A glimpse at the start of a town

Survey of original Cortez townsite reveals fascinating history

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Jill Seyfarth presents her findings on the history of 41 houses along Montezuma Avenue.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$ Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Jill Seyfarth presents her findings on the history of 41 houses along Montezuma Avenue.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

The Cortez Historic Preservation Week gave residents a glimpse of the 41 historic buildings on Montezuma Avenue in Cortez.

Jill Seyfarth, a historian and architect out of Durango and owner of Cultural Resources Planning, was hired through a $21,000 grant to find buildings on Montezuma Avenue that were at least 50 years old, and on Tuesday she gave a little bit of history on some of these homes.

Seyfarth said she uses walking tours, public records, interviews, newspaper clippings, books, anthologies, photographs, mappings and observations to research historic homes that must have been built no later than 1962.

In Seyfarth’s presentation, she said the date for the original townsite plat is Dec. 15, 1886, adding that Montezuma Avenue was a big focal point at that time.

The oldest building Seyfarth researched on Montezuma Avenue was the old school building at 23 E. Montezuma Ave, which was built in 1890 and used as a school site for almost 30 years before being sold to Robert Wright for $13,000 who remodeled the school to make it into a house.

The second oldest building on Montezuma Avenue, she said, was the Soen’s House at 147 E. Montezuma Ave. This home was built in 1894.

Seyfarth also spoke about home builder Tom Omo who built at least five of the 41 historical buildings, including his own at 116 E. Montezuma Ave.

Seyfarth also touched on different styles of homes that dot up and down Montezuma Avenue, including ranch style, Victorian, bungalow and Pueblo revival style homes.

Seyfarth, in her slide presentation, showed two Pueblo style homes with one being built in 1938 and the other one being completed between 1946 and 1948.

These homes had flat roofs and massive stucco of the walls and were popular among the Pueblo population, she said.

She said the historical preservation could create a historical district in some form if this was an interest and also said these homes could be placed on the city’s historical list.

Seyfarth also has been given another $21,000 from grant funds to complete Phase 2 of the project where buildings that were not looked at in Phase 1 would be incorporated into the second phase.

She said her presentation was meant to give a small snapshot of the rich history of Montezuma County.

Linda Towle, historic preservation consultant, mentioned Saturday’s walking tour that will showcase some of these 41 historic sites.

Reach Michael Maresh at michaelm@cortezjournal.com