The Crestone Historical Museum

Devoted to the History of the Crestone-Baca Area in the San Luis Valley

108 West Galena Avenue
PO Box 84
Crestone, CO 81131
(719) 256-4313
James McCalpin
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Summer Hours (Memorial Day weekend – September 30)
10:00am – 4:00pm Saturday and Sunday or by appointment

Winter Hours by Appointment – call (719) 256-5227
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This wooden building was originally built in 1901 as the San Luis Valley Bank, and is one of the few all-wood banks built in a gold camp in Colorado.
Line Drawing of the Crestone Historical Museum

The Museum is devoted to the history of the Crestone-Baca area on the eastern margin of the San Luis Valley, at the base of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This area includes the Town of Crestone (current population 125), the mining districts in the foothills to the east, and the 100,000-acre Baca Grant (a Spanish land grant) to the south.

During the gold rush era (1874-1904) there were a string of mining camps along the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, serving the mines of the El Dorado Mining District south of Crestone, and the Crestone Mining District east and north of Crestone. These camps were abandoned as the mines played out and little traces of them remain today. The Town of Crestone is the only remaining vestige of the gold boom; founded in 1880, its population swelled to a peak of 2000 in 1900.

The Crestone Historical Museum opened in July 2011, and is located on the ground floor of the Town Center Building. This wooden building was originally built in 1901 as the San Luis Valley Bank, and is one of the few all-wood banks built in a gold camp in Colorado. The massive Diebold safe from 1901 is still in the museum and forms an impressive relic of the boom days.

Other displays highlight the implements and tools used by the miners and farmers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and schoolbooks salvaged from the old Crestone School House.

Natural history is also represented, ranging from a map of the prehistoric glaciers in the Sangres, a tree-ring calendar that goes back to 1884, and wildlife displays.

In summer months the Museum also functions as an informal visitor and information center, with books and maps for sale that detail possible activities in and near Town. These activities include hiking and camping in the Sangre de Cristo, climbing the 13,000 and 14,000 ft-high peaks, or visiting one of the 22 spiritual retreat centers south of Crestone.

Crestone is a jumping-off site for adventure and history tours in the Great Sand Dunes National Park (via the North Entrance), and the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, both parts of the former 100,000-acre Baca Grande land grant.

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  • The Museum Gift Shop sells Colorado gold in small vials
  • Bobcats are common in the Crestone area even today
  • Iron implements remain to tell the tale of everyday life from 1880 to the early 1900s. Many of the items are primitive blacksmith-forged tools produced by mine foundries in Crestone.
  • This tree slab “calendar” was sanded and polished to accentuate its 116 rings (1888 to 2004). Its life spanned the Gold Boom, the Gold Bust, the quiet years, and the reemergence of Crestone in the 1970s as a spiritual center.
  • Historic cabins across Galena Avenue reflect in the windows of the Museum. During the Gold Boom the town boasted two newspapers, the Crestone Miner (pictured), and the Crestone Eagle.
  • The bank’s original Diebold safe was manufactured sometime between 1870 and 1880.
  • The antique display case contains school books from the Crestone School House, used until 1949. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, and was recently refurbished.
  • The Museum occupies the former lobby of the San Luis Valley Bank building, built in 1901 at the height of the Gold Boom.
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