Historic Walking Tours: The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, located at 331 Elk Avenue, offers guided walking tours during the summer season on Tuesday & Thursday at 9am and during the winter season by calling the Museum at 970-349-1880. Cost is only $10 per person and all proceeds go to the Museum’s general operating fund.
Preview a Historic Walking Tour
We took an abbreviated Historic Walking Tour with the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum’s Executive Director and Curator in March 2018. If you want a taste of a very small piece of the history Crested Butte you can watch it below.
1. THE CRESTED BUTTE MOUNTAIN HERITAGE MUSEUM (THE HARDWARE STORE/TONY’S CONOCO): This building began operating as a hardware store in 1883. It was the town’s first gas station. Inside is a potbelly stove that warmed the store from its beginnings. A.J. “Tony” Mihelich operated the store from 1939 until his death in 1996. Martha Sporcich, Tony’s stepdaughter, and her family helped him with the store for over 35 years.This building is now the home of the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum.
2. THE MASONIC HALL: This structure was built in the early 1880s by the local lodge of the Knights of Pythias. Later, it was the home of the Two Buttes Senior Center.
3. THE CITY HOTEL: This building was built just before the turn of the century by the Applegate family. Mrs.Applegate ran a millinery shop here. It then became the City Hotel (serving as a boarding house for miners). In 1927, Frank and Mary Yelinick bought it and changed its name to the “Western Hotel.” They later operated a liquor store on the west side and lived in the east side of the building.
4. THE COMPANY STORE: The original Company Store stood where the Princess Wine bar now stands. It succumbed to fire and the store was moved to this location. Again, fire destroyed the building and the present structure was built in 1937. Crested Butte’s Lyle McNeill constructed the building of huge cinder blocks that were handmade. One could purchase everything here from food to clothing to tools to yard goods or even leave a watch to be repaired. When the mine closed in 1952, the Company Store did too.The building was renovated in the early 1970’s and converted into its present arcade of stores. Remodeled again in 2013, it is now home to the Secret Stash restaurant.
5. TWO-STORY OUTHOUSE: It is imperative before moving on that you look in the alley behind the Company Store. Traveling east from Third Street on the right hand side down the alley is the famous two-story outhouse. One thought is that the upper level is offset from the lower level so that people on each floor could use it simultaneously. In the winter, people could enter the second story directly because of the build up of the snow.
6. THE GRUBSTAKE: The former Grubstake was once three separate buildings built in the early 1880s.One of the buildings was the Bank of Crested Butte, which opened in 1880. The bank failed in 1931, when bank vice president, Charles Ross, who also owned Peanut Mine, used bank funds to illegally pay his miners at a time when the mine was in poor shape. The other sections of the building served at various times as a drugstore, post office, and a mortuary. In 1931, the three buildings were given a common roof and in 1958, Lil and Phil Hyslop bought all three sections, converted them into one building and opened the Grubstake Building.
7. THE BARBER SHOP: Built in the 1890s, this building served for many years as a barbershop. In the early 1960s, it was the offices as well as the information center for the ski resort, Crested Butte Limited. Since that time it has served as headquarters for the Crested Butte Pilot newspaper, which merged with the Crested Butte Chronicle, and as retail space for several merchants. In 1987, local builder, Fritz Diether moved the building, along with several others, to form a cluster of buildings behind the Post Office that he called Creekside Gardens.
8. THE COAL CREEK BUILDING: The log portion of this building was the original Malensek Barn. It was moved to town in the mid 1970s by architect Jim Kuziak and shortly after, a second story was added.
9. THE FOREST QUEEN: In its early years, this was a bar as well as a hotel. It is reported to have been part of the red light district with a second floor operation. Later it became a general store. Barry Cornman owned it for many years. His mother, Thelma Cornman, who was considered the Queen of the Forest Queen, lived and worked there. Ghost stories are frequently told about the building. It has been a restaurant and hotel.
10. THE KOCHEVAR BUILDING: This building was completed in 1899 by the same builder who built the Old Town Hall directly across the street. Jacob Kochevar operated a bar in this building until 1919 and then converted it to a general store as a cover in the Prohibition Era. It was renovated as a bar once again in 2013. The Kochevar building had bar tabs dating back to the 1900’s. Also, the family has possession of the handgun that the outlaw Butch Cassidy left behind when he fled out the back door after being recognized by a bounty hunter and local authorities.
11. SOUPÇON: Built by the Kochevar family in 1916, this little log cabin was originally half its present size. It served as a residence for many years, with Carolyn (Kochevar) Tezak living there in the 1930s. Her son was born in the cabin. Colby Schricte, who had a wine stube at the ski area, opened the building in the 1960s as a wine stube and restaraunt. Since then many of Crested Butte’s finest chefs launched their careers in this kitchen. Candy Smith, married to the dentist Dr. Smith, started Soupçon here in 1975.
12. THE ELK MOUNTAIN LODGE: The Elk Mountain Lodge served for 52 years as the boarding house for C.F. & I. miners. At times, it housed up to 65 people and fed all of them family style. After the mines closed, a rancher purchased the building and started the Company Hotel. Marie and Knowlton Janes purchased the building and opened a restaraunt. Once a month, the school district personnel from the superintendent to the janitor ate a gourmet meal and square danced to records. In 1952 it was renamed the Elk Mountain Lodge. The north portion of the building was added in 1981. The building still functions as a lodge!
13. THE MALENSEK HOUSE: This beautiful, big house was designed and built by Jacob Kochevar who also built the Old Town Hall. It is eastern European in design with transoms over each window. It was built in 1925 as the main ranch house for the Malensek family.
14. YAKLICH CREAMERY: The creamery began operation in 1922. Mr. Yaklich worked in the mine during the day and tended the dairy at night. The raw milk was delivered around town by horse-drawn wagons in summer and sleigh in winter. In 1940, a law required that milk be processed and the dairy had to be converted. In 1946, Fritz Yaklich started producing Grade A pasteurized milk – 200 quarts a day – all hand milked. The milk was shipped as far away as Nebraska to Forest Service work camps. The creamery was shut down in 1959.
15. ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH: This was the first Catholic Church in town, built in 1890. In the late 1950s the congregation moved to a new site because the old church was in very poor condition. At that time it was less expensive to build a new church than renovate the old one. The rear portion of the building was added in 1980. It is now private residences.
16. KOCHEVAR HOUSE: Built in the late 1800s by Jacob Kochevar, patriarch of Crested Butte’s oldest Yugoslavian family, as a residence for his large family. It was purchased in the 1970s by Dana Atchley and completely renovated with the aid of a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This house remains one of the finest examples of Crested Butte’s early architecture.
17. PENELOPE’S: With parts of the building dating back to 1879, it was originally two houses that were pushed together. The second floor was added in 1910.The structure served as a private residence for the Vilotti family until it was restored as a restaurant in 1972. Several businesses now reside in this space including Yoga for the Peaceful, Creekside Spa and Ryce.
18. POWERHOUSE: This old metal-sided building was originally used to generate electric power. The building fell into disuse after the town connected to the Gunnison County REA in 1943. Hubert Smith then owned this building. It later became a restaurant.The building is currently unoccupied.
19. THE OLD TOWN HALL: Perhaps the most picturesque building in Crested Butte, the Town Hall was erected in 1883, and served as headquarters for the town Trustees until 1952. It was designed and built in an eastern European manner by Jacob Kochevar. This beautiful building did double duty for the Trustees and the Fire Department, with its second floor hall being used for dances, church, and public meetings. Portions of the building were once inadvertently blown up when the town tried to stop a raging fire that was destroying Elk Avenue. Dynamite charges were set in the street to halt the fire’s advance and ended up blowing up windows on surrounding blocks. For a period of time, the UCLA Pasadena theater brought students for a two month long season of melodrama. In 1991, the town temporarily moved the building into the middle of Second Street and rebuilt the crumbling foundation. The renovated building is home to the Mountain Theater’s Malardi Cabaret, Paragon Gallery, and the current bus stop.
20. THE MARSHAL’S OFFICE: Built in 1883, it is still in use today. In addition to its thick walls, the former jail has two doors. It was used to house criminals overnight until they could be transported to Gunnison. It is now headquarters of the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival.
21. THE DYER HOUSE: This house was built in the 1880s and for many years was the home of a mining family named Tezak.The little shed in the back to the right housed a lumber operation by the Tezaks. In 1958, Hubert Smith from the Law Science Academy brought world famous lecturers here.
22. THE SLOGAR BAR: Built around 1900, this bar was once in the midst of a flourishing saloon district. It is named for the family that last operated it. After sitting abandoned for many years, the Slogar was restored during the summer of 1976 and converted into a restaurant. Its plush interior recalls an era and lifestyle that was certainly part of western history.It still functions as Slogar’s Restaurant!
23. THE CROATIAN HALL: This building, built around the turn of century, was the meeting place and dancing hall for the members of the Croatian Fraternal Union. In 1902, the building was moved on large rolling logs from Elk Avenue to its present site.The CFU was one of four Slavic organizations that kept alive traditions, language, food, and dances of the old country. Old timers can remember the three and four day wedding receptions that were often held here. After years as an athletic club, the building was renovated and expanded in 1989.
24. THE SPRITZER BAR: This building was constructed in 1882 and first operated as a saloon by early Slovenian immigrant Anton Starika. In 1924 the building was purchased by Croatian immigrant Martin Spritzer Sr. He continued to operate it as a saloon until Prohibition, during which time he ran it as Spritzer’s Pool Hall and Soft Drink Parlor, serving the town as a leading producer of quality spirituous beverages. The building was still occupied by their youngest son, Botsie Spritzer, until 1991. This building was the third home of the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum.
25. THE ELK SALOON: Built in 1880 near the Old Post Office, this building was moved up Elk Avenue in 1899 by John Rozich. The present location was chosen because it was closer to the drinking business brought about by the miners as they left work via Second Street. Named for the world record elk rack, the saloon was run by Ed Rozman (Rozich’s stepson) and his wife June until the Big Mine closed. The Rozmans lived in the rear portion of the building, maintaining the original furniture of the saloon.
26. THE PRINCESS THEATER: This was originally the site of the Colorado Supply Store owned by C. F. & I. Mine. Fire destroyed that building and the Colorado Supply Store moved to the Company Store. The stone walls of the Princess are the original walls. The theater first opened in 1918 when silent films became popular. It was part of a large chain of Princess Theaters sprinkled throughout the western slope. Although other businesses were in the building, it showed movies there until 1988 when it was renovated into a ballroom and then renovated again in 1993.
27. MOUNTAIN SPIRITS: This liquor store previously housed the Alpineer and was once part of the Princess Theatre.
28. TONY’S TAVERN (THE WOODEN NICKEL): This building is the third saloon to have occupied this spot. The first was lost to fire in 1893 and the second was torn down. The present building was erected in 1929. Owner-operator, Bill Starika, supposedly kept his business jumping by firing a .45 pistol into a stump behind the bar whenever customers started nodding at the bar.
29. THE GENERAL STORE: This building was built in 1893 and housed a millinery shop. Mike Fisher, Sr. opened a general store and operated a soda pop bottling plant in the upstairs. John Byouk next purchased the store and lived upstairs until 1946. Tony and Eleanor Stefanic purchased the store in 1946, renamed it Stefanic’s and served the community until 1988. All of the general stores allowed customers to charge which was the reason many people could survive here during lean times.
30. THE BAKERY BUILDING: Inside this modern structure was the Colorado Supply Company’s service station, a stucco building that was built at the same time as the Company Store building across Elk Avenue. When the Big Mine closed, the station was leased to several gas companies and finally to a snowmobile shop. The current commercial building was constructed in three stages starting in 1975 and was finished in 1989.
31. THE OLD POST OFFICE: This building, erected in 1900, has perhaps enjoyed a wider variety of uses than any other in town. Originally, Mrs. Miller and her husband ran a furniture store in the front and a mortuary in the back. Mrs. Miller was the mortician. Because business was so slow at the furniture store, customers didn’t know the front from the back so the Millers moved to Gunnison. From 1925 to 1964, this building did serve as the town’s post office, but prior to those years, it saw service as a movie theater complete with player piano that was used to entertain patrons while the film was being changed. In 1920, a roller skating rink replaced the movie theater. After the Post Office moved to a new building down the street, Marcia and Alan Hegeman operated Heg’s Place out of the building until 1970, when they built the small addition to the west and rented the larger building to retailers.
32. DONITA’S CANTINA: This restaurant space was actually part of the bottom floor of the famed Elk Mountain House. Fire claimed its upper two floors in 1927. Built in 1880, the Elk Mountain House was considered the most luxurious hotel on Colorado’s western slope. It became the County Shops in the 60s and then a restaurant. Donita’s Cantina still showcases part of the original tin ceiling.
33. JACOB’S HOUSE: This home is a classic example of western Victorian architecture. Jacob Kochevar built it in 1887.
34. CRESTED BUTTE STATE BANK: This building was rebuilt in 1990, with the help and support of the community, after a tragic explosion destroyed the original 1979 building. It is now The Bank of the West or affectionately known as the Brick Bank.
35. THE RAILROAD DEPOT: This was the former Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Stationhouse, built in 1881. The narrow gauge railroad that hauled coal from the mines, made a daily run between Crested Butte and Gunnison. It was the lifeline for the town, bringing in most of the supplies needed. When the mine shut down in 1952, the stationhouse was purchased by the stationmaster, C.T. McCandless, the last depot agent, and converted into his residence. The last train ran in 1952. In the early 1970s, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Clark, Jr., of Mt. Crested Butte, purchased the building for the Crested Butte Society as a community center. It currently houses nonprofits. The Depot was the first home of the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum in 1962.
36. THE SUPERINTENDENT’S HOUSE: This handsome Victorian home was built when the Big Mine opened in the late 1800s. It sat on top of Big Mine Hill that lies above the south end of town. The mine superintendent’s family lived here until the mine closed. The house was an ice cream parlor before it was moved. The house then became part of the Springtime Camp for several years, and at one time was the home of the Springtime Restaurant.
37. THE MULE BARN: The Mule Barn, which housed the 100 mules used at the Big Mine to pull ore carts, was built at the turn of the century. When the mine closed, the barn was eventually bought by the owners of the Springtime Camp and served as a recreation facility and housed the camp’s horses. It was moved into town in 1970 and had to be divided into three sections to accommodate the move. One end of the barn now sits (completely disguised) to the left of the Superintendent’s House. Another piece remained on the Big Mine Hill until being torn down in summer 1991 for residential development. The main portion was converted into unusual condominiums.
38. SCHOOLHOUSE: This frame building was the first elementary schoolhouse in Crested Butte, though at the time, it was twice its present size. It was built in 1881 and was divided in half at the time of its move to this site in 1910. The other half was destroyed by fire.
39. OLD ROCK SCHOOLHOUSE/PUBLIC LIBRARY: This picturesque, fieldstone schoolhouse was the first permanent school in the community. It was built in 1883 and served as the grade school and high school until 1911.This was the second home of the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum until 1962. It was then used as storage for the school. A local committee, headed by Nan Lumb, raised funds to renovate the building for use as a combined public/school library starting in 1992.
40. HIGH SCHOOL BUILDING: Built in 1927, this building housed all grades in 1953 and became the Elementary/Middle School when the High School moved to Gunnison in l967. It remained the elementary to middle school until the Community School was built in 1997. It now houses the Crested Butte Town Offices with a garden area called Crank’s Plaza honoring longtime public servant Bill Crank.
41.KATE’S PLACE: This house was owned by Katie Starika until her death. It is unusual because it was an early pre-fabricated home ordered through the Sears and Roebuck catalogue.
42.UNION CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH: This handsome church was built in the early 1880s. The bell in the tower came from a church in the now deserted boomtown of Irwin. This building is one of the most photographed and painted buildings in town.
Drawings by Susan Anderton. Pictures available at Rijks Family Gallery.