To Durango residents of 1897, the city was ‘nearly perfect’

Durango promoted itself in the Colorado Business Directory (1897) as being “nearly perfect.” To Durangoans this meant the following:

“The site is clean, bright, beautiful, and healthful.

“The streets are broad and regular and all equipped with sidewalks.

“The community has an abundant supply of the purest mountain water.

“It is well supplied with fire hydrants and modern fire apparatus.

“It has electricity.

“Two railroads service it (Denver & Rio Grande & Rio Grande Southern).

“It is the natural headquarters and distributing point for southwest Colorado and portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.”

To Durangoans finally starting to recover from the crash of 1893 and the dark days of the following depression, these were all truisms without a doubt. Not to mention they boosted local pride.

To further boost their pride, they could point to other community benefits, and they also hoped visitors and potential settlers would pay attention.

“Durango has a great extent of coal fields nearby with excellent coal.

“It has lime quarries and granite and sandstone deposits.

“There are nearby deposits of iron ores.

“Great forests are found throughout the region.

“It has splendid water courses.

“Above and beyond all advantages of location are the large reduction works.”

(It was the smelter center for the booming San Juan mining district.)

“The prevailing air currents carry the industrial and residential smoke away to the south.”

Nor were boosters finished, even with this impressive list:

“Labor can be had at moderate rates.

“Staple foods are cheaper than can be bought in the east.

“Building material is cheap.

“The air is dry and clear and full of ozone (the miracle element of the era).

“It has nearly perpetual sunshine.

“It is never cold enough to freeze a person.

“Sunstroke is unknown.

“It is never dry, the Animas River runs through the entire length of the city.

“Vast cattle herds furnish meat cheaper than Texas.

“Farm land is abundant and with at least a 100 day growing season.”

Richard McCloud, the booster’s booster, was beside himself when he looked over the future. Durango “is bound to be the great commercial center of the southwest and within a few years have a population of 25,000.” It will be, he concluded, the “third city in population in the state behind Denver and Pueblo.”

Not to mention that Durango had a hospital, 12 doctors, electric street cars, two daily newspapers and one weekly, plus a brewery, two schools and a high school and nearly every church denomination.

David Day and his Solid Muldoon saw yet another advantage.

“Durango will undoubtedly be visited by several thousand strangers each year. Many will stop overnight, others for days, and some will remain to enjoy our salubrious climate for a week or so.” Durango has “unexcelled hotels and offers special inducements to those seeking rest and health.”

All these advantages Durangoans believed “are sufficient to attract and must inevitably acquire millions of new capital and thousands of industrious people in the next few years.” Durango “is bound to boom.”

Duane Smith is a Fort Lewis College history professor. Reach him at 247-2589.