Una Familia Grande: The Conejos Neighborhood Project - CSPM
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Una Familia Grande: The Conejos Neighborhood Project

by Leah Davis Witherow, CSPM Curator of History

The CSPM staff unveiled Una Familia Grande : The Conejos Neighborhood Project on February 22nd. Over two years in the making, this important exhibit uses artifacts, photographs and stories to put this once vibrant neighborhood back on the map.

During the 1930s -1950s, the Conejos Neighborhood was made up of a few dozen tight-knit families who described themselves as Una Familia Grande – One Big Family. Through a community-based story-telling approach, neighbors share their own memories, allowing visitors to gain extraordinary insight into the Conejos Neighborhood’s unique community identity, history and culture.

For over a century, the Conejos Neighborhood was home to generations of working class families. Platted in the 1880s as the “Monument Addition,” the four block long neighborhood was located south of Colorado Avenue, north of the Martin Drake Power Plant, east of Monument Creek, and west of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad tracks.

Long ignored, the area eventually suffered from blight, neglect and indifference and was torn down and replaced with America the Beautiful Park. Today, the only building left remaining is the historic Spanish Gospel Mission, now known as Chadbourn Community Church. However, as one former resident shared, “Although the neighborhood no longer exists, the spirit and memories of Conejos live within us.” This exhibit is dedicated to everyone who called Conejos home.

Conejos Neighborhood Hand drawn Map
A hand drawn map of the Conejos Neighborhood from "Una Familia Grande" Exhibit.
Easter Service at Chadbourne Church - 1948 by Stewart
Easter Service at Chadbourne Spanish Gospel Mission, Congregation for Easter Service, 1948. Image Courtesy of Josie Ontiveros.

When this proposal came to the Bee Vradenburg Foundation's trustees, it was a story that many of us did not recognize. For me, it truly changed what I understood about my hometown and where our community came from. We wanted to support this celebration because it uses creative expressions like art, food and architecture to shed light on an important piece of our cultural identity. I am looking forward to seeing it all come together, and exploring the upcoming exhibit.”

David Siegel, Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Sponsor of the Conejos Neighborhood Celebration

Conejos Neighborhood Celebration

Attendees of Conejos Neighborhood Celebration looking at the exhibit, "Una Familia Grande." They are pointing at a historic photograph.
Attendees of Conejos Neighborhood Celebration looking at the exhibit, "Una Familia Grande."
Pastor Karen Hess, Councilmember Yolanda Avila, Margaret Malacara, Benito Avila, Ruth Melena, Josie Ontiveros, Rudy Melena, Al Malacara, and Mayor John Suthers. Left to right kneeling: Colorado College Student Filmmakers: Melissa Manuel, Ashley Newman, and Puma the dog. Former Conejos residents shared stories about their community as part of the event.
Ballet Folklórico de la Raza performance in the Division 1 Courtroom on Sat., Feb. 22.
Visitors watching a video in "Una Familia Grande."
Visitors watching a video in "Una Familia Grande."
Attendees dancing to Motivado Band
Ballet Folklórico de la Raza performance in the Division 1 Courtroom on Sat., Feb. 22.
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Leah Davis Witherow, Curator of History

Do you have Conejos Neighborhood memories, objects or photographs that you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear from you! 

Contact
719.385.5649 | Leah.Witherow@coloradosprings.gov