Smokestack Centennial Celebration -- Aug. 26

10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Sat., Aug. 26 SMOKESTACK CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION

The 100th anniversary of Chaffee County’s tallest historic landmark, the 365-foot-high Smeltertown Smokestack near Salida, will be celebrated Saturday, August 26.

The date was set by the Board of Chaffee County Commissioners in a recent proclamation which cites the history of mining and volunteer efforts that continue to preserve the structure as a part of our local and national heritage.

Accordingly, the Salida Museum has scheduled a centennial birthday celebration for 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Saturday, August 26, under a large tent at the base of the smokestack. The public is invited.

There will be speeches, birthday cake, hands-on displays of mineral and mining artifacts and live video from drone flights to the top of the stack operated by members of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) class at Salida High School. Class members accomplished their maiden flight at the smokestack in July and posted a video of it on the Museum YouTube channel.

Author and working historian Robert Autobee will deliver the keynote address: “Standing for Salida—The Salida Smokestack’s First Hundred Years.” Autobee’s book Highways to the Sky: A Context and History of Colorado’s Highway System, is a useful guide to identifying the state’s historic highway and roadside features.

The Smelter Smokestack is located 3/10 of a mile from the intersection of CO 291 and CR 151, which is one mile north of Salida. Parking for the celebration will be allowed along CR 152 next to the stack.

The celebration continues from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. during a fundraiser for Salida Museum at Elevation Beer’s tasting room located at 115 Pahlone Parkway in Poncha Springs. A special smokestack celebration brew will be on tap and there will be trivia questions with a chance to win some fun museum prizes.

The Ohio and Colorado Smelter Smokestack, Chaffee County’s most prominent historic landmark, was part of a large industrial complex served by the railroad and manned by hundreds of workers who lived nearby in the company town of Kortz, today called Smeltertown. It was said to be the tallest man-made structure west of the Mississippi River when it was topped off November 14, 1917. Supported by a 30-foot-deep concrete base embedded with steel railroad ties, the free-standing, masonry chimney took less than five months to build using 264 train carloads of brick and mortar.

The Ohio and Colorado Smelting and Refining Company began operations here in 1902. The big stack was the last of several to be built ever higher to dispose of noxious smelter gas. It quit smoking after three years when the entire complex shut down in 1920.

By 1974 it was scheduled for demolition, but rescued at the last minute by citizens organized as the Save-Our-Stack committee and deeded to the nonprofit Salida Museum Association. In 1976, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, representing virtually all that was left of the smelter, which had been a major contributor to Salida’s early industrial economy.

The celebration is supported by the Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board, the Columbine Gem and Mineral Society and Elevation Beer Company of Poncha Springs.

For more information, go to salidamuseum.org, or the museum’s Facebook page, or call the museum at 719-539-7483.

--end— August 5, 2017

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