Cortez, CO

I would get to Cortez periodically when I lived near Hesperus, and I recently made a trip back in August of 2020. Cortez is located at the intersection of US Highways 491 and 160, and with the exception of Towaoc (the capital of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation), it is the southwestern-most town in Colorado. Cortez was founded in the late 1880s as a supply center for the Montezuma Valley Water Supply Co., which was constructing waterworks in the Montezuma Valley. The town has had its ups and downs over the years, but today is a thriving commercial center serving both local ranchers and farmers and lots of tourists who come to immerse themselves in Native American culture, both past and present. If your thing is Ancestral Puebloan (formerly Anasazi) Culture, there is Mesa Verde to the east, Canyons of the Ancients to the north, and Hovenweep to the west, all within 20 to 40 miles of Cortez. For those with more modern interests there is the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, Navajo Reservation and Monument Valley, and Four Corners, all within easy driving distance.

Colorado Welcome Center

Colorado Welcome Center

"Sky Prowler" by Karen Kristin
Pumas on Parade

Veterans Park next to the Welcome Center

Main Street, USA

There's no telling how many towns in the U.S. have a Main Street, and Cortez is no exception. Main Street (aka U.S. Hwy 160) runs east-west almost through the center of town, dividing cross streets into north and south. Market Street, running north-south, divides cross streets into east and west. The town originally grew around the intersection of Main and Market Streets, and I found the buildings in this area to be the most interesting. Big box stores and more modern buildings have pushed urban sprawl mostly to the east. I took all of the photos in this section on my visit to Cortez in August, 2020.

Allen Fiesta Cinema
21 W. Main St.

Once Upon a Sandwich
7 W. Main St.

flatbelly organics Health Food Store
Corner of Main and Market Streets

Moose & More Ice Cream
12 E. Main St.

Main Street Brewery and Restaurant
21 E. Main St.

Sidewalk and Shops
North side of Main Street

View East along Main Street

There are several buildings of historal importance in Cortez, and more being identified each year. Two of the most outstanding examples of Cortez historic buildings, in my view, are the Stone Block Building (aka Wilson Building) and the Montezuma National Bank Building.
Construction of the Stone Block Building was started in 1889 by the Baxtrom Brothers and was completed in the early 1890s. It was built of sandstone quarried in Hartman Draw west of Cortez. The building caught fire in 1907 and part of the wooden balustrade across the top was burned. The owners at the time (the Guillet brothers) saved the remainder of the building by covering wooden portions with water soaked Navajo blankets, or so the story goes. The Wilson family started a pharmacy and soda fountain in the building during the 1930's, and purchased it following WWII.
The Montezuma Valley National Bank was constructed in 1908. This structure was also constructed by the Baxstrom brothers from sandstone quarried in Hartman Draw. The building is currently the home of the KSJD Sunflower Theater.

Stone Block (Wilson) Building 1889

Montezuma National Bank Building 1908
Now KSJD Sunflower Theater

Other Establishments

This section includes photos of a random assortment of businesses in and around Cortez. I have patronized some of them over the years.

A sign of the Times
Buffalo Bob's - Going Out of Business

Antique Corral

Antique Buggy

Reflections in Metal

Some artwork

Cliffrose on Market

Retro Inn (at Mesa Verde)

Retro Inn room numbers run from 1950 to 1980 -
that's pretty retro

Cortez Cultural Center

The Cortez Cultural Center was founded in 1987 to preserve and promote Native American culture and art. The Center is housed in the historic E.R. Lamb bulding built in 1908. The main floor houses historical and archaeological exhibits and a gallery displaying works by local artists. A meeting room is located upstairs. The Cultural Center was closed because of COVID concerns when I was there.

E.R. Lamb and Co Building 1908
Now houses the Cortez Cultural Center


This fantastic mural on the side of the Cortez Cultural Center building was done by Buford Wayt at the age of 70.

It was my good fortune to watch some Ute Indian dancers perform at the Cortez Cultural Center when I visited in August of 2020. Each dancer did a different style dance, and the moderator told a couple of Ute Tribal stories. Very interesting.

Dance Plaza

Ute Indian dancer

Fancy Dancing

Ute Indian dancer

May be the Men's Chicken Dance Style

The Dancers

Murals of Cortez

Like most towns in Colorado (at least Western Colorado), Cortez has its share of wall murals, a few of which are pictured below. I saw some really neat murals the last time I was in Cortez (Aug 2020). Unfortunately I neglected to photograph any of them.

"Working for a Living"
by Brad Goodell and David Sipes

Don't know the title or artist (King?)

"The Old Spanish Trail circa 1840"

Part of the mural at the Cortez Cultural Center
by Buford Wayt

Four States Ag Expo

The Four States Ag Expo is held every year at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds about 5 miles east of Cortez. I have included this section here because of its close proximity to Cortez, even though its not strictly a Cortez function. (Also, I had no place else to put it). In addition to displays of agricultural equipment, there are vendors for all sorts of other ranching and farming products, local arts and crafts, livestock shows, rides involving tractors and various animals, and usually a rodeo. Photos are from 2007 to 2011. I sure miss going every year.


Study in Yellow

5-Wheel Hay Rake

Mini Excavator

They come in all sizes

They come in all sizes

Looking for a Fare

Tractors on Parade

A Man and his Oliver

People on Horses watching People on Horses

Ride 'em Cowboy

Ride's Over

Background information was obtained from the City of Cortez website and other online sources.
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