Town Park of Ridgway
Spectacular scenery around our charming Colorado town, at the foot of the San Juan Mountains, caught the attention of the director of the film True Grit, starring John Wayne as the one-eyed U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. In 6 weeks in 1969, the film crew turned 5 blocks of the center of this old railroad town into 1880’s Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Hanging Judge Parker’s 3 man gallows were erected in the town’s beautiful park, where trees were planted by school children more than a hundred years ago , and the park was the location for the triple hanging scene.
On the western edge of the park, the firehouse, which was the original town hall, got an added cupola and new coat of red paint for the occasion. It now survives as an artist studio. Next door to the firehouse, the film company built a beautiful courthouse but this was just a shell: the interior courtroom scenes were filmed in the Ouray County Courthouse, in Ouray, 10 miles to the south.
Be sure to visit the John Wayne themed True Grit Cafe, also on the West side of the Park. Don’t miss the actor and movie memorabilia and a sign painted for the film, which reads “Chamber’s Staple & Fancy Groceries – Fruits & vegetables”. This was an exterior wall that was preserved when the restaurant was built around it!
A short walk up Clinton Street, past the Sherbino Theater, leads you past the building where Rooster Cogburn lived with the Chinaman and his cat.
On the North side of the park, the post office now sits in place of the movie livery stable. The Paddy Wagon, used by Rooster to bring his prisoners for trial, is displayed in Heritage Park on the southwest corner of Hwy 550 and 62.
This location is adjacent to the Ridgway railroad museum, which is an excellent source of information on the world-famous narrow-gauge railroad heritage of the San Juans. The Old Rio Grande Southern Railroad depot is now a private residence located on Railroad Street across from the tennis courts. It starred as the Independence Hotel in How the West Was Won.