Once you take a right at the earnest “Downtown Salida” wooden sign, you are welcomed to a wonderful built environment. Rolling toward downtown on F St., Salida is subtle and beautiful. A plush carpet of small and historic houses unfolds before you. Little railroad workers’ cottages stand beside luxurious houses of the old upper-middle class. Second Empire houses with their sharp mansard roofed chapeaus and boxy Italianates, once in disrepair only a decade ago, now shine. This homey residential borough leads you out into a strong, brick-laced downtown.
Scorched by fire in the mid-1880s, Salida rebuilt quickly. Most of its quiet two-story brick storefronts are now under renovation or mostly finished, while the paired, tall soldier-like windows with brick “hoods,” or building “eyebrows,” wink down on you. The historic district reaches out and envelops you as you shop, sight-see and dine.
A number of urban details are worth noting, including interior tin ceilings still intact and faint ghost signs splayed against the larger buildings, reminding you of the era’s earlier roaring commercial past. This small town has done a marvelous job with its downtown. For towns are not simply the sums of their component parts, nor even their weakest link. Towns stand, or fall, on their composition, on how they are arranged.
Salida has a historic downtown adjacent to a roaring river (the Arkansas, near its headwaters), a park with a bandshell, a climbing wall and children’s playground. With a local tax initiative, Salida raised money to put everything back to work: the river, the buildings, and public parks. Salida has even put its old steamplant back to work. It now billows forth unique arts and cultural attractions.In case the beautifully intact architecture or the majestic mountainscape isn’t enough visual stimulation, Salida offers an array of artists’ creations. Over 40 galleries dot the downtown landscape with pottery, sculpture, mixed media, painting and jewelry. The good news: art of all shapes and sizes is reasonably affordable.
Bugled Jungle, a must-see since 2004, captures the town’s unconventional yet tantalizing feel. Your eyes will delight in seeing multicolored “monsters” on the walls, hanging from the ceiling and popping off furniture. Every toothy, textured, genuinely-excited-to-see-you creation is unique and handmade by Pat Landreth and Suzanne Montano.
After your sockets have been stimulated, your mind and feet wander to the back corner where metal objects are a safe place for your eyes to rest