When the mining boom hit, people migrated to Telluride in droves and the town found itself needing to accommodate for a lot of folks. While restaurants, stores and saloons began popping up all over the place, the biggest necessity was a place to rest your head. During this time many boarding houses were erected in and around Telluride. The McPherson Boarding House and the colorful cribs of Popcorn Alley are the best remaining examples and continue to endear decades after the last mine closed.
The McPherson Boarding house was a central boarding house and restaurant near the corner of Spruce and Pacific Avenue. It was a large two story brick building with balconies on both levels. A person could rent a room for 25 cents to a dollar and a meal was 25 cents; oh have times changed. The Mcpherson’s family took care of the building, but it was mainly Mr. Mcpherson who wanted the business to stay alive. Once he died, his children had no interest in running the family business.
After the McPhersons left Telluride, the building continued as a boarding house and later a soft drink parlor. The building was renamed “The Senate” and is still standing today. Unfortunately, the second floor was burnt down in a fire in the early 1900’s. It was remodeled and the improvements were completed with a nod to the original design.
Have you ever walked along Pacific Avenue and seen, on the block before the post office, some peculiar looking houses? There are 3 bright, vividly painted homes all in a row. Despite their charming Victorian façade, a darker history took place behind those happy looking walls.
Back in Telluride’s mining days many women would come to town with no real plan or money to find a place to live. While there were boarding houses for the male miners there were also boarding cribs provided for women including these small houses on Pacific. The street gained notoriety and was referred to as Popcorn Alley due to the sound of all those opening and closing doors. Why were there so many people coming and going, you ask? Well, because of a certain business that pleased men and was illegal. You can play the guessing game from here.
Today, they are not used for such activities. They are just houses, that normal people live in. They are considered historical buildings and are protected from ever being torn down. People say they are priceless because they preserve a piece of our past which makes Telluride different from other Colorado destinations.