Museum in the ``Smile Hi'' City

The intention of the Otero Museum was to "...establish a museum documenting and illustrating the history of Otero County in southeastern Colorado.'' Since it was incorporated in 1984, the Otero County Historical Society has donated the majority of artifacts that make up the collection at this museum. Local residents have pitched in as well, and the combination of the two resources has created an interesting museum filled with history and learning. Most of the artifacts range from 1875 to the World War II era. The exhibits focus on local history and give a look into the lifestyle of those who lived in this Colorado town. Exhibits include materials relating to transportation, agriculture, military, the post office, education, and various other aspects of pioneer times through the mid-1900's.

Many of the exhibits focus on the railroads which were such a vital part of Colorado history. It focuses on certain areas of the railroad system including the Kansas Pacific Railroad, the Santa Fe Railroad, the Atchinson, and Topecka. Included in this collection is a 1939 Plymouth switch engine, as well as a AT&SF boxcar situated about a yard west of the museum. Inside visitors can see a telegraph office, watches, railroad uniforms, lanterns, and a calendar collection. Children will love using the steam locomotive whistle and enjoying the hands-on nature of the museum.

Many of the exhibits are located in the main building of the museum which is situated on the corners of 3rd and Anderson, but there are two exterior exhibits located on the grounds. The Sciumbato house and grocery store was home to Daniel and Mary Sciumbato from 1901 to 1974. The house features furnishings from the early 1900's and is listed on the National Historic Register. Included in the home collection is a dining room set, a fainting bed, an ice box, a kerosene range, bedrooms furnished in period style, and clothing displays including a black wedding gown. The toy collection will amuse young and old visitors with its whimsy. In 1916 the family added the grocery store, and the museum has stocked it with a collection of tins, scales, a meat counter, and various items you would expect to find in a grocery store at the beginning of the 20th century.

Admission to the museum and outbuildings is free, but they do suggest donating. Tour guides work on the volunteer basis and they do a great job explaining the history of the area. The tour takes about an hour or two depending on how many questions the tour group may have. The museum is open from 1 pm until 5 pm Monday through Saturday during the summer. Special tours can be arranged during fall, winter, and spring months by in some cases.

Located in the town that calls itself the Smile Hi City, the Otero Museum fits in perfectly with the quaint feel of La Junta, Colorado. Situated by the Arkansas River, the area is great for hiking, winter sports, and enjoying the sights and sounds of Colorado. Plan a visit to the Otero Museum in L Junta.

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