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History was a liability, and so was torn down

by Carolyn Newman

This grand old Walsenburg home was torn down in 1970. The decision was made by city council in spite of the objections of the historical society.

WALSENBURG — Tears and anger marked the city council’s decision to raze an historic Walsenburg home.

The council had the final say in 1970 concerning the house on West Seventh (now in the area of the swimming pool park). The very next morning after the council vote, the house went down.

“Reduced to splinters were at least six solid hand carved walnut door frames, ” wrote reporter Lucille Crisp in a Pueblo Chieftain article.

The house, according to the Huerfano County Historical Society, was built during Colorado’s Territorial period (1861 – 1876) before Colorado had even become a state.

The Historical Society proposed to the city to take on the two-story house and convert it into a mining museum. Mayor Leo Maes and Councilmen William Card and Richard Falsetto were in favor of preserving the residence. But the majority of city council “decided history is a liability instead of an asset,” the article explained.

It wasn’t just the age of the house that made it historically fascinating.

It once was owned and lived in by Thomas Sproull (yes, the Sproull the Walsenburg street is named after), once the wealthiest man in Huerfano County although bankrupted twice by accidents. He bought the house about 1902 after first settling in the early settlement of Badito.

In early days, any man who could read and write would hold several county offices over his career, sometimes holding two at once, and using his own home as his office.

When Sproull lived at Badito along the Huerfano River, which was a major crossing of the river, he served as sheriff and assessor and later county commissioner. It was various other occupations later that brought him some money – raising fruit trees, cattle raising, farming, and then, as the county grew, he entered the real estate business.

All this was after traveling for some nine years, leaving his native Ohio (born there in 1934), to Kansas (1856) to Utah, to California and to Old Mexico, mainly as a freight teamster or wagon master and, at times, as a spy or scout.

Today Huerfano County appears to value its historic buildings, although many are already gone. Photos cannot bring a building to life, but they are treasured for the memories.

Information is from the Sept. 22, 1975, Pueblo Chieftain, and the June 12, 1902, Walsenburg World. The photo is from the Chieftain article,. The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society 719-738-2840.

The historical archives are open Wednesday and /Friday 2 to 5 pm and Thursdays 11 am to 3 pm. Volunteer workdays are Tuesdays at 10 am.

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