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Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center enjoys soft reopening
La Voz Photo Staff

By Joshua Pilkington

Restorations move into phase II as museum prepares to stay open

Call it a renaissance, albeit a soft one. After closing its doors seven years ago due to lack of available funding, the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center and Museum (formerly known as the San Luis Museum and Cultural Center) has been restored for visitors and enjoyed a successful “soft opening” this summer during its weekend hours.

“We’ve had a lot of visitors and it’s been nice,” said museum curator Rick Manzanares of the museum’s reopening. “It was a soft opening. We still have a lot of restorations to do.”

The museum continues to be open during the weekend for visitors interested in catching a glimpse of the revitalized museum. Visitors can take in some of the prestigious art from Southern Colorado and beyond on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

One of 20 of the museums that make up the San Luis Valley Museum Association, the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center stood for a long time as a “testament to the town’s proud history as the first continuous settlement in the state of Colorado,” said Robert Rael, executive director of the Costilla County Economic Development Council (CCEDC) in a release. “It helped preserve Hispano history of the region with excellent exhibits, including Cultura Constante and the Morada exhibit.”

As a representative of the artistic and cultural aspect of the San Luis Valley the museum was also know for its credible collection of santos from different historical periods and regions.

“These exhibits and artifacts remain and have been preserved,” Rael said. “Certainly, something could be done to save this museum.”

Something was done

History Colorado State Historical Fund created a special initiative that allowed the CCEDC to acquire funding and thus begin the long road to restoring the building both inside and out. CCEDC Board President Felix Romero also assisted in leading the charge to garner the help of local residents to seek funding to re-open the museum and assist with its restoration.

There was a lot of work to do

“After being in shutdown mode for two years, it appeared the [museum] might be mothballed,” Rael said. “Water pipes had burst warping the wooden floors in the main entrance area. The electrical and plumbing systems were very outdated.”

Also outdated – or absent – is the heating system, which will prompt the museum to close again during the cold San Luis winter.

“We don’t have a heating system in there,” Manzanzares said. “So we can’t keep the doors open and, unfortunately, we can’t do any restorative work, either.”

What can and will be done, Manzanares added, is a big check ceremony from History Colorado. At a date to be determined the organization plans to head south to the museum to present it with a grant in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for its upcoming wave of restorations.

“It’s going to be a big event,” Manzanares said. “We’re hoping to see a lot of community representatives and possibly some state politicians as well.”

Although the project has advanced, with the help of History Colorados State Fund, Rael added the restoration has been aided in part by many foundations and fundraisers.

“History Colorado’s State Fund had funded several phases of the restoration,” he said. “The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area has also invested consistent funding as have several foundations such as Anschutz Foundation, El Pomar, Trinchera Foundation, Gates Foundation National Trust Preservation Fund, and Costilla County Lodging Tax Fund. Costilla County government and the town Of San Luis have also contributed in-kind support, ensuring local buy-in.”

For inquiries on how to help the continued effort to restore the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center and Museum, call 719-672-0999.





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