Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pushing a different kind of paper


I'm a printmaker, so I like paper, but this week I'm shuffling pages of a different sort.

It's time for another round of wayside panels for the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway and Chaffee County Heritage Area, and I've been tapped to do the research and writing. It's keeping me away from the print bench just now, but it's still fun to work on. I've decimated our library's local history section and I've been rooting through historic photo archives. At this point I'm mostly gathering notes and looking for interesting stories that address the project's themes.

Before work began this morning I took a short hike up the "Frontside," a trail that zigzags up the face of Tenderfoot Hill overlooking town. I'm still getting to know my new phone/camera, so I snapped a couple of images, including this one.

Salida in the morning. If you knew where to look, you could find our house.

I had a good chuckle when I got home and settled down to my research... and came across this image of our town sometime in the first 10 years of its existence. (Between 1880-1890, from the Salida Centennial Collection at the Salida Regional Library.) It's not from exactly the same spot, but if you find the diagonal of the old Monarch Spur line (center above and far right below) you can probably line things up in your head.

Salida before 1890. Salida Centennial Collection photo, Salida Regional Library archives.

Salida was, quite literally, born of the railroad. The town was platted by the Denver & Rio Grande when it laid rails to service gold and silver mines. The empty, scraped-looking section you see in the foreground of the contemporary photo once held a depot, roundhouse, and many, many rails... some of which are visible in the historic image.

The work I do as an artist is rooted in my place, but I tend to focus more on the natural history than the cultural history of my home. Projects like this one help me to remember that people are part of my landscape as much as the river and peaks. Does this mean I'm going to start doing work about trains? Probably not. The trains stopped running a few years before I moved here. But the rails are still here, slowly disappearing under dust and shrubs.

Dust and shrubs, you say? Hmmm... I wonder....

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