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Downtown Pagosa takes shape

The first library in Archuleta County was described this way in a December 1892 article in the Pagosa Springs News: “At the Sunday school lesson next Sunday the new library books will be given out as needed. These books are 48 in number and are the gift of a wealthy Methodist man who lives in New York City. This is the first library in the county. If the officers of the Sunday schools on the Navajo and Blanco would like, Rev. Harpst will aid them in securing a like gift, according to the number of scholars.”

The first library was set up in the town hall building located on the river bank at the intersection of San Juan and Pagosa streets.

Oldtimers said that building was left over from Fort Lewis, where it was used as a bakery. After the fort moved west to Hesperus, the building was used as a bar, a meat market, and maybe for other purposes before the town took over. For many years the building with its bell tower was a fixture enjoyed by many travelers using U. S. 160. The highway was known once upon a time as the Old Navajo Trail.

Town Hall had a bell tower because it also housed the town’s first fire station.

I don’t know much about the Harpst family. The oldtimers I knew never talked about them. I know one of them was known as Rev. Harpst and I think there were others running a sawmill. In any case, there were no church buildings in Pagosa Springs in 1892. Church people met in school buildings.

1893 was a year of progress and building in Pagosa Springs. The county commissioners ordered, “the old barracks in this town destroyed. It would be more convenient for those occupying these buildings if it were summer rather than winter. Nevertheless, these breeders of disease cannot be destroyed too soon.”

The county health officer helped with this order by declaring the old fort buildings a source of disease and filth. Until they were destroyed, the barracks were used from time to time as temporary abodes by newcomers.

The buildings in question consisted of ten log enlisted men’s barracks and four log officer’s quarters. Five of the enlisted barracks sort of paralleled Pagosa Street and the other five paralleled the first five but ran along Lewis Street.

The officer’s quarters stretched across the north between the two rows of enlisted barracks. The whole effect formed a “U” shape. The flagpole stood at the open end of the “U” and drilling took place between the rows of enlisted barracks.

Two of the enlisted barracks were reassembled to create the Latham Hotel run by Ma and Pa Latham. Their son, Denver Latham is a story all by himself, but we won’t go there now. Suffice it to say, he had a reputation as a gunman involved in sheepman/cattleman conflicts in Arizona.

Dr. Newton Hover, formerly of Pagosa Springs but living in Lima, Ohio, in January of 1893, donated a building lot located on Lewis Street to the Methodist Episcopal Church. A drive to raise funds to construct a church building was already under way. The location is the same as the present church, but the original church built in 1898 burned.

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