Pueblo: A most pleasant surprise
Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner
Once the largest steel town west of the Mississippi, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company dominated Colorado as its largest employer for a century. Founded by William Palmer to manufacture rails for his trains, it attracted skilled laborers from all over Europe. Now owned by Russian EVRAZ, a marvelous steel making education awaits at its museum opposite the plant.
The Arkansas River flows through Pueblo. In 1991, the city created the Arkansas Riverwalk, a serpentine diversion channel through town. One can walk it or float on it with kayaks, pedal or excursion boats, or a gondola. Eclectic modern and conventional art enhance your journey and trendy bistros entice along the way.
Pueblo was many things then and now. Once the (manufactured) saddle capital of the world, it now hosts the Vesta Wind Energy Plant, a staggering industrial complex. On a per capita basis, Pueblo boasts more Congressional Medal of Honor recipients than any place in the nation, calling itself the “Home of Heroes.” The Riverwalk features the free Center for American Values; in it, the Honor Gallery highlights the inspiring quotes and pictures of 150 Medal recipients.
Every September Pueblo hosts the Colorado State Fair.
The city’s heyday brought about the construction of some architectural gems. Visit the grandiose Pueblo County Courthouse, on par with many found in Washington, D.C. or Paris. Walk the Union Avenue Historic Commercial District, anchored by imposing Union Depot railroad station. Stroll Neon Alley where lit neon signs of bygone years are artfully displayed. Boutiques and restaurants abound in the area. Opposite the station is the Pueblo Heritage Museum, a compact history of city industry, ethnic communities, customs and railroading.
Into aviation, perk up – Pueblo’s airport houses the distinguished Weisbrod Aircraft Museum. Founded in the mid-70s, it’s collection of planes and well-curated history covers two hangars and 85,000 square feet. It is also the final resting place of Louviers Beacon #9, the 51-foot tower that through 1981, dominated The Village at Castle Pines summit and was donated by the Lagae family. It was transported south by helicopter.
Pueblo has a zoo of 500 animals built originally by the Works Progress Administration in 1934.
It also has three nicely coiffed public golf courses. Elmwood Golf Course is especially attractive. All are well maintained with reasonable fees.
Twice this month, we hiked trails at Lake Pueblo State Park. While vegetation is somewhat stunted, natural beauty abounds. Contrasts of deep water, high layered limestone escarpments and ancient junipers provide inspiring views with miles to ramble. Skull Canyon was a favorite.
Known for ethnic food, Tex-Mex and Italian fare is especially outstanding. If you’ve never had a “slopper,” it’s time. An open-faced hamburger on a bed of fries smothered in green chili and cheese makes for a mighty good, filling meal. For those who are suds specialists, Pueblo surprises with scintillating microbreweries. Plan a day trip (80 miles from Castle Rock); it could well be the treat you never expected.