August 20, 2014 by genelup
Colorado’s tiny town of Colona isn’t a ghost town yet, but just give it some more time. Colona, with its crumbling buildings, sits on the west side of U.S. Highway 550 half-way between Ridgeway and Montrose on County Road 1.
Colona’s population in 1930 was 254; in 2000 it was 30 and today only 11. Colona isn’t officially a town; but a “census designated place.” CDP’s are populated areas that lack separate municipal governments but otherwise resemble incorporated places.
Colona dates back to 1875 when the Los Pinos Ute Indian Agency had a building just north of Colona. However, the agency and Utes were removed from this area six years later and pioneers rushed in to settle and homestead the land, producing food and meat for mining camps throughout the San Juan Mountains. Since the Indians weren’t around anymore, small communities such as Colona rose up on the edges of the ranch lands.
In its heyday, Colona became important when the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad extended its narrow gauge line up the Uncompahgre Valley in 1887 with a depot in Colona. The railroad was short-lived and tracks pulled up. The Pit Stop Café took its place at the depot, and later a plumber took over the building. The Callaway Packing Co. moved its slaughterhouse operation to Colona in the 1950s. A corral was built for cattle that were to be processed. That business has since closed, and today the old corral is used for parties – there is a stage, a dance floor, a bar and barbecue area. On a recent visit, chickens were seen running around in the corral.
Colona used to have a post office, but not anymore.
There is a church in Colona, and the pastor has its own special parking place, as if he couldn’t find parking elsewhere. The church, moved to Colona from Ouray in 1912, fell into disrepair but in 1958 townspeople began to restore it.
The most important building in this tiny hamlet is the two-story schoolhouse, which was built in 1915. Initially the school had grades 1 to 12, and in the early 1930s the high school was eliminated. The school closed in 1948, and since then the building has been designated at a historical site. In 2006, it was included on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list by Colorado Preservation, Inc. The Colorado Historical Society awarded a $250,000 grant to restore the school’s roof, the windows, the exterior stucco and a security system.
The Ouray County Ranch History Museum is renting two rooms in the old school. Exhibits and displays include handmade tools, ranch and farm equipment, household essentials, maps, photographs and books. The museum is only open on weekends, or by appointment.
However, the museum has accumulated “far more equipment, artifacts and even small cabins than can be displayed in our present (schoolhouse) space,” according to museum literature. “Our goal is to acquire our own land and buildings for the museum’s permanent collection, including equipment and artifacts and to maintain a ‘working ranch’ environment to help preserve and share our ranch history.”
Through the years many businesses and other operations have moved out of the small community of Colona. And when the historical museum moves from the “downtown” area, Colona will be slide closer to “ ghost-town” status.
(photos by Gene Luptak (c) — scenes around “downtown” Colona)