OCHS Offers Second Architectural Tour
    The Ouray County Historical Society received an overwhelmingly positive reception for its 2016 home and church tour.   A second historical buildings tour,  coming up July 1, will include even more historic landmarks.  The event showcases some of Ouray’s best-preserved examples of 19th Century architectural styles.
    The “Homes, Churches and Historic Buildings” tour runs from noon to 5:00 p.m.  The tour includes eight locations:  four houses, two churches and two historic buildings.  Tickets are $25 per person and may be purchased the day of the event at the historical museum, 420 Sixth Avenue.  All locations on the tour are within walking or a short driving distance of the museum.
    The tour pass includes refreshments at one of the locations and admission to the museum.  All proceeds benefit the Ouray County Historical Society.

Tour stops include:

Wheeler-Franz-Meckel House, 602 Oak Street  -- Larry and Barbara Meckel, owners and hosts.   Originally a two-room cabin built in 1880, it was sold to Abbie Wheeler in 1882.  She added three bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen-pantry, tool wood room and two bay windows.  Abbie and her husband, Charles Wheeler, were the parents of Una, who married Richard Winnerah.  Thus the Wheeler home has a family connection to another residence on the tour.  (See the Winnerah-Idarado-Grether home below.)  The Meckels have kept the original house historically intact so that it remains a visible reminders of Ouray’s earliest days. The home is now permanently preserved in the Meckel Historical Trust.

Winnerah-Idarado-Grether House, 305 Main Street – Arno Grether, owner and host.  The two-story, red sandstone house has stood on Main Street since 1902.  Richard Winnerah, Ouray city engineer and surveyor, had the house built for his bride, Una.  She was an accomplished photographer who took many photos of the house’s interior and exterior.  The Idarado Mining Company purchased the house in 1968 and rented it to various people.  The mining company thoroughly renovated it in 1995 and it remains in excellent condition.

Slytown-Risch Cabin,  212 Ninth Avenue – Bob and Karen Risch, owners and hosts.  Bob and Karen believe the cabin was built in the 1870s judging from its log construction and square nails.  It may have originally been a winter shelter.  The cabin was among the properties purchased by Johnny Raab beginning in 1890.  It may have later been one of Raab’s early 20th Century tourist cabins. Bob and Karen found a ledger that lists rates as $2-3 per night.   In 1941, Raab transferred his properties to his nephew, Louis Sly.  As those properties passed to Sly family successors, the area became known as Slytown.   When Bob and Karen purchased the cabin and adjacent property in the mid 1990s, they lived in the cabin while building their house.  They have preserved as many of the cabin’s historic features as possible.

Classic Ouray Folk-Nelson Victorian, 621 Fourth Street – Kent Nelson, owner and host.   Kent, a widely published author, has owned this home for 40 years.  It includes his rustic writing studio, which will be open to tour participants. His fiction has received several prestigious awards, including the Colorado Book Award.  An avid birder, he has seen 91 species of birds in his yard.  Kent has spent the past four decades repairing and improving the house and creating its gardens.  Over time, he has restored every room in the house. During early renovations, he found newspapers dating to the 1890s that had served as insulation in the walls.  He suspects, because of several sinks in the upstairs bedrooms, that the house may have been a bordello or rooming house at one time.

Former First Presbyterian Church (now Ouray Christian Fellowship), 336 Fourth Avenue – Host, Ginny Meunier.   Built in 1890, the church was actually Ouray’s second First Presbyterian Church.  Reverend George Darley founded the first in 1877.  Then in 1883, the congregation lost their church building due to lack of funds and membership.  In 1887, the Ouray Presbyterians reorganized and planned the current structure, completing the sanctuary in 1890.  Rev. Darley returned to lead the revitalized congregation.   Additions completed in 1948 and 1997 retained the 19th Century Queen Anne architecture.  Many original furnishings adorn the interior.  The present bell tower dates from the 1950s. 

St. John’s Episcopal Church, 329 Fifth Avenue – Hosts, Sue and Tom Hillhouse.   The third church built in Ouray, St.  John’s was built in 1880 by Welsh miners. The stone parish hall was completed almost 100 years later.  Parishioners originally met in the basement, constructed of native stone, which eventually became the sanctuary.  Adorned with carved woodwork and magnificent stained glass windows, the present sanctuary has the look and feel of a Victorian/Gothic English country church.  In 1978 a connecting stone parish hall was added. 

Ouray County Courthouse, 541 Fourth Street – Host, Connie Hunt, Ouray County Administrator, and staff.   The courthouse was constructed and completed in 1888 for $22,336, plus a later expenditure of $13,000 for heating and furnishings. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The warm tones of the wood interior, vertical proportions and richly decorative detailing reflect the building’s Italianate architecture.  Impacted through the years by historical flooding and fire, the courthouse has withstood the test of time.  It remains a working “house of the people” for the provision of law and order, county government services, and state, county and municipal proceedings. Considerable repairs have been completed over the years.  The county is now embarking on an estimated $9.2 million restoration and repair project to be completed through grants and other funding sources.

BPO Ouray Elks Lodge #492, 421 Main Street – Hosts Jim and Kathy Pettengill.   The Ouray Lodge #492 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was organized in 1899.  It was the first local lodge on the Western Slope.  The Ouray lodge quickly outgrew its rented facilities. The new building, designed by local grocer and lodge member E.H. Powell, was completed in 1905.  A combination of Queen Anne and Romanesque styles, it features a large lodge room that also serves as a ballroom, complete with chandeliers and, of course, elk heads. The bowling alley on the main floor is still used for league competitions.  The building also includes a kitchen, dining room, pool room and club room. The Ouray Elks Lodge #492 celebrated its centennial in 1999 and remains one of the most active organizations in the community.