Brown: The past, present and future of a Cortez museum

Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 6:38 PM
Ann Brown

Our community has always helped support something that would benefit us all. The Montezuma County Historical Society has been offered the use of the social services building south of the courthouse by the county commissioners.

In exchange for this building, it will be our responsibility to pay our part of the utilities each month, as well as maintaining the building while opening and operating a museum. The Lake Vista Grange on Road M has been made available to us for gathering all our artifacts and display cases in one place. We have volunteers who are working on this.

In the past, community efforts have been essential to success. In 1919, it was the students and interested citizens who gathered money to build the school gymnasium. Do you remember the fund drives when we built the original hospital on South Broadway? Many of the young people in the community helped out. Then it was decided a new hall needed to be built and the youth of the area could use it – the Mary Blake Hall of the Episcopal Church.

In the 1930s, the Ute Mountain Study Club built the old Cortez Library (on Main Street) and built a swimming pool in the park (across from Dolores State Bank). During World War II, a large lighted memorial board was placed on Main Street and kept current, showing the names of all Montezuma County citizens who were serving in the military. During that time a new Southwest Memorial Hospital was being built. In addition, we had various organizations doing something to help the community: Lions Club, Rotary Club, Bootstrap Committee, 20-30 Club, Red Coats and various fraternal organizations to name only a few.

The American Legion had a large Christmas tree on the Toggery corner every year. No child asked why Santa had a Swedish accent when he was passing out goodies to the kids in 1938 and later. Bennie Fisher opened the theatre with a movie for the kids. This tradition continued for several years.

For the past 25-plus years, the Montezuma County Historical Society has had a vision to open a Learning Center and Museum, and we’ve been working toward this goal. The funds are limited – as of Sept. 30 we had $17,900 in our museum fund, obtained through donations and publishing four books on our pioneer history and a pioneer cookbook (plus various interesting publications available for our use.) In addition, our dues, city grant money and some donations have helped us to pay the insurance and expense involved; there is a total now of $10,000 in the general fund.

With the use of the Lake Vista Grange and the upcoming use of the social services building, our utility expenses may be up to $800 per month. We need chairs, tables, filing cabinets, printers and scanners, a professional curator and other volunteers to help create displays, move items and maintain our new quarters. We may soon need a director, as well.

The Sleeping Ute Mountain Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution has a genealogy library with reference books that has been housed at the Cortez Public Library. Future plans are to move the books and open a “Genealogy Corner” in this building.

Will you help with the project? We plan to apply for grants and would charge a nominal amount for entrance into the museum. We are a designated public charity organization with the Internal Revenue Service under the 501(c)(3) provisions. Check with your tax expert to see if your donation is tax deductible.

Please watch for future articles on the historical society as we have plans to move in the spring to the social services building, which was the old Montgomery Ward store on South Chestnut.

Members of our board will be glad to answer questions. They are: Ann Brown, chairwoman; Dolly Gardner, vice chairwoman; Julie Paige, secretary; June Head, historian; Joyce Lawrence, volunteer archivist and Marie Rumburg.

We are collecting our annual dues for 2017-18: $20 for single membership and $30 for family and businesses. The mailing address of Montezuma County Historical Society is Box 218, Cortez, 81321. Please enclose a note showing your name, address, telephone number, email address and if you are willing to volunteer. A membership card will be mailed to you.

Henry H. Roelfs and the Bootstrap Committee members opened the “Four Corners Museum” in 1957 in the basement of the previous City Hall. He reported about 11,000 visitors the first year.

Isn’t it time for a museum again in Cortez?

Ann Brown is chairwoman of the Montezuma County Historical Society. Reach her at 565-2747 with questions or about donations, both financial or for the museum’s collection.