Preserve the Courthouse!

They need your help!

It is an exciting time for Buena Vista Heritage and they want you to be part of it!
They are undertaking a massive rehabilitation of the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, which was the Chaffee County Courthouse from 1992 to 1928. This treasure of our heritage and majestic landmark of our town needs to be cared for so that it can stand tall and safe for another hundred years.

They are in the process of completing a needs assessment study done by an independent preservation architectural firm that is partially funded by the Colorado State Historic Fund. This study is to inform us of all that needs to be done… and it is plenty. They expect a significant amount of money will be required based on conversations with state and local local experts. There are grants we will be pursuing, but we will need financial support from our community as well. Typically, grants require us (all of us) to raise matching funds. All donations are tax deductible.

Buena Vista Heritage has three historic properties in town. The Heritage Museum (old court house); the Turner Farm; and The Depot. The Depot is completed and the house of the Turner Farm needs to be finished, but the courthouse needs a lot of TLC (tender loving care). All of these properties are used as museum and the organization provides a number of events and event venues for Buena Vista. As they are finished, even more possibilities for their use will be available in Buena Vista.

Feel free to contact them at buenavistaheritage@msn.com. They need your support – financial, membership, and ideas. As they move forward in this time of change for Colorado and Buena VIsta, they want to make sure they preserve the stories and architecture of our past that began our journey in time. They invite you to participate in this effort. — Buena Vista Heritage Board of Directors.

Story of the Old Courthouse

The Old Chaffee County Courthouse, completed in 1882, now houses the Buena Vista Heritage Museum. Granite, Colorado, was the original site of the first courthouse when Chaffee County was split from Lake County in 1879.

Buena Vistans voted to make their town the county seat, but Granite refused to give up the records. So a group of men led by Ernest Wilbur “borrowed” a locomotive and flat car and went up to Granite late on the night of November 12, 1880. The men built a siding to the Granite Courthouse and kicked in the door.

Sheriff John Mear and his wife investigated the noise and were forced at gunpoint to watch the removal of all the county records by the Buena Vista men. Furniture was unbolted from the floor, including the railing. Even the heat stove, with embers remaining in it from the day’s use, was loaded onto the flatcar.

There was no courthouse in Buena Vista at the time, so the records were stored in several business safes and in a stable until the new courthouse and jail complex were built.

The cornerstone was laid on June 8, 1882 with full Masonic honors by Mayor Judson E. Cole. Governor Pitkin and Denver Mayor Morris attended the ceremony. “The construction of a new courthouse and jail proceeded over the next two years, with numerous delays and changes. At one time plans were halted until the $5,000 pledged by the Buena Vista Land Company were paid over to the county. Cost overruns were encountered, and the contractor was permitted to use brick rather than stone owing to the ready availablility of brick, the scarcity of building stone, and a saving of $3,020. Finally, on January 5, 1883, a balance of $75.66 was paid to the contractor on the completed jail, and on April 12, 1883, the contractor, having completed construction of the court house, a resolution was adopted accepting the building and ordering payment of the final $1,058 due on the project.” (Taken from a History of Chaffee County.)

The Chaffee County Courthouse was used as a courthouse from 1882 to 1932 and from 1936 to 1972 as a school. In 1974 the School District sold the building to the Town of Buena Vista for $1.00. The building became the home of the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, the Chaffee County Council of the Arts and the Buena Vista Model Railroad Society display. In 2003, the Buena Vista population voted to sell the Courthouse to Buena Vista Heritage, also for $1.00.

Ways to Help

There are several ways to help out with this amazing organization! Here are just a couple:

Colorado Gives Day is on December 6, 2016. 

Join Buena Vista Heritage as a member.

Volunteer with Buena Vista Heritage. They’re always looking for help!