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Cortez celebrates pioneer past on Historic Preservation Day

Walking tours and performance draw a crowd

Cortez’s celebration of Historic Preservation Day on Saturday drew a bigger crowd than usual, as historians took people for a walk down memory lane.

For the city’s ninth Preservation Day event, Historic Preservation Board president Patricia Lacey led three walking tours around the downtown area, telling the stories behind some of Cortez’s oldest buildings. More than 30 people total participated in the tours, a sharp increase from last year’s celebration in City Park. Later in the day, the HerStory performance history group gave a presentation at the Cortez Cultural Center about the pioneer women who helped found the town.

Board vice president Linda Towle said the turnout exceeded her expectations, which were low due to all the events happening around Cortez on Saturday.

Lacey, an archaeologist and longtime Cortez resident, started each tour at the Cortez Cultural Center, once known as the E.R. Lamb Building and named after the man who owned it when it was built as a mercantile. She took her guests down Market and Main streets and pointed out historical buildings, some dating to the mid-1800s.

At each stop, she offered an anecdote or talked about architectural styles. For example, at the Ertel Funeral Home, one of Cortez’s entries on the National Register of Historic Places, Lacey pointed out features such as the archways and bell tower that distinguish it as being built in the Spanish revival style. She pointed out where a flag once flew in the Market and Main street intersection, before the town had motorized traffic.

“If we think about the latest brouhaha about the median – well, I think the flag would have been in the way, too,” she joked.

Several people who attended the walking tours were participating in their first Preservation Day event. Kerry O’Brien said he is a friend of Towle’s, but had not attended one of her city celebrations before the walking tours caught his eye.

“I like history, the history of places, also the architecture,” he said. “I’m not trained in architecture, but I appreciate it when somebody explains what I’m looking at.”

Lacey talked about major events that affected Cortez in its early days, like the Hotel Clifton fire of 1908, which she said inspired many property owners around town to make their buildings more fireproof. She also talked about changes during her own time in Cortez, like The Journal’s move from the upper floor of the Wilson Building to what is now City Hall, and then to the ground floor of the Wilson Building.

“What’s new becomes old,” Lacey said. “Can we learn from it, is the question.”

About 50 people attended the HerStory performance titled “I Remember: A Retrospective of Local Pioneer Women,” almost filling the Cultural Center, according to event coordinator Sandi Valencia.

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