Year Listed: 1999
County: Pueblo County
Construction Date: Late 19th, early 20th century
Threat When Listed: Highway Expansion
Colorado Fuel & Iron (CFI) dominated local coal production and steel-making in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At one time the company was the largest private employer, landowner, and taxpayer in Colorado, bringing thousands of workers and their families to the state. The industrial complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a Local Landmark as well as an official Save America’s Treasures project.
The industrial giant of Colorado Fuel & Iron was boarn on January 11, 1872 when General William Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs and owner of the two year-old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, filed incorporation papers. It acquired many iron and coal mines that fed the burgeoning U.S. steel industry.
The Bessemer Historical Society was formed in 2000 to save the buildings and archives of CF&I. Since then, they acquired the mission style Minnequa Office Complex, consisting of four buildings and nearly six acres, with the hope of future renovation for a museum, archives, and education center. Rocky Mountain Steel Mills donated one of the most complete collections of artifacts representative of the industrialization of the American West. The Bessemer Historical Society received a grant from the National Archives Association to assist with cataloging the massive collection of maps, records, microfilm, negatives, and photographs with a professional archivist overseeing the process. The Bessemer Historical Society has opened the Steel Works Museum of Industry and Culture in the Medical Dispensary. The exterior of the Administration Building is in the process of being restored to its original grandeur while the interior will be restored to the 1940s and be used as additional museum space.
The Bessermer Historical Society embarked on a fundraising campaign to ensure that the historic archives and buildings were preserved. By 2003, they had received grants and monetary support from numerous donors, the State Historical Fund, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, New Market Tax Credits, and a Save America’s Treasure’s grant. Archival processing has been possible through a “We the People” National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
The Mine Rescue Car #1, which is on the National Register, was fully restored and donated to the Museum in February 2007 by the Pueblo County Historical Society.