The Otero Museum Complex is located at 3rd and Anderson, La Junta, CO, 81050. There is no admission charge to the Museum but donations are appreciated. The Museum operates on donations and dues from members. Hours are daily, except Sunday, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, June 1 through September 30. For information on group and individual tours during off hours, phone to make arrangements, 719-384-7406 or 719-384-7500.
Since opening in 1984, the Otero Museum has acquired an extensive collection of exhibits, pictures and artifacts which tell the history of La Junta, Otero County and the surrounding area. Step back in time to Grandpa's Day, visit the Otero Museum. In 1875, a small tent city, a depot and a warehouse made up the settlement of Manzanares, Colorado Territory, a railroad camp on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1876, the Territory became a State and the settlement was renamed Otero, after the leading citizen and businessman, Don Miguel Antonio Otero.
When the Santa Fe Railroad reached Otero, they called their station La Junta, Spanish words meaning, "The Junction," and the name was adopted for the growing community. After years of dreaming and planning by the Otero County Historical Society and others, a Museum Complex became reality when the Urban Renewal Authority cleared old houses from a block bounded by Second, Third and Anderson streets. They sold the land and one remaining house to the newly formed Museum Association. The land was divided into a North and South Complex, separated by an alley.
Known as the Sciumbato Store and Dwelling, the remaining house, was listed on the National Registry of Historical sites. It had served as a neighborhood grocery for almost 70 years. Sciumbato store became the nucleus of the Otero Museum and was named after the first businessman of the town. In the upstairs 1890s bedroom, there are various articles of clothing of interest, including wedding dresses of the early 1900s and a flapper dress of the 1920s. The grocery store has been restocked as it might have been and the kitchen next to it, reveals articles used during the 1920s.
The U. L. Hiatt Building is where the museum entrance is located. Here you will find, the Fine Art League Loft, the reproduction of a 1920s Filling Station, complete with gasoline pumps and a vintage 1927 Star touring car. The Star touring car was built by the Antique and Classic Car Club. The members rotate a restored Auto from days gone by. Other displays in the Hiatt Building are restored tractors, a 1880s type reaper and the first 1954 Fire Engine purchased by the Rural Fire Department, after it was formed in 1953. See mementos of the Civil War and the two World Wars, railroad memorabilia, chinaware, mustache cups, and much, much more.
The Implement Shed is their latest addition, housing farm machinery, wagons and related items. Also, nearby is the small switch engine used at the Army Air Base near La Junta in the 1940s. As you cross the alley to the northern portion of the complex, stop at the working, fully restored 1903 Windmill. Next to it is the early 1900s Blacksmith shop, complete with forge and anvil. With a bit of imagination, you can readily see a freckle faced farm boy bringing in horses to be shod.
The H. L. & Louise Boyd Coach House contains the original Concord Stage Coach 106, built in Concord, New Hampshire in 1865. It saw service between Atchison, Kansas and Denver until the railroad put it out of business. It was then used in other areas to mining camps around Leadville. Also in the Boyd building, you will see one of the first cars in La Junta, a 1905 Reo "side winder," a 1916 chuck wagon, an early 1900s surrey with the fringe on top, collections of barbed wire and arrowheads, along with tools used in ranching and farming. Be sure to note the ox shoes and early day saddles, including one used by one of Pancho Villa's generals in the 1916 war with Mexico. There is also a small collection of guns of the type used on the frontier.
Across from the Boyd Coach House, be sure to stop in at the log cabin school. It is a replica of the 1876 first school in Otero, using some of the original logs and plans.
The Wickham Boarding House, the last but certainly not least of the Museum buildings, is also furnished with 1890s artifacts. It has the distinction of being the first frame dwelling in La Junta. Originally built in Granada, CO, as a boarding house for railroad workers, it was moved to La Junta on a flat car in December of 1875. The operator of the house, a Mrs. Nancy Wickham, served many meals to railroad workers while the house was located on what was to become the "Wickham Addition." It was moved from its site north of the railroad to the Museum complex in 1984.