SPMDTU #31, Chama, Colorado

In 1966 The National Historic Preservation Act was established by the National Park Service. As a result, the NPS now has a National Register of Historic Places. This year the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area received a grant in collaboration with History Colorado to nominate four sites in the heritage area for the national register. Three of the sites soon to be nominated are in Conejos County. The fourth site is in Costilla County.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area encompasses all of Conejos, Costilla, and Alamosa Counties. Currently, there are 10 sites on the national register in Conejos County, eight in Costilla County, and 13 in Alamosa County. To learn more about the already designated sites visit the heritage area’s website listed at the end of this article.

The Garcia Ranch has been in the family for generations, dating back to some of the first settlers in this area. It lies along the path many travelers took to cross this country. The designation will include the historic adobe family home, barn, adobe potato cellar, surrounding historic sheds, and the land surrounding these buildings.

The second site in Conejos County is Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Known as the oldest parish in Colorado, this building has a long and rich history in the area. Its twin pillars stand out in the agricultural landscape of Conejos, near Antonito. Conejos was the first settlement to have a church in 1857. The church was originally located in Guadalupe, where the people met in a small jacal on Sundays to recite the Rosary and a litany and to sing a few hymns. This parish was served by Father P. Montano from 1858 until 1860, when he was replaced by Father Vigil. In 1860 the church was moved to higher and drier ground and a small adobe church was built in the current location, and blessed by the famed bishop of Santa Fe, John Baptiste Lamy. Since then the church has grown in size and seen many architectural changes.


Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish                                       Historic picture of Saint Joseph’s Parish

The third site in the county is Saint Joseph’s Parish in Capulin. The beautiful stained glass windows and stonework on this historic Catholic church is stunning, as is the beautiful arched ceilings that can only be fully appreciated from the interior balcony. The nomination will include the church building, surrounding land, the historic iron fence on the east side, and the historic cemetery to the south. Originally, forty families from northern New Mexico received the Conejos Land Grant, some of those families settled in the community they named Capulin. The town was originally established in 1863, but after a fire they moved the town upstream to its current location in 1867. The original church was an adobe structure built in 1878. However, as the church and population grew so did the church. The bigger Saint Joseph’s Parish was built in 1888. On May 15, 1912 the cornerstone was laid for the current building by Rev. E.E. Vigil. Locals brought the stone to the town, by horse and wagon, from La Aguita (Hot Creek) quarry.

The site up for nomination in Costilla County is the S.P.D.T.U. building in Chama, Colorado. This small, historical building was once the hub of community gatherings. La Sociedad Proteccion Mutual de Trabajadores Unidos (the Society for the Mutual Protection of United Workers) was founded in 1900 by Celedonio Mondragon. The first building for this organization, Concilio #1, in Antonito is already on the National Register of Historic Places. This nomination recognizes the national significance of the organization. Together the two designations take locals and visitors on a journey from one county to the other as they discover the history of this amazing organization that played a pivotal role in the history of the Hispano people and our country.

Visit the Sangre de Cristo National heritage area website for more information https://sdcnha.org/our-heritage/