[Montrose, Colo. | February 2020 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Marilyn Cox]

WHEN THE TOWN WAS INCORPORATED IN 1882, the first merchants on this corner were A.E. Buddecke and Richard Charles Diehl. The partners did a booming business from their frame building, known as the Buddecke and Diehl Outfitting House. At that time, Main Street was named Third Street, so the address would have been Third and Cascade.

The dirt streets were lined with teams of mules and oxen pulling heavy-duty freight wagons loaded with all kinds of goods to be freighted to the mining towns to the south. On their return, the wagons were laden with rich ore from the mines. For a time, Buddecke and Diehl boasted of making close to $1,000 a day.

Antique photo of building

Corner store became Diehl’s Clothing Store and adjoining, new brick building was Diehl’s Dry Goods House. Image, Montrose Historical Society.

In 1886, they built the first brick building on the block, attaching it to their frame building. The upstairs of the new building became the second home of the Montrose Masonic Lodge #63, of which R.C. Diehl was a charter member. The lodge hall was accessed by an outside stairway that led from the street to a heavy metal door. The Masons were housed at this location until their new building was finished in August 1911

In 1887, the Denver and Rio Grande Southern train made its way south to the mountain towns, eliminating the need for the freighting business. That same year, Buddecke and Diehl brought culture to Montrose by building an opera house on North First Street.

Old Brick Wall

Old Opera House poster on brick wall, still visible today inside The Vine Bistro, present occupant of the corner building. Image by the author.

After the frame outfitting house was sold to W.W. Robinson, Charlie Diehl opened Diehl’s Clothing Store in the brick building and apparently took advantage of the exterior wall to advertise events at the opera house. In 2010, the brick wall was exposed during a remodel of the adjoining building, revealing remnants of a large poster that read, “5th Annual Tour at the Opera House by the Harrison Dramatic Society, Monday, Aug. 1.”

In 1898, Charlie Diehl, bitten by the gold bug, took off for the Alaskan goldfields. The following year, in 1899, the ornate building next door was erected for J.F. Wilson, who ran a successful clothing and shoe store. Historically, it became known as the Missouri Building because of St. Louis investors. Wilson, highly respected, contributed heavily to the development of the town.

The Diehl Building was purchased in 1901 by Annie Mollie Harris, a widow whose late husband had run the Harris Clothing and Shoe Store in Telluride. Harris incorporated under the name A.M. Harris, salvaged what she could from her husband’s Telluride store, and opened her doors to feature women’s clothing and shoes.

Harris and her three young children made their home in the back of the store. In 1902, she leased out the basement to Somers and Baxter for their bowling alley. Harris operated at this location until 1920 when she moved down the street.

Upon Wilson’s death and the settlement of his estate in 1913, F.E. Cotton took over Wilson’s business. The Elliott-Meaker Drainage Co. (Herman Elliott and Frank Meaker) occupied some of the upstairs offices at that time, advertising that they were equipped to deal with “the permanent reclamation of alkali lands.”

The Busy Corner Pharmacy, first owned by L.F. Strehlke, was originally located in the Krebs and Mabry Building across Cascade Avenue. In June 1918, Strehlke was forced to relocate and secured a long-term lease from C.A. Block, who had become the owner of the Missouri Building. The next operator of the pharmacy was Glen Oaks, who sold the business to Frank Kaufman.

Pharmacist Gerald Dome came to Montrose in 1950 and bought the pharmacy from Kaufman and the building from a rancher named Tom Reeves. Many old-timers still remember the Busy Corner Pharmacy, which boasted a popular soda fountain and was a great gathering place for locals. Dome sold the pharmacy to Jan Fincham in 1975, who moved to another location.

1987 Montrose Press Ad

Busy Bee Pharmacy (on the corner) and Cornman’s (where Maggie’s Books is today). Image courtesy Dona Freeman.

Domes then decided to open a Hallmark store, which they operated successfully for seven years. They eventually sold the business to the Cornmans, who extended it into the building next door. Cornmans Hallmark  became a long-time downtown fixture. Today, it’s still referred to as “the Hallmark Building” by many.

In 2010, when the Cornmans chose to retire, Dome sold the buildings to another long-time Montrose family, Kelli and Kevin Hartman, who had high hopes of establishing a family business there, the Great Harvest Bread Company. It was during extensive remodeling that the 1898 poster on the newly exposed brick wall was discovered, as well as the original tin ceiling (under the old asbestos tiles). and a front outside entrance to the basement, which is thought to have been used to access the bowling alley.

The Hartmans sold food, fresh produce, and local products from the store that is now The Vine and ran an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in the space that is now Maggie’s Books. Unexpected circumstances changed the Hartman’s plans, and once again the buildings were placed on the market.

In the fall of 2017, locals Dr. Paul Rinne and Dr. Sarah Judkins took the opportunity to make a difference to in the most important historic corner of downtown Montrose. They purchased both buildings at 345-347 E. Main, incorporated under the name “Main Street Montrose, LLC,” and began their mission to bring them back to their original appearance and structural integrity.

Their remodel started in 2018 with a complete renovation of the upper level of the Missouri Building, as well as updating the downstairs offices on the Cascade Avenue side. Over the years, countless doctors, dentists, and others had occupied upstairs offices, but few major changes or upgrades had taken place. It was time to change that.

“Everything is new from the inside out,” said Rinne. “We had to take it down to the bare bones, but we were able to create five beautiful residential units, and since May 2019, they are fully occupied. Just by providing some downtown housing, we feel we have done a lot toward our goal of bringing vitality and life to downtown.”

New tenants moved into the downstairs units in 2018. The popular Vine Market and Bistro, run by Nick Rinne, occupies the main part of the building. Offices at the rear of the building, on the Cascade side, are the Phelps Group Real Estate, Jack the Clipper, and the KVNF radio station. Next door to the Vine, on Main, is Maggie’s Books, run by Sara Rinne.

Inside The Vine, where you can see remnants of the 1887 opera house poster. Image, courtesy Kathryn R. Burke


Maggies Bookstore Wall

Inside Maggie’s Books, showing the other side of the connecting brick wall.

The first order of business for the new owners was to get a complete historical study of the buildings, done by Jon Horn of Alpine Archaeological Consultants of Montrose. They are now applying for a special local landmark status. “If we can get historical designation, that should help us qualify for some grants to help with expenses,” said Judkins. “Our goal is to do more exterior work within the next few years. We feel the historical downtown is vital to the community.”

Today, the buildings have new life and will continue as downtown fixtures for many years to come.