The Golden Nugget Nite Club now sits abandoned on Main Street in Antonito, Colorado, but believe it or not, this boarded-up structure was once the hottest spot in town.

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Antonito is a statutory town of less than 700 people, located just shy of the New Mexico border. The small community started as a sheep herding camp but grew during the early 1900s with the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad line nearby. As the population in Antonito started to expand, along came businesses, including a local market, a hotel, and a hardware store.

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In 1911, the Antonito Opera House was constructed on Main Street. An estimated 150 opera houses were built in Colorado between 1860 and 1920 - this being one of them. However, as time went on and tastes in entertainment changed, many of these opera houses fell into disrepair and were demolished.

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Although the structure of the Antonito Opera House remained intact, it was transformed into a nightclub and given a new name: the Golden Nugget Nite Club.

The birth of the Golden Nugget Nite Club brought years of fun to the San Luis Valley. Weekend entertainment at the establishment included dancing, drinking, and watching rowdy fights go down. Teenagers spent countless nights on the dance floor with friends. According to a former Golden Nugget patron, the venue also served some of the best chili and hamburgers in Conejos County.

The club reached peak popularity during the 1950s to 1970s. However, like many of the other businesses in the sleepy southern Colorado town, the Golden Nugget was forced to permanently shut down.

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Although the Golden Nugget Nite Club is now just a place of the past, the white building still stands out along US Highway 85, with its arched entryway and decorative masonry screen wall. Logs now cover the windows, and the once-lively establishment now sits silent and empty.

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The nightclub's name remains neatly painted across the front of the building, reminding those passing by of what once was many years ago.

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Gallery Credit: Kelsey Nistel