Salida, Colorado is known as the “Heart of the Rockies” and is the Chaffee County seat. The city anchors the Upper Arkansas River Valley in central Colorado. Although flanked by majestic 14,000-foot snow capped peaks, at just over 7,000 feet in elevation, Salida enjoys a surprisingly mild climate that some refer to as the Banana Belt. Settle into Salida and its relaxed pace, hometown ways and world-class recreational opportunities and you may never want to leave. But, if you do, Salida is perfectly situated for those who want to be in close proximity to the more urban amenities afforded by Colorado’s Front Range communities.

Salida is the county seat of Chaffee County and its largest city, with a population of approximately 5,300. The city is the service, supply, and tourism center for the Upper Arkansas Valley. 

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad bypassed the existing settlement of Cleora to establish Salida in 1880. Salida became a major division point for the D&RG, which erected extensive railroad facilities north of the commercial district on the opposite bank of the Arkansas River. The city developed quickly, and became the hub of a prosperous mining and agricultural region within a decade of its founding. Salida experienced devastating fires in its business district in 1886 and 1888, but rebounded to build a substantial commercial area consisting principally of two-story brick buildings. Railroad activity began to decline in the 1950s and, in 1971, Salida ceased to be a division point for the D&RG.

Tourism, recreation, and arts-related enterprises grew in importance during the second half of the twentieth century. It is within this historic context that Downtown Salida’s architectural heritage emerged.

For additional demographic information about Salida, visit the State Demography Office.

History of the Region

The town, like numerous Colorado communities of the period, was a creation of the railroad company and its associates. Unlike many other Colorado towns, however, Salida remained essentially a creature of the Denver & Rio Grande. While other industries, the usual mix of mining, quarrying, smelting, agriculture and retail trade—along with the usual ‘related’ trades of salooning, gambling and prostitution—were practiced at various times and magnitudes in Salida, it was the railroad that defined the community.
–Russ Collman, Trails Among the Columbine

Salida has a rich history and a wealth of architecture to support that history. Salida is home to the Salida Downtown National Register District which includes many wonderful examples of turn of the century commercial structures. The downtown buildings were resurveyed in 2001-2002 by Front Range Research Associates, Inc. This intensive survey of the Salida Downtown Historic District totaled 135 buildings. Part of the project also included a reconnaissance survey which identified priority areas for future intensive survey work within the City. The Downtown Salida Colorado, Historic Buildings Survey, 2001-02 includes a complete history of the Salida area and the downtown in particular.

Additional surveys of residential buildings and neighborhoods were completed by Front Range Research Associates, Inc. in 2006 and 2007. The Salida Colorado, Historic Buildings Survey, 2005-06 included properties surrounding Alpine Park and selected homes throughout the City.

The Salida Colorado, Historic Buildings Survey, 2006-07 included 100 properties east of the downtown historic district in the neighborhood surrounding the historic Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. All three of the surveys were funded by grants from the Colorado State Historical Fund with support from the City of Salida.

The City of Salida adopted a local ordinance in 2002 (updated in 2005) that provides for the review and approval of any exterior alterations to buildings located within the Salida Downtown Historic District. Additionally, the ordinance provides procedures for locally designating historic buildings, structures, sites and districts. Two sites have been designated as local landmarks under this ordinance, the Salida Opera House at 129 W. 1st Street and the original structure of the Denver and Rio Grande Hospital at 448 E. 1st Street.

In October of 2004, Salida entered the Certified Local Government program. In October of 2005 the City hosted a three-evening workshop series for property owners and those interested in downtown revitalization.

The City Council appoints members to the Historic Preservation Commission. This Commission is the local governing body for historic preservation in Salida.

Historic Salida, Inc – Historic Salida, Inc. (HSI) is a local non-profit whose mission is to research, preserve, interpret, and promote historic resources in and near Chaffee County. The City of Salida and the Historic Preservation Commission often partner with HSI to promote this mission. More information about HSI can be found on their website at: www.historicsalida.org

Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Boardwww.chaffeecountyheritage.org
Chaffee County Heritage Area & Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway Management Plan Adopted
The Chaffee County Heritage Area / Collegiate Peaks Scenic & Historic Byway Management Plan was officially adopted by the Board of County Commissioners on November 4, 2008. This extensive document provides a detailed analysis of the county’s natural, cultural, historic, scenic and agricultural “heritage.” Existence of an approved plan, as shown by numerous examples in other Colorado counties, can be a powerful influence on external grant funding agencies when the Heritage Board or its partners (municipalities, historic preservation groups, land trusts, public land managers and others) approach grantors for financial support of specific projects. If you are interested in viewing a printed copy of the Management Plan, please contact GARNA at info@garna.org or 539-5106.