Rifle Creek Museum: A walk through Rifle’s past
When is visiting a museum like enjoying a plate of spaghetti? When you visit the Rifle Creek Museum, according to museum curator Kim Fazzi.
“The Western Slope has many different interesting museums,” she said. “And while each one is similar in its collection ” since our region was settled around the same time ” each museum is unique in its presentation of their artifacts. It’s like a spaghetti recipe: Everyone knows it’s spaghetti, but each recipe will be a little different, offering a whole new taste experience.”
As I strolled through rooms, up and down stairs and through halls, I began to appreciate the wisdom of Kim’s words. The museum ” Rifle’s former city hall ” is enormous: thousands of square feet and 20 rooms of exhibits.
At the wood-and-glass counter of the General Store Room, I surveyed the items tucked in cupboards and on shelves. I felt compelled to order a bolt of cloth, a 50-pound sack of flour and a tin of coffee (no DVDs or PDAs here, folks!).
In the Farm and Ranch Room, I stood inches from an old iron and wooden apple press, and while gazing at a photo of its previous owners pressing cider, could almost hear the women gossiping and giggling.
The Railroad Wall evoked the haunting sound of clanging iron as the wheels of a train ground along its tracks, slowly disappearing around a mountain along the Colorado River.
In the Military Room, I looked at name tags, uniforms, and handwritten letters of fallen soldiers. My throat tightened when I looked up and viewed the yellowed and tattered 1945 headline proclaiming, “War’s Over.”
In room after room, history came alive, and invited my curiosity: The Parlor, The Dentist’s Office, The Cowboy Room, The School Room.
Perched atop an old printing press in the Business Room, I saw a ’20s-era photo of The Rifle Telegram office, and unexpectedly, I remembered old Tom, Rifle’s once-upon-a-time town cat and self-appointed mayor who used to hang out at the newspaper’s office and at other businesses up and down Third Street.
I was delighted to see a photo of Rifle Creek Falls, back when it was a wild, lush spray cascading over the cliff’s edge.
Viewing the high, perilous road chiseled along DeBeque Canyon, and the intrepid travelers upon it, made me appreciate our broad four-lane. In the Hospital Room, I looked at Dr. Claggett’s hand-written notes with reverence, as if privy to a moment over his shoulder as he meticulously drafted his own personal medical journal.
Seeing the blueprint survey of Rifle in 1904, conducted after the big fire of 1902, and required before Rifle could be incorporated in 1905, made me realize government hasn’t changed all that much ” but Rifle sure has.
Kim enthusiastically responded to my questions with troves of turn-of-the-century artifacts, most of them donated by local families still living in the area. I was drawn into our local history one personal story at a time.
As I wrapped up my tour, I released I had a renewed sense of respect for Rifle’s heritage. I considered what gadgets of my daily life might be displayed for others to look at 100 years from now. How will a preserved cell phone help future generations develop perceptions of my generation?
Rifle Creek Museum offers something special to its visitors. For some, it’s the opportunity to see something completely new and different, opening new worlds of wonder. For others, it’s a precious chance to “come home” and remember.
For all, it’s an invitation to literally walk through our past.
331 East Ave., Rifle
Open May-October, Monday-Friday
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteers are always welcome
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