News of the “World’s Largest Mural” being destroyed caught our attention, especially since it is in Denver’s backyard. Fear of missing out on seeing such unique art prompted a road trip south to a place we usually we speed through on our way to glamorous Santa Fe or Taos. Pueblo is surrounded by miles of parched rangeland and gritty, there’s never been much appealing to divert us from I-25. Much to our surprise, we found Pueblo full of character and a place we want to visit again soon.
We took a long loop walk starting at Union Depot, down Union Ave to Riverwalk and then along the Arkansas River mural trail. Here are the highlights: Pueblo Railway Museum: On our visit, super friendly volunteers were on hand to give train rides, serve food in the Diner Car and cajole us with stories. If closed, you can still walk around the gigantic black steam engine and the rail car collection. There are seasonal train-oriented activities. Union Depot: Privately owned, hours vary. Impressive red sandstone graced by fanciful black ironworks outside; inside is richly covered by sculpted wood paneling and stained glass. A saucy display celebrating Pueblo’s Brothels was fun. A fully nude “Diana” sculpture out front celebrates Pueblo’s Mexican Sister Cities; I cannot think of a similar female figure in all of Denver. Perhaps Pueblo is less prudish than big city Denver?! Across the street from the station is a whimsical neon alley art project. Union Ave, Historic District: Lots of historic buildings with decorative features – be sure to look up! The Schlitz Building at 223 Union was a favorite. Shops, cafes, flowers and a great mural make this a pleasant stroll from Union Station to the Riverwalk. This is also part of the “Pueblo Creative Corridor”, one of only 12 Colorado Certified Creative Districts. Pueblo Riverwalk: A pleasant place to stroll, but don’t expect a San Antonio style experience. Seasonal boat rides. Using one’s imagination, the potential is great. From the Riverwalk we walk past the grand old Vail Hotel a remnant of Pueblo’s exuberant and prosperous past. Closed to the public, peek inside the grand lobby and side room full of stained glass windows. Sadly, many stretches along the way are vacant lots and dilapidated buildings, signs of a community that has lagged behind the economic boom in Metro Denver. Despite this, we felt safe as we strolled along. Gray’s Coors Tavern: Along 4th Street we head here for one of the best “Pueblo sloppers” in town. Gray’s is casual fun for everyone with walls covered in memorabilia. Friendly staff. Be sure to order a schooner with your slopper- a perfect match! Re-energized by our slopper gut-bomb, we continue our grand loop walking tour along 4th Street, and over the 4th St bridge where we finally catch glimpses of the mural… Murals: Faded with time, the massive murals line a two mile long segment of levees along the Arkansas River. Some are simplistic, others are exuberant and sophisticated. A tribute to Bob Marley is joyous and you can just hear the reggae beat! The murals are a community art project inspired by students in the 1970s. The murals will be destroyed when the levees are rebuilt; will Pueblo rally once again and bring life to vast empty concrete? We hope so. (Demolition began in February 2015.) Arkansas River Trail: A nice wide paved trail follows the river, making us wish we had our bikes to see more murals. Along the way, there is an impressive set of Kayak falls, fun for watching. It is about ¼ mile from 4th St Bridge to the next bridge at Union Ave where a winding narrow stair brings you up to Union Ave and a short walk back to Union Depot. Pueblo. Humble. Solid. Proud. Friendly. With a rich and storied history storied Pueblo has much to offer those who stop and take a look. Fun facts: Pueblo was preceded by El Pueblo, an adobe trading post/ settlement built in 1842. Pueblo was officially founded in 1870. Pueblo sits at a former international border! Way back in the 1700s, the Arkansas River marked the border between Mexico and New Spain and The French Territory; later it was the border between the US , Mexico and The Republic of Texas. This unique distinction is marked by a Riverwalk bridge sign. Pueblo was once known as the “Pittsburgh of the West” and “Steel City” thanks to being a major producer of steel and iron. To learn more about Pueblo’s history, including the devastating flood of 1921: http://pueblo.org/history Next time, we’ll visit: Steelworks Museum Rosemount Mansion Museum Sangre De Cristo Arts Center El Pueblo Museum