Main Streets 2016: Colorado
By the turn of the 20th century, Pueblo, Colorado had become known as Steel City and the “Pittsburgh of the Plains,” with steel mills and smelting facilities. Boom years had come with the demand for steel and the westward march of the railroads, and for several years Pueblo was Colorado’s largest city — but in 1921, the Arkansas River flooded and the entire business district was wiped out.
Yet Pueblo rebuilt, and today its Main Street is central to a vibrant downtown. Starting at the Convention Center, you can walk to most of Pueblo’s major attractions. On North Main, the Pueblo Symphony Orchestra has been making high-quality music for 86 straight years, and the Damon Runyon Theater Company stages live drama, dance and music at the Runyon Theater, in addition to offering youth programs and other educational activities.
A short walk west of Main Street is the El Pueblo History Museum, which showcases local history and has re-created the original El Pueblo adobe trading post from 1842, based on the museum’s archeological probe of the trading post’s original site. And just off Main on South Grand Avenue is Memorial Hall, a beautiful building that was dedicated by President Woodrow Wilson in his last public address in 1919 to all those lost in the “War to End All Wars,” or World War I. Home to theatre, music and dance performances, Memorial Hall has been the vibrant centerpiece of this region’s cultural community for nearly a century.
Further south is the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, a 32-acre urban waterfront along the original, restored pathway of the Arkansas River in Pueblo’s old downtown, the Union Avenue Historic Commercial District. The Riverwalk has been vital in attracting new businesses that have helped stabilize the economic base of the city. Along the Riverwalk is the Center for American Values, a non-profit that highlights “extraordinary heroic acts by people from all walks of life,” with educational outreach programs and a portrait collection of 140 Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
Nearby, the Arkansas River levee is the canvas for the Pueblo Levee Mural Project‚ a 3-mile-long piece of artwork that Guinness World Records designated as the world’s largest outdoor mural. These days, Pueblo is even better-known for its annual Chile and Frijoles Festival on Main Street, which draws over 100,000 people here each September to make the most of the area’s signature crops of chiles and pinto beans. The “Creative Corridor” is a project of the Pueblo Arts Alliance, and celebrates the city’s art heritage with restaurants, shops and galleries.
North Main Street photo courtesy of The Armchair Explorer