Historic Preservation Advisory Board Projects & County History

The OCHPAB advises and assists with preservation projects throughout the county. Learn more about a few of the ongoing projects we are working on.

Japanese American History of Otero County, Colorado

Phase II of the Project is Underway!

The Otero County Preservation Board continues its work to document and record the history of all residents of Otero County.  The Japanese American community identified Valleyview-Hillcrest Cemetery in Rocky Ford as significant to their history due to the large Japanese American section with graves dating as early as the late nineteenth century. The Cemetery was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A at the local level for its association with the ethnic history of Japanese Americans and Hispanics in Otero County and under Criterion C as a rural designed landscape.

The City of Rocky Ford gave permission for the Cemetery to be nominated to the National Register and the County received a History Colorado-State Historical Fund grant to research and prepare the National Register nomination, have the Kanji (Japanese writing) on headstones translated, and develop a series of “Untold Stories” documenting the lives, sacrifices and contributions of individuals buried in the Japanese-American section.  We hope this project will lay the groundwork for additional “Untold Stories” of others buried at the Cemetery.

In June 2022 Amy Konishi Dell and the County Preservation Officer gave a presentation on the Japanese American history of Otero County and the second phase of the project at the Rocky Ford Museum.  Additional presentations will be given as the project progresses.

If you have documentation related to the Cemetery or can share histories of someone buried at Valleyview-Hillcrest, please contact the OCHPAB through our county email at ochistoricpreservation@oterogov.org

Hirakata Farm, circa 1920

Entrance to Valley View Hillcrest Cemetary

Headstones surrounded by beautiful roses, green grass, and trees

Two headstones with Japanese writing and bright roses between them

Amy Konishi Dell giving presentation at the Rocky Ford museum

Japanese Americans in Otero County, Colorado: An Historic Context (OAHP DOC. NO. OT.LG.R4)

By: Natasha E Krasnow

With contributions by:

Michelle Slaughter

Kathleen Corbett, Ph.D., Corbett AHS, Inc.

and Rebecca Goodwin

April 23, 2019

Revised June 2019


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Rehabilitation of the Historic Masonic Lodge Building in La Junta

Phase I of the Historic Masonic Lodge Building Rehabilitation in La Junta Nears Completion!

Funded in part by History Colorado-State Historical Fund, this project addressed critical roof and parapet rehabilitation, drainage issues, and planning for future phases of rehabilitation, including interior work.  Work is over 90% completed, and depending on the weather, is expected to be completed by the end of February 2023.

The Masonic Lodge is the largest and most significant building in La Junta’s downtown and housed the Euclid Lodge of the fraternal order of Masons for over 80 years.  Constructed for $65,000 the building was dedicated on March 23, 1926.   The building is an exceptional example of the Neo-Classical style, and the interior is largely unaltered.

It was sold by the Masons in 2005 to a private owner who continued to commercially rent the first-floor spaces. The District Attorney (DA) for the 16th Judicial District offices moved into the second floor in 2010. The DA’s need for additional space combined with the owner’s need to sell provided Otero, Bent, and Crowley Counties the opportunity to purchase the building. 

The Preservation Board researched and nominated the Masonic Lodge to the County Historic Register under Criteria A for its association with the social history of the Masonic Order; Criteria C for its outstanding architectural prominence representing the Neo-Classical Style; and Criteria D for its geographic importance to Otero County and the City of La Junta. This first step opened the door for grants and the use of Colorado’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit for the rehabilitation of the building.

In late 2019 the Commissioners for the counties of Otero, Bent, and Crowley received a History Colorado-State Historical Fund grant to have a Historic Structure Assessment (HSA) of the building conducted by preservation architects from Form+Works Design Group.  This HSA identified needed rehabilitation work, priorities, and phasing options.  The roof and drainage systems were identified as the first priority for rehabilitation.

The Commissioners have partnered with Otero Partner’s Inc. which serves as the applicant for grants and preservation tax credits. OPI is a 501(c)3 established to encourage economic diversification, job creation, and business opportunities in Otero County and Las Animas Counties.  Otero County’s six municipalities, Otero County, and Las Animas County make up OPI’s membership.  OPI received State Historical Fund grants for roof rehabilitation and planning documents.

Colorado’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit is being utilized to leverage other funds for the rehabilitation of the building.  The Part 1 Colorado Preservation Tax Credit application to the State of Colorado has been submitted, approved, and tax credits reserved.  Once Phase I work is completed, the final paperwork will be submitted.  OPI already has a contract for the sale of the tax credits, and the funds received will be used as a cash match for future phases of rehabilitation.  This is a perfect example of how the counties are leveraging funds to provide improved services to residents and encourage economic development.

The preservation team for the Masonic Lodge is preparing a grant application for the next phase of rehabilitation, with the hope of starting in Fall 2023. 

If you have historic photographs or information on the Masonic Lodge Building, or events held there, please email the OCHPAB at ochistoricpreservation@oterocounty.gov 

Black and white photo of old Masonic Lodge

Pre-rehabilitation overall roof condition

Materials being lifted to roof in October 2022

Roof installation in progress

Manzanola United Methodist Church and The Dry African American Homestead Community

Manzanola United Methodist Church Receives National Black Churches grant and State Historical Fund grant for rehabilitation!

Congratulations to the Manzanola United Methodist Church (MUMC) on receiving two grants to begin the rehabilitation of this historic church.  On January 15, 2023, as the nation commemorated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund announced their first Black Churches grant recipients.  The MUMC was one of 35 churches nationwide to be awarded one of these grants, out of initial applications from 1278 churches. 

Earlier in January, the Church was notified they received a History Colorado-State Historical Fund grant.  These two grants will fund the first phase of the historic rehabilitation of the church which was listed on the Otero County Register of Historic Places in 2019.

Work during this phase will include architectural and engineer services/development of construction documents rehabilitation of exterior wood features, critical roof rehabilitation, and the first phase rehabilitation of stained glass windows.

In 1893, the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Catlin (later named Manzanola) was founded.  The small congregation first worshipped out of a local elementary school building before moving to their first church building in 1896. In 1908, the MUMC was completed at a cost of $9,000. The building’s construction and its subsequent history became closely intertwined with the African American community who moved to southeast Colorado, specifically an agricultural area south of Manzanola called “The Dry.”  Beginning in 1915, the first of approximately 50 families arrived at The Dry and attended the Church, vacation bible schools, and related events.  After the AME Church 20 in La Junta closed, the Manzanola Methodist Church became the heart of The Dry community, and the congregation grew over time. There were 38 members in 1898 and 332 by 1933. Although the challenges of the 1930s (the Dust Bowl and Depression) led many residents of The Dry to seek jobs with a railway or in cities, other families remained in the area and retained their homestead property.  Some families returned post-1960s and became majority members of the Church. These African American residents attended the Manzanola Methodist Church, which became their spiritual home, and increasingly the history of the Church and The Dry became intertwined.  Alice McDonald, daughter of Rolan Craig, is a descendent of one of the first congregant families of The Dry.  Today, Mrs. McDonald is the main contact and heartbeat of the African American community in Manzanola, which continues its stewardship of MUMC. 

Years of deterioration, however, have taken a toll on the building and the Church recently had to cease renting some of its spaces for community functions.  Following recommendations in a 2021 historic structure assessment, funded by the State Historical Fund, this project will address critical items such as temporary patching of the roof, and exterior rehabilitation of wood louvers at the southeast tower, wood shingles at projecting gables, wood beaded board, and wood brackets.  This project will preserve a rare and underrepresented resource and jumpstart its path to re-activating spaces for the community’s greater benefit.

If you have historic photographs of the MUMC you would be willing to share please contact us at ochistoricpreservation@oterogov.org

OCHPAB Educational Project - Otero County as Seen Through our Historic Places

The OCHPAB has applied for a grant from History Colorado through the Certified Local Government program.  Through this project, we will develop and provide a consumable workbook to every 3rd grader in Otero County, with an accompanying teaching resource manual, both aligned with the Colorado educational standards and goals. We are looking forward to helping students understand that our rural America is rich in historical locations that played an important part in the development of the west. It is anticipated the workbook will be approximately 45-50 pages and will help him or her understand that what they grew up with has value while planting the seeds of the benefits of historic preservation. This project will provide children with the opportunity to work like young historians and develop a real understanding of the nature of the subjects as a process of inquiry. 

Home on the Range: Podcasts

Take a driving tour and listen to local homesteaders, ranchers, and historians share about life in the Purgatoire River Region by listening to our podcasts below. The menu in the upper right corner of the screen lists nine episodes sure to delight and inform as they transport the listener to days gone by. 



Home on the Range: Brochures

Peruse these historically rich brochures for a fuller education on the Purgatoire River Valley and Comanche National Grassland.

  Driving Tour Brochure

  Homesteading Brochure


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Purgatoire River Region - Historic Context

Historic Context Study of the Purgatoire River Region

Project Director: Abbey Christman                    

Report Authors: Richard Carillo, Abbey Christman, Kathleen Corbett, Lindsay Joyner, and Jonathon Rusch

Report Layout: Michelle Chichester

Research Assistance: Michelle Chichester, Emily Noggle, and Lauren Trice

Colorado Preservationist - The Colorado Preservation Journal