance of old Victorian architecture to fascinate one's fertile imagination. On the side streets, classic examples of Victorian homes abound, most of them in beautifully-restored condition. In 1983, the City of Ouray was honored to be named as a National Historic District by both the Colorado and National Historic Authorities.