Ways to Enjoy the Historic District
A Quick History of Lake City
For generations before recorded history, the Tabeguache band of Utes lived in the area that is now known as southwest Colorado, and hunted and fished in the the high mountain valleys during the summers.
After the 1873 Brunot Agreement displaced the native people from the area, the Town of Lake City was incorporated in 1875 as a supply hub for prospectors, miners, and speculators who came to the San Juan Mountains in search of mineral riches.
The area was developed so quickly that within just a few years, over 500 structures had been built. Lake City's new population peaked, along with the mining boom, around 1900. Over the next decades, the silver and gold mines dwindled away, along with the population.
In some ways, it is amazing that so much of Lake City remains intact, with its wood plank boardwalks and fabulously preserved buildings, for you to enjoy today. Many other western frontier towns succumbed to fires or were abandoned to the forces of nature.
However, a growing tourism trade gradually took the place of mining, and helped Lake City to survive into the 21st century.
The widespread and easy availability of the automobile led generations of families to take vacations in Lake City. These people purchased many of the historic homes and stores and kept them in good repair. These buildings represent significant time periods in local and American history, and offer a glimpse into the everyday lives of generations of people.
Residents and visitors who have loved and tended the buildings have kept Lake City alive for decades. Sometimes, old things are worth keeping. Not only are these buildings a valuable part of who we were, but of who we are today.
Civilization in the Wilderness
Steeped in a rich history, much of Lake City is designated a National Historic District. With over 240 properties across 142 acres of the valley floor, this historic district is one of the largest in Colorado.
The Lake City National Historic District contains a medley of buildings from times of massive growth in United States history: the westward expansion, and mid-20th-century development.
Hordes of settlers, speculators, families, workers, and entrepreneurs spread westward across the American continent during the mid-1800s, displacing native peoples and building new towns, sometimes almost overnight.
The young United States and its territories contained vast mineral and natural resources that fueled the expansion of the 19th century.
The new settlements went through cycles of growth and contraction, with some towns lasting only a few years, and others, like Lake City, surviving into the 20th and 21st centuries by adapting to a tourism-based economy.
Lake City Historic District Photo Tour