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Historical Walking Tour - Notorious Blair Street, Silverton, Colo.

All content © San Juan Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Historical descriptions excerpted from the print version of  Silverton Magazine, and the historical tour authored by Allen Nossaman. Edited by Silverton Magazine Editors.  Duotones, James Burke. ALL material herein is copyright San Juan Publishing Group, Inc and may not be reproduced by any  means whatsoever. For the complete historical walking tour, order a copy of the print version of Silverton Magazine from San Juan Publishing Group, Inc., PO Box 705, Ridgway CO 81432. (Email:

West side of Blair
1257 Blair. (Villa Dallavalle Inn) John and Domenica Dallavalle set about improving a smaller frame building on this site, finishing in 1901. The resulting two-story structure was the first substantial building on Blair Street, and housed a saloon and a boardinghouse for years. (The stone was laid by unemployed Tyrolian stone masons from rock quarried near the mouth of Cement Creek, north of town.) In more recent times, Mary Swanson (John and Domenica Dallavalle’s daughter) and her son Gerald operated Swanson’s Market in these quarters. (The corner lot where Swanee’s Sluice now stands was occupied by the Piemonte Saloon and Boarding House torn down in 1944. It was a favorite boardinghouse for miners, and at times also housed prostitutes.)

1251 Blair. (The Hummingbird Shop) This intriguing one-story stone building (known as the Stone Saloon) was erected by Joe Todeschi as a residence in May 1896, but was converted to incorporate a saloon by Joe’s brother Tony after the former’s death a year later. The structure was aesthetically linked to the Dallavalle building to the north after the latter’s construction in 1902. (The building was used as a crib by several women, including “Black Minnie” Heberline. She was white but her disposition was black.)

1245 Blair. (vacant) This structure is all that remains of Silverton’s original City Hall. The building was completed in the summer of 1883, and contained municipal offices on the now-missing second floor and a firehouse on the surviving ground level. The jail was a separate building in the rear. The front of the hall, as built, was very ornate, and the upstairs rooms were frequently used for dancing classes. All of these functions were replaced with the present Town hall in 1908.

1215 Blair. (The Lookout Shop) Site of the former Mikado Saloon and Bordello, established by “21” Pearl Thompson, and later operated by “Big Billie” and her girls, including Ollie Kelly and “Babe,” or “Blonde Peggy.” It burned down in 1954. The two lots to the north were used by the Exchange Livery as a corral for their horses.

1205 Blair. (High Noon, on the corner) In the 1880s, this lot was the site of the Westminster Dance Hall, converted in the 1920s to an infamous gambling establishment and brothel, known as The Laundry (so-named because it "cleaned" the patrons, stripping them of their ready cash.

1159-1161 Blair. (Natalia’s/ Butterly Creations on 12th St. corner)
The oldest portion of this composite structure (the left-hand section) was built in 1883 and was soon known as the infamous 557, one of the first dens of iniquity on Blair Street. It was enlarged in 1886, and the ornate right-hand segment was built around 1909. The building was most widely known as Matties’ Place, or the Welcome Saloon from a sign in the window. The ground floor has been a movie theater and a restaurant, in addition to its most durable service as a saloon.

Old Town Square

These are some of the oldest buildings in San Juan County  —several of them were moved here from Eureka and Howardsville.

1115 Blair. (Professor Shutterbug’s) The front portion of this building contained the oldest bordello on Blair Street.
The back portion was moved  to here in the 1960s from Middleton, a ghost town between Howardsville and Eureka. The cabin to the north of Professor Shutterbug’s is the original San Juan County courthouse, and used to be located in Howardsville. It was the first courthouse to be built in western Colorado. The two small cabins sandwiched  behind the newly constructed Emporium building, and in front of the public rest  rooms, were originally miners’ cabins in Eureka. They still contain the original newspaper insulation of over 100 years ago.

144 E. 10th. (Avon Hotel) Prolific Silverton contractor F.O. Sherwood erected this brick building in 1904, and the massive structure was designed to house Sherwood & Son’s grocery, stove, and tinware business, a rooming and boardinghouse run by son Willis’s spouse, and living quarters for the family. The building’s cornice was simplified after the structure survived a major fire, and it has served as a rooming house, hotel, bar, and restaurant in recent years. Today it is home to Silverto's Mountain Studies Institute.

East side of Blair
220 E. 10th. (Alma House/Inn of the Rockies) Bridget Hughes had opened a lodging establishment introducing the name Alma House in a frame building on this corner, oriented to the traffic to and from the railroad depot. Prosperity around the turn of the last century allowed her to erect this structure in 1902, using native stone from the Cement Creek drainage on the first floor and frame construction on the second floor and attic. Empty for years, the building has recently been restored to lodging purposes.

11th & Blair
1114 Blair. (The Bent Elbow) Erected in the fall of 1907, this building was originally known as the Florence Saloon, for the Italian derivation of its builders. It was operated as such until 1918. It was operated as the Monte Carlo Mercantile during the 1950s and 1960s, but became The Bent Elbow when the original restaurant and bar of that name next door to the north burned to the ground in a mid-winter 1968 fire.

1154 Blair. (Shady Lady) Only the front half of this structure is original to Blair Street and is a classic example of the crib. Likely built in the late 1890s, the premises were occupied by “Mamie Murphy” and “Kate Starr” for many years, but the best-remembered madam was “Jew Fanny,” considered a good friend by Silvertonians from all walks of life. The rear of this conglomeration is a transplanted building which was originally the Silverton section house for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

1202 Blair. (Old Arcade)
One of the newer buildings on Blair Street, this structure was erected on the site of three small cribs in 1929 and has been at various times a pool hall, a saloon, and a gambling house.

1234 Blair. (Hitchin’ Post) Dating from around 1906, this building  was originally the Monte Carlo Saloon and a boardinghouse. At different times, the buildings here housed a gambling hall, part of a livery, and a chili parlour popular among the frequenters of Blair Street, where men seldom slept or took time to get a square meal.

1246 Blair. (Silverton Public Lands Center)This building, erected in 1906, was once a combination residence, grocery, and shoe store, and was most noted as the emporium of Barney Tocco. Three cows, producing milk sold in the store, were kept in the barn in back. The barn still has evidence of the still operated there during Prohibition. The structure, and the smaller shop to the north, have typical false fronts attractive to motion picture companies on Blair St. during the 1950s.

1250 Blair. (vacant) When originally built in 1899 as the Belleview, the first floor of this building was a saloon, and the second floor, accessible from an outside staircase, was a rooming house for the miners. During the Prohibition era, a still was located in a cabin out back, and the products reportedly stored behind a false wall in the basement. Adjacent, the Old Town Jail.  Not the oldest jail in the community, this wooden version was the first substantial calaboose built by the Town of Silverton. Completed in 1883, it then stood behind the old City Hall on Blair Street.

Duotones ©James Burke for San Juan Publishing.

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