History of the Building
The Montezuma Valley National Bank Building is a relatively small structure that has had a large impact on Cortez and the surrounding community. It was built in phases between 1908 and 1910 from locally quarried sandstone and is the oldest extant bank building in Cortez. The building is representative of high-quality, turn-of-the-century commercial architecture in the Southwest, and with most of the typical small town commercial buildings being constructed from timber with less attention paid to exterior detailing, it stands as a unique and notable example of its type.
The Montezuma Valley National Bank Building is a symbol of economic strength in Cortez, especially at the turn of 19th century. At that time, a mining boom spurred settlement in the Dolores and Mancos river valleys as demand increased for produce, meat and hay to feed people and a boom in the San Juan Mountains attracted outside investment too. Large New Mexico cattle operators moved herds throughout the Montezuma Valley (supplementing the ranchers near Dolores and Mancos) to feed the growing populations of Rico and Telluride. Cortez also then grew due to an engineering success that diverted water from the Dolores River to irrigate the fertile Montezuma Valley. By the time Montezuma Valley National Bank was constructed in 1908, large parts of the valley were irrigated, encouraging agricultural activity (ranching, hay and fruit especially), while extraction of timber and minerals continued apace. In 1910, a 1,800-square-foot addition was completed on the building using similar materials. In this context, the sturdy sandstone block structure of the Montezuma Valley National Bank and its mercantile annex was no doubt seen as a way to convey the community’s growing importance and promise for the future.
The Montezuma Valley National Bank Building’s close proximity to the mercantile and exchange in the Stone Block Building made the northern corners of Market and Main Street the hub for commerce in Cortez. Up until 1957, Montezuma Valley National Bank was the only bank in Cortez. Through boom and bust, the appeal of this structure, situated in a key location, has been so strong that the building continued to be utilized as a bank until the late 1990s when Basin Industrial Bank finally shut its doors. Over the last century, the Montezuma Valley National Bank has lasted as an icon of stability for the community of Cortez. It is the only Main Street building on the Colorado State Historic Register, and for many, this building is a symbol of Cortez’ proud past.
The restoration of the Montezuma Bank Building, a project being undertaken Community Radio Project (CRP), which is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to foster non-commercial, community based broadcasting that supports the inclusive voice, education and interests of the rural community in Southwest Colorado and the Four Corners Region, is multi-faceted and aimed at historic preservation, community development and sustainability. In the heart of Cortez’s downtown, the building is exemplary of the community’s roots and its future. Tremendous local support has already moved the project forward. Design and construction planning is complete and phase one construction work will occur this spring and summer. The second, and current, phase of work includes completing the interior and exterior historic restoration activities that will enable the building to function as KSJD Community Radio’s new offices, studio, non-profit center and community meeting place. A performing arts stage with 100+ person seating area is included, and construction is well underway. It will be made available to community members and serve as a place for arts and musical performances, fulfilling a long-time need for the town.
This project is supported by the State Historical Fund, the Montezuma Historical Society, the City of Cortez, the USDA, Empire Electric Association, El Pomar Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Ballantine Family Foundation, and other private donors. Southwest Community College, Region 9 Economic Development, and Cortez Retail Enhancement are also participating.