Art, Culture and Heritage, Education, Museums, Preview

Get to Know the Tesoro Cultural Center

By Robin McNeil

Tesore Cultural Center adobe buildings

Tesore Cultural Center adobe buildings

The Tesoro Cultural Center is many things. Primarily, it is one of the best organizations that I have seen devoted to preserving not only Colorado’s history, but the history of the Southwest, Spanish, early American pioneers, Mexican, Native American, African American, and early European cultures. They accomplish this with their Historic Lecture Series, sponsoring field trips for schoolchildren, providing seasonal celebrations that were regularly observed by all of the Southwest’s populations in the nineteenth century, and by an annual Historic Trunk Show which is led by a historical interpreter in 1830s authentic attire. There is more. Go to their website and you will be impressed with everything they do.

All of this is situated at the well-known Fort Restaurant on Highway 8, immediately north of Colorado 285 (or, if you prefer, Hampden Avenue). Highway 8 is just West of C– 470.

I will quote from their website:  “The Tesoro Foundation, now doing business as the Tesoro Cultural Center tm, was founded in 1999 by the late historian, Samuel Paul Arnold, current Executive Director, Holly Arnold Kinney, and the late Dr.  Mary Fox Arnold, patroness of the arts and educational organizations. The primary mission is to educate the public about 19th century Southwestern history with a focus on the many cultures that make up the Southwest’s rich cultural art and history. Tesoro Cultural Center is a membership based cultural institution with government, corporate and individual donors.

“Tesoro Cultural Center is located at The National Historic landmark called “The Fort” just south of Morrison, Colorado. It is the first authentic replica of Bent’s Old Fort, originally located near La Junta Colorado. Bent’s Old Fort was a strategic, private international trading fort located on the Arkansas River, which, in the 1830s, was the border between US Territory and Old Mexico. Bent’s Old Fort operated from 1833 until 1849 and was an edifice that was strategically important in the opening of the American Southwest under then President Polk. Using Bent’s Old Fort as a model to showcase the many cultures that lived, traded and passed through Bent’s Old Fort, including many Indian tribes, the Spanish, French, American trappers and traders, Freedmen and slaves, provide a wonderful opportunity to teach cultural history, tolerance, economics, and understanding the many different perspectives on historical events.”

When I visited The Fort for one of their Historic Lecture Series, I was immediately impressed by the authenticity of every program that is presented there: the enthusiasm of the board members, and the members at large of the Tesoro Cultural Center, as well as the enthusiasm of visiting lecturers. The subject of that evening’s Historic Lecture was an explanation of an actual event that occurred at the original Bent’s Fort in the 1830s: an extraordinarily large Leonid meteor shower which took place in the 1830s. The night the meteor shower occurred, there were over 200,000 meteors per hour. The individuals who gave the lectures were Dr. Steven Lee who is the Curator of Planetary Science and Chairman of the Department of Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Another portion of the lecture was given by Dr. Michelle Koons who is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Anthropology Department at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. All of the lectures on the program are by learned individuals of similar ilk. Such is the dedication of Tesoro. Below follows some of their lecture programs:

“Color-oddities: Strangest Things about the Highest State”

by Dr. Tom Noel

Sunday, January 19, 2014, Early afternoon & Evening lecture

“American Indian Foods: Past, Present and Future”

by Dr. Lois Ellen Frank (Kiowa)

Sunday, January 26, 2014, Evening lecture

“Colorado and the Burden of Sand Creek”

by Dr. Gary Roberts

Sunday, February 9, 2014, Ear1y afternoon & Evening lecture

I urge you to visit their website for further information on these lectures, and be aware that the evening lectures are held at The Fort, and afternoon lectures are held at the Denver Public Library, 10 West 14th Avenue, in downtown Denver.

Tesoro Cultural Center, prize-winning ceramic

Tesoro Cultural Center, prize-winning ceramic

I hasten to point out that prior to each lecture at The Fort, an absolutely incredible meal is available that is historically correct, often comprised of bison sirloin, roast duck, wild rice quinoa, and assorted luscious desserts. I might also add that they have excellent coffee.

Other programs that are in the near future are listed below.

On Sunday, December 1, 2013 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., The Tesoro Cultural Center will celebrate its southwestern tradition of lighting the farolitos (paper lanterns) in the courtyard of The Fort restaurant (19192 Highway 8). The festivities usher in the holiday season and honor a member of the community who has enlightened the minds and souls of others. This year’s honoree will be community leader, Mario Carrera. He is a prominent figure in the Hispanic community and serves on Tesoro’s Advisory Board, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver, and is currently serving on the Board of Trustees for the Denver Area Council Boy Scouts of America, and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Sunday, December 1, 2013
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Fort, Morrison, CO
Admission is Free

Annual Holiday Auction Party
December 3, 2013
6:00p.m. – 9:00p.m.
Minimum: $20 donation per person

Do your holiday shopping at discount prices and support history, cultural & education programs! The Holiday Auction Party joins GivingFirst’s Colorado Gives Day (24 Hours to Give Where You Live) to raise awareness and monies for nonprofits in Colorado. Join us for an evening filled with music, art, jewelry, dancing and delicious appetizers complements of The Fort.

Las Posadas

Tesoro Cultural Center, tepee

Tesoro Cultural Center, tepee

Celebrated in Mexico and throughout the United States from December 16 to 24, Las Posadas celebration commemorates Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter on the night of baby Jesus’ birth. The Tesoro Foundation partners with the Christian Life Movement to present this traditional event. Complimentary biscochitos and hot beverages are provided.

Volunteers are always needed to help with our events. If you are interested, please contact Carolyn Doran at 303-839-1671 or by email at

Christmas Eve, December 24, Every Year
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Fort Courtyard and grounds, Morrison, CO
Admission is Free

Art has always been an important and inseparable part of our culture. Tesoro excels in underscoring this fact. You don’t want to miss it.

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One Response to “Get to Know the Tesoro Cultural Center”

  1. On January 24, 2014 at 10:41 am DeVonna responded with... #

    What are your daily hours (not for special events)?

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