In the late 1800’s, before Telluride became the world class ski resort it is today, it was a thriving mining town. Its mineral rich mountains filled with gold and silver enticed many a minor to settle here.
As mining began winding down and the town population started to shrink, Telluride took measures to ensure the historic nature of the town was preserved. In 1963, the town was designated a National Landmark Historic District for its important mining history. This title means that any building or structure that is considered to have historical significance is protected. Many of these buildings stand tall on the first few blocks of Main Street. The San Miguel Courthouse and the Sheridan Opera House are ones that naturally come to mind, but there are many other less prominent relics dotted across Telluride if you know where to look. What are these ancient, small, wooden structures? What were they used for? How have they been retooled for the 21st century?
When they were first built many of the sheds were used for barns, outhouses, coal bins, garages, storage, chicken coops, or workshops. The one located on the west side of the library was once used to house livestock for the owner of the property at the time. Today, it is pretty damaged and is missing a wall but thankfully is protected from being torn down. Another one east of the skate park was a simple backyard shed and is now used for storage. This is the case for most of the remaining sheds, they are used for storage or, if big enough, a garage.
One of the sheds shown above is covered in license plates and features old metal wheels on front. You can find this shed in the alley between Colorado Avenue and Columbia Avenue on the West block off Oak Street. This is one of the most unqiue and cerainly colorful sheds that you should take a look at yourself. I find it incredibly beautiful. Also, next to 240 ½ W. Galena Avenue is a special shed that has a slanted roof and rustic barn doors, that definitely catches your eye.
As the economy has improved, the pace of construction has increased. There is currently a Telluride Shed Rehabilitation project that’s focus is to assist in the refurbishment of Telluride’s sheds to maintain their significance and allow visitors a glimpse back in history. The group works with property owners to find a compromise that helps maximize the use of the existing shed while not destroying the structure. The objective is to salvage as much of the original building material as possible and then supplement with new wood without ruining the rustic look of the shed. The structure base may be shored up, and broken windows replaced to increase usability, yet never sacrificing its original beauty.
When people want to know the history of Telluride they only seem to search for the obvious stuff, and miss the simple things that are right next door. So while you are walking around Telluride take a detour off of Colorado Avenue. Meander the alleyways north of Main Street, take your time, and imagine life as a miner. Look at those small dilapidated buildings and see if you can see remnants of a small home, a horse stable or even a hidden moonshine closet? Many wonders of historic Telluride may lay behind the boarded up windows and barred doors of these early structures.