Rico’s Rich History
If you’re in Rico in the summer or early fall, be sure to visit the Rico Historical Museum on the highway through town at 15 S. Glasgow Ave. Established by volunteers in 2008, it offers excellent indoor and outdoor displays about the town’s colorful history. The location itself is historic, being the town’s original firehouse, restored and retrofitted to serve as the museum. Behind the original, large swinging doors you’ll find one of the department’s hand drawn hose trucks.
The Museum contains extensive information about the town’s mining origins starting in 1876, after the Ute Indians reluctantly ceded rights to the land to the onrushing miners and settlers. You’ll see mining artifacts and learn about Rico’s 100 years of booms and busts right up until the Rico Argentine Mill closed in the early 1970’s. There are still mining structures you can visit within the town limits.
The Rio Grande Southern Railroad is also prominently featured as a significant and interesting part of Rico’s history, transporting ore, supplies and people over the pass to Telluride and down the Dolores River Valley to markets beyond. Although the old train depot is gone, you can see the old water tower for filling the steam trains just down the hill from the museum.
The stories behind many of the historic buildings are covered, particularly the lovely courthouse which used to be the Dolores County seat. There’s a colorful story of how the town lost its records as the residents of Dove Creek, the current county seat, took over the county governance by force.
The museum also includes tributes to some of the people who contributed to Rico’s history. Chief among these is Betty Eyre Pellet who had a fascinating life including being a Broadway star, a suffragette in New York City, the first female state Speaker of the House in the country, and co-owner of the Pell-Eyre Mining Company with her husband, which operated a number of the mines in Rico.
The Rico Historical Museum is a truly delightful small-town museum. It is staffed by volunteers from June to early October from 10 am until 4 pm daily. There is no entrance fee but donations are appreciated.
The Rico Historical Museum is made possible by grants from the Colorado State Historical Fund and the Rico Center.