by Carolyn Newman
HUERFANO- The large brick power plant just on the west edge of Walsenburg has long been a symbol of the coal-mining history of Huerfano County. Now this symbol has been named to the Most Endangered Places of Colorado list by Colorado Preservation Inc.
John Carlson of the Huerfano County Historical Society nominated the three-story building with its decorative brickwork for its history and was one of only four placed on the endangered list this year. He and seven other county residents are in Denver this week to attend the CPI conference and for the announcement luncheon. CBS Channel 4 and various media will feature the designated sites today (Thursday).
At least 80 coal miners lost their lives in the 157 miles of underground mining tunnels of the Walsen/Robinson mining complex under the power plant. And the plant is in the midst of 30 miles of a coal seam- 15 miles lie south and 15 miles lie north. It′s a reminder of the some 32 nationalities who worked in the various county mines.
A smaller power plant was built in 1898 on the site and in about 1911 the present bigger plant came into being to furnish power not only to the mining operations but also to the 200 homes clustered around the mines. Electric power went to La Veta at one time too from this plant and to rural areas. Then in 1955 Frontier Power sold the building to the city of Walsenburg to supply the city′s needs. Finally it shut down in 1978 when San Isabel purchased it; San Isabel supplying power was actually cheaper than Walsenburg generating its own.
Today only a pair of horned owls frequent the upstairs near the hoist certified to lift 20 tons. Owners Nick and Guillermo Sanchez have the building for sale. CPI consultants will be working to help determine how to preserve this historic structure so that there is another chapter in its history..