Jim Wendt, Director and Docent
The frigid winters of Beaver Dam, WI, were an early childhood memory, but that lakeside community was a great place to grow up. After graduating from Wayland Academy, I held a few jobs before I gave in to my love for The West and moved to Colorado Springs, working my way to manager of a building center in Woodland Park. In the early 80’s I headed further west to Durango, where I managed a wonderful hardware store, which I later bought. We worked hard to maintain it as a leading store in the chain, and I was proud of our standing in the community when I sold it in 2005 and retired.
I’d always been a bit of a hiker, explorer and historian. And we’d traveled the Western Slope quite a bit. So when it came time to finally settle down, Montrose just seemed like the perfect fit. There was something special about it. It just felt like “home.”
As a western history buff, my curiosity led me to The Museum Of The Mountain West. What “got” me wasn’t just the incredible collection of world-class artifacts and the history that was here. It was a presentation beyond anything I’d ever seen before. A collection of downtown buildings you could walk into and experience. Tour guides who knew so much about the Dentist’s and Doctor’s offices, the Pharmacy, the General Store, the Saloon, and more. It wasn’t behind ropes. It was real. We walked in and experienced it. For a history buff like me, it was truly “magic.” I decided I had to become a Tour Guide.
What I really like about giving tours is that I get to take my passion and knowledge, and add it to the incredible things that are here. Things we walk among. Stores we walk into. Half a million historical artifacts which, as a collection, have no equal. And when I give a tour I get to take all that and present it to visitors who come here looking for an experience like no other.
Whether our visitors are Americans or foreigners, the tours are always entertaining, with lots of questions asked and answered, and laughs shared. And when locals take our tours, they often have additional knowledge about the area, about families that lived here, about farms, ranches and history that helps us increase the knowledge we get to share with future visitors. It never stops growing.
Of all our indoor stores and outside buildings, I think my two favorites are the General Store, where everyone can relate to something and the Q&A gets lively, and the turn-of-the-century Montgomery Ward Blueprint House. You ordered your home’s blueprints from MW, then built it yourself, plumbing and wiring included. It reminds me of my grandparent’s home back in WI.
I’m Jim and I give really great and fun tours. Come let me take you through The Museum Of The Mountain West and let me share my passion for Western History with you.