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The Buena Vista Heritage Museum shares the history of Buena Vista and Chaffee County. The building was the second Chaffee County courthouse, dedicated in 1882. By 1932, Salida had out-voted Buena Vista, built a new courthouse, and claimed the county seat. The Buena Vista School District took over the vacant building and converted it into the public school. By 1973, the school district had moved all the students into the separate locations and the old courthouse needed a new purpose and many expensive repairs. Buena Vista Heritage was created to get the necessary grants, do the fundraising, oversee and restore the building.
The museum is popular with children and adults alike. One room is set up like a classroom with yearbooks and class photos dating back to the 1930s. Kids may write on slate boards, sit in old desks and type on manual typewriters.
Three more rooms are dedicated to mining, farming, fashions, and social life. Highlights include historic wedding gowns, a Golden Eagle mounted in 1912, an extensive rock collection, and a variety of antiques from dolls to guns. The museum store sells books on railroading and area history.
Upstairs, visitors love the working model railroad. An HO scale model shows 130 miles of the Arkansas River Valley, from Leadville to the Royal Gorge. The Denver, South Park & Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande, and Colorado Midland railroads each came through Buena Vista and are each represented in the layout.
The museum is typically open from Memorial Day weekend through September an is located at 506 East Main, Buena Vista. 719-395-8458
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