Located in Montrose, Colorado, the Museum of the Mountain West is a nonprofit museum dedicated to preserving the history, culture, and memorabilia of the American Rocky Mountains, with a particular focus on pioneer culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Museum of the Mountain West is the vision of Richard Fike, whose lifelong love of memorabilia connected to the American West began at the age of four years old.
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By the age of eight, Fike had begun displaying his memorabilia as a museum collection within his family home’s guest room, and by the age of 12, he had started a card catalog for his collection of Western-themed artifacts. Throughout his career as a historical archaeologist, Fike served as state archaeologist under the Colorado and Utah Bureaus of Land Management and represented both states as part of the Federal and State Registers of Historic Places. Together with his wife, Carol Harris-Fike, a retired Colorado public school administrator, he opened the Museum of the Mountain West in 1997 as a means of preserving the history and culture of the American West, with a particular focus on the Rocky Mountains area and pioneer culture between 1880 and 1930. In 2005, the Museum of the Mountain West was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with all museum buildings permanently preserved as nonprofit donations.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
Today, the Museum of the Mountain West is owned and operated by Fike, who serves as Museum Director, and Harris-Fike, who oversees the museum’s educational programming, grant writing, and docent training and serves as principal composer for the museum’s displays. More than 500,000 artifacts of the Old American West are displayed, including artifacts linked to railroad, automobile, and agricultural technologies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as social and cultural memorabilia and ephemera connected to Old West towns. A museum gift shop, opened in 2006, also sells artwork, memorabilia, and Old West-themed souvenirs.
A variety of typical Old West business and residence areas have been recreated within the museum complex, housed within a 10,000-square-foot main building adjacent to a mock town setting. Business include the Furman’s Drug Store and Pharmacy, Schmidt’s Cash Store, and Holland’s Dry Goods general storefronts, which are stocked with period-appropriate goods, cash registers, and wall displays. A Miner’s Delight Saloon evokes a turn-of-the-century bar atmosphere, and the Stott Hotel and Saloon features a wooden bar recovered from an 1890 saloon in Telluride. A recovered 1882 Montrose Railroad Depot contains an antique stove, bedroom areas for workers, and a display of lobby posters from every film produced in Colorado during the 20th century. The Portland Residence showcases a typical Old West pioneer house, and the Olathe Section House reconstructs a railroad section house also used as a post office. The Jutten School House and Teacherage, constructed in 1889, has been relocated from a location along United States Highway 50, displaying a one-room schoolhouse equipped for 23 students and teacher’s living quarters. Other reconstructed buildings include 1885 and 1944 Dental Offices, a Doctor’s Office, a 1913 German Lutheran Church, a Carriage Works, and a Tonsorial Parlor.
Ongoing Programs and Education
All visitors to the Museum of the Mountain West receive two-hour guided tours by museum docents, elaborating on the history and cultural significance of each building and sharing anecdotes about life in the pioneer days of Western Colorado. Group tours for 15 or more visitors may be scheduled by contacting the museum in advance via phone or email. Educational tours are also offered for elementary and secondary student groups of 10 or more students, incorporating Colorado curriculum standards into tour discussions.
Museum volunteers are accepted on an ongoing basis, serving as tour docents, greeters, and maintenance and restoration workers. In addition to gift shop sales, the museum also maintains an online eBay store, offering artifacts dating between 1880 and 1930. The museum’s German Lutheran Church building may be rented for private special events, including weddings, banquets, concerts, and business seminars, with a bridal room in the church’s basement offered for wedding preparations.
The museum’s annual Tribute to Western Movie Days event pays tribute to feature films shot in Colorado, featuring appearances by industry stunt workers and Old West historians and authors such as Chris Enss. Gunfight reenactments are presented, and performers dressed in period attire stroll the museum’s grounds, creating an authentic turn-of-the-century experience for visitors. Crafting and trade demonstrations are offered, including blacksmithing, candlemaking, cooking, and spinning demonstrations. Craft vendors sell Western-themed goods and artwork, and children’s activities and live music performances are featured.
68169 Miami Rd, Montrose, CO 81401, Phone: 970-240-3400