a one-minute visit to Delhi (Colorado)

On a road just east of Colorado’s Comanche National Grassland (which is as beautiful and as dull as you’d imagine), a small green sign announced to Jenny and I that we were back in Delhi.

A few hundred feet down the road was the exact same sign, facing the other direction. It informed our mirrors that, even before we finished braking, we’d already exited Delhi.

Back in India, it once took our chartered bus four hours to travel from Gurgaon in the south to Delhi’s border in the north. Colorado Delhi’s transit time was slightly more than three seconds.

So we turned the car around and returned to the Western edge of this new Delhi. And as we balanced our camera on the car to document our visit, our eyes landed upon a granite monument in the weeds. Its faded inscription offered few details beyond the vague promise that, some time in the past century, Colorado’s Delhi was a bit more lively than it seemed today.

Once our visit was duly immortalized, we ventured back into city limits. No Hauz Khas, no Saravana Bhawan, no Red Fort in this Delhi — just a boarded-up general store with a detached outhouse that speaks to the building’s age.

Behind the house, the requisite detritus of rural America: skeletons of cars, piles of wood, a fence that may have once enclosed livestock. Not a soul to be seen.

Not that we went to investigate. This is rural America, and it’s written in the Constitution that the moment you step onto private property, a man in red flannel long-johns must appear to spit and holler and shoot a shotgun into the air. We contented ourselves with admiring the faded Pepsi billboard on the side of the store from the safe side of the property line.

The paint is bleached, the windows are plywood, the lot is overgrown. But there is history here: some time in the past, this Delhi had traffic. People stretched their legs, admired the monument, and presumably bought Pepsi, although not enough to keep the store in business. And then, thus fortified with enough sugar to survive the coming federal grasslands, the bottles were tossed in the weeds, the kids were coaxed back into the cars, the Studebaker kicked up dust, and Delhi was forgotten.

Feb 25 update! As you can read in the comments below, a reader named Magnezzeron discovered that Delhi, Colorado was featured in 1973 in Terrence Malick’s Badlands — back before the town had been abandoned. Watch this clip to see what the Pepsi mural looked like when it was fresh painted, what that brick structure was originally intended for, and what 40 years of sun and neglect can do to a building. Thanks, Magnezzeron!

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30 responses to “a one-minute visit to Delhi (Colorado)

  1. In Cincinnati, where my family is from, everyone lives in Delhi Township.

    Only they pronounce it Dell – High. Only in Ohio.

  2. Hi,
    Nice photographs and write up. Makes one feel how years change the landscape. Felt kind of sad too.

  3. We have a “Dell-High” in California, too. It’s only slightly bigger than the one in Colorado, it sounds like. :)

  4. I should add that my dad, who was born in the actual Delhi (the one in India), is always highly amused when he drives past Delhi, California.

  5. Grammar Nazi here: “a small green sign announced to Jenny and I”????!!! What happened to that subject/object thing?

  6. Awini Ambuj Shanker

    haha, people still remember Studebaker in the USA, I have my great grandfathers 1930 Studebaker in the real Delhi, and it still works. :-)

  7. I was very impressed when I first heard there was a Delhi in America.
    Which homesick Indian immigrant named a town after his hometown in India ?

    … but then I discovered the American Delhi is really a Del-High and has nothing to do with India. What a disappointment :(

  8. You may find this hard to believe but that broken down old ‘One Stop’ in Delhi is famous for appearing in the film ‘Badlands’ by Terrence Malick. Martin Sheen stops there to get gas and is seen by a passing sheriff. It is the beginning of the end for ‘Kit’ and he gives himself up.

    Here is a link to the clip in question…

  9. Pingback: Badlands Revisited | California Literary Review

  10. Pingback: Badlands Revisited

  11. I came across this when writing a blog entry on “Badlands” locations for the California Literary Review — there’s a link to this in the final version. I’ve always wanted to make it down to Delhi, CO, and find that gas station. Thanks both to you two and to Magnezzeron!

  12. It is Dell-Hi; My parents built the store in 1935. It was a store-fillingstation-post office-feedstore for the surrounding homesteaders and railroad section gang. We lived there until 1945 when it was sold. The left hand door in the pictures was the feed store. In back of it was a DC generator which provided the only electricity( for the store and house) for miles. The chase scene in the movie appears to be an edit of Delhi and Timpas, down the road toward La Junta. There was a school house, across the road and about where your “Delhi” picture was taken. Further down the road, toward Trinidad, is where my grandparents homesteaded in 1918. It is called Simpson and is now the entrance to the Army’s Pinion Canyon faclities. There is a cemetery there that is on land donated by my grandfather.

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  14. Travelling is something which always refreshes me and I think you are no different. :)

  15. I grew up in Delhi, Ontario ,Canada just across Lake Erie from Erie ,PA.It was a tobacco town;still is.3400 pop.Definitely not a boring place.Had a large teen dance hall there in the 60s.Every Sat. night we danced to the likes of Chubby Cherkers,The Drifters, Roy Orbison, as well as the more local bands.It is a real ethnic diverse town,mainly immigrants from Belgium,Hungary ,Germany and Britain.A..lways like to hear about other Delhi’s

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  18. My great Grandparents have lived in Delhi, CO for over 75 years now. They talk about times when the tiny town was more convenient for them. They have a well built ranch shortly off the highway and say they will live there until the earth rots away. It was a pleasure to see that you’ve enjoyed this tiny town, reflecting your history in a way while this Delhi reflects mine (:

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