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Buena Vista was originally named Mahonville after James and Martha Mahon who left many descendants, some of whom still live in the area. In 1879 the citizens voted to rename the town Buena Vista (Spanish for "beautiful view") using the name suggested by Alsina "Sadie" Deerhammer. Alsina Street is named after Mrs. Deerhammer who died in the late 1890's and is buried in an unmarked grave in Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.
The town was noted for its wild and wooly early mining and railroad inhabitants and the railroads accompanying low types of people. It is said there were once 32 saloons, many dance-halls, and no churches. The "Palace Manor", a bordello operated by "Cock-eyed Liz", (Elizabeth Marshall), a Buena Vista's madam who married the local plumber, Alphonse "Foosy" Enderline and became a "respectable" woman, is located only two doors west of the courthouse on Main Street. Both "Liz" and "Foosy" are buried in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery, surrounded by a fence made with "Plumber's Pipe."
In 1880, Buena Vista became the county seat and Granite residents refused to allow the records to be removed from their court house. Some impatient citizens of Buena Vista commandeered a railroad engine and flatcar and went up to Granite in the dark of night, kicked in the courthouse door and stole the records and all furniture that was not securely fastened to the floor. It is said they even took the pot-belly heat stove, with embers still in it. The records were stored in various Buena Vista business safes until the new court house at the east end of Main Street was built.
Salida became the county seat in the 1920's and the Buena Vista courthouse was used as the public school until the 1960's. The building now houses the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, the Chaffee County Council of the Arts "Courthouse Gallery", and the Buena Vista Railroad Association's HO scale model of the railroad system from the Royal Gorge to above Leadville.