Museums of Western Colorado: Cross Orchards Historic Site, Grand Junction

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#14 of 19 in Things to do in Grand Junction
Today’s 24 acre site, once part of a 243 acre fruit ranch, was operated as an agricultural show case by the Massachusetts-based Red Cross Land and Fruit Company, 1896-1923. With more than 22,000 trees, it was one of the largest in the state when most local orchards averaged nine acres. Most of the fruit ranch was planted in apples, but a few acres of pears and peaches were also grown. Primary apple varieties of the day included Black Twig, Gano, Jonathan, Winesap, Rome Beauty, and Ben Davis.

During peak periods of pruning, picking and packing, the Red Cross Land and Fruit Company often employed more than 50 part-time workers. Most were local citizens who commuted from town or would set up camp for several weeks during the fall harvest. Included in the restored bunkhouse are the kitchen, pantry and cook’s quarters on the west end; the men’s quarters and dining room in the middle; and the carriage room and office on the east end. The large barn/packing shed and bunkhouse are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since the Museum acquired the original 4.3 acres containing the historic structures in1980, the site has added many additional acres and several ancillary exhibits. The Swanson display contains household effects, farmyard equipment, and an amazing assortment of horse-drawn implements and tools. It encompasses the Swanson Family’s move from Sweden in 1885 to operation of their 40 acre farm south of Loma.

Rail fans will delight in the Uintah Railway exhibit and the recreated train depot. The reconstructed Whiskey Creek Trestle is part of a display of cars, an engine and caboose. From 1904-1939, the Uintah ran from Mack, Colorado to Dragon, Utah. It hauled one of the world’s few commercial sources of gilsonite, a black, lustrous asphalt. Members of the Grand Valley Model Railroaders have displays of HO scale trains representing historic rail lines that ran through Western Colorado. Related Link: National Railroad Historical Society, Rio Grande Chapter.

The Wallace “Boots” Corn Collection of vintage road building and related equipment is also housed at Cross Orchards. With more than 60 pieces, this diverse collection includes horse-drawn scrapers, graders and wagons in addition to steam, gasoline, and diesel-powered equipment. “Boots” established the Corn Construction Company following World War II.
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Museums of Western Colorado: Cross Orchards Historic Site Reviews
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  • We have been exploring the small museums and restored towns in Colorado. This one has so much potential but really needs some love. And - I gave it a very good based on the potential and also the shea...  more »
  • I was actually married at this venue. It was neat to come back and see the farm like setting again. It's fun for kids to run around and take fun pictures with all the equipment. Not the most exciting ...  more »
  • We set out to see how this valley started. We found this piece of history of the valley within miles of where we were staying. Here are the actual working remnants of a apple farm still standing that ...  more »
Google
  • As far as Museums go, this is not a highly curated experience. If informational signage is something you require, you will probably be disappointed with a good deal of this facility. That said, there are some informational plaques, and the grounds and buildings are positively full of interesting equipment and artifacts from a bygone era. I had a great time just touring around and visually examining everything, especially the extensive collection of antique farming equipment. Definitely worth a visit, but it would be nice if they could get the funding to spruce up some of the exhibits, and get all of those cool old tractors out of the elements and into a proper building.
  • As far as museums go it is small, but it is packed with great historical information. Grand Junction is an interesting area and this museum is filled with exhibits. The staff here is also amazing. On a whim my wife asked a research upstairs if she happened to know if she could find any information on her family - it turned out the researcher had land deeds and even more that once belonged to my wife's great grandparents. If you are a resident here this place is a must see. Its kid friendly, and has a small gift shop as well.
  • We thought this place was wonderful. The staff was great, friendly, knowledgeable. All volunteers in period dress. You can go through at your pace. Look at antiques and explore the buildings and talk to the staff. You can breeze it all in an hour but could linger for 3 or more.
  • The model trains are very detailed but you can't see much of them. It's a nice old time experience just not very big.
  • Christmas train show. Lots of new exhibits, new track & even an outdoor track. Very fun!

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