Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Colorful Colorado - GEORGETOWN

Established in 1859, during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, historic and beautiful Georgetown sits at an elevation of 8530 feet, nestled in the mountains west of Denver (about an hour's drive) along I-70. Although a small town today, Georgetown was a historic center of the mining industry in Colorado during the late 19th century, earning the nickname "Silver Queen of Colorado".
It has evolved into a lively summer tourist center today, with many preserved structures from the heyday of the Colorado Silver Boom.  Georgetown has managed to keep its Victorian charm with many homes and buildings rich in this architectural style.
The architecture of Georgetown is certainly something to "ooh and aah" over.  Historic Georgetown, Inc. has initiated and encouraged efforts to preserve the rich heritage of the Georgetown/Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District.
The organization purchased the Hamill House, the home of Englishman William Hamill, a successful mine owner, banker and politician of 19th century Colorado, and has restored this amazing and elegant home as a museum.  Hamill House at Historic Georgetown.org (link)
Georgetown is nestled in between some of the most majestic peaks in the State (in mountaineering terms in the United States, a fourteener (or "14er") is a mountain peak that exceeds 14,000 feet (4267.2 meters) elevation.  Colorado has 53 fourteeners), which of course means endless trails to pedal & climb, slopes to ski, streams to fish, raft & paddle.
Ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad (link) to nearby Silver Plume, and back.  Georgetown has an interesting mining history and this narrow gauge train once served as the main form of transportation from Denver for both freight and passengers - they also do a Santa Express train in the winter.  Shop along Main Street, relive history, enjoy accommodations to relax in, and eat in some of the finest restaurants around…as well as skiing in the winter, being only minutes away from world class ski areas.
(My dad under the Kneisel & (more importantly) ANDERSON storefront sign on the main street)
(Flower boxes line the fronts of the shops downtown; the instructional sign was in the window of an antique store; our Colorado and American flags, alongside a Georgetown flag...all three flying majestic, and free, against that beautiful, blue CO sky).
I can highly recommend the food at The Happy Cooker - world famous (OK, locally anyway...perhaps world famous) for their delightful European waffles, homemade breads, soups, chilies and desserts.  Located on 6th Street, we sat in the outdoor garden patio, across from the beautiful...
If you go, do take the time to drive through the residential areas of town, and experience the beautiful restorations of some of the old, original “gingerbread” houses.  By mid-September, the Guanella Pass Scenic & Historic Byway is one of the premier places to view the turning of the aspens - it's equally spectacular throughout the rest of the year.  For more info on Georgetown, and the surrounding areas, visit Georgetown Colorado.com.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Greetings From Colorado - LEADVILLE

Situated at 10,152 feet (3,094 m), in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the former silver mining town of Leadville is the highest incorporated city and the second highest incorporated municipality in the United States.
Placer gold (gold that has weathered from the host rock where it was formed and is found atop the ground, in streams, etc.) was discovered in California Gulch in 1860, during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. In 1874, gold miners discovered that the heavy black sand that impeded their gold recovery carried a high content of silver. Prospectors traced the source, and by 1876, had discovered several lode (a deposit in a rock formation, or vein) silver-lead deposits. The city of Leadville was founded near the new silver deposits in 1877, and by 1880, Leadville was one of the world's largest silver camps, with a population of over 40,000.
The city's fortunes declined with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893, although afterwards there was another small gold boom. Mining companies came to rely increasingly on income from the lead and zinc. The district is credited with producing over 2.9 million troy ounces of gold, 240 million troy ounces of silver, 1 million tons of lead, 785 thousand tons of zinc, and 53 thousand tons of copper. WWII also caused an increase in the mining at the nearby Climax Mine, which at one time produced 75 percent of the world's molybdenum.
In it's heyday, the town boasted 150 saloons, 23 brothels and bordellos, and 15 churches.  During WW11, 10th Mountain Division soldiers trained at nearby Camp Hale.  A mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs, Leadville remains authentic and friendly, true to Colorado form.
One of the central figures in Leadville history is Horace Tabor. Horace and his wife Augusta, opened a grocery store in Leadville in 1868. He would later become the city’s first mayor and second postmaster. Known to be a generous man, Tabor was asked to “grubstake” two German immigrants in 1878 – he did…three times; the first costing him a mere $17.00. A month later, the Little Pittsburgh Mine hit, and by the end of summer, they declared a $10,000 dividend to each. Tabor quickly became the acknowledged leader of the silver mining community, and later bought, among others, the famous Matchless Mine.
(Photos of Baby Doe Tabor and Horace, in their heyday; Baby Doe at her opulent best; and Baby Doe on the streets of Denver, in later life).  In 1880, Tabor took up with a young, attractive divorcee who had arrived in Leadville, by the name of Elizabeth Boundel McCourt Doe (Baby Doe).  Carrying on a discreet relationship with Baby Doe, Horace soon asked Augusta for a divorce, which she refused – in the vein of torrid love triangle sagas, he obtained an illegal divorce and he and Baby Doe were secretly married in 1882. Horace Tabor’s fame grew, and he even served as a senator – however, the alleged divorce and scandalous marriage raged on, and was front page news across the country. It was an embarrassment to Washington, as well as other prominent figures in high social circles.  On March 1, 1883 the marriage between Horace and “Baby Doe” was finally legalized. Augusta Tabor eventually received a good part of the Tabor fortune in a final divorce decree and moved to Pasadena, California where she died in 1895, comfortable and fairly well off.
(Above: Tabor Opera House; Tabor Grand Hotel with alcove where Baby Doe stood and awaited Horace's return each night. The Opera House was said to be the finest theater between St. Louis and San Francisco when it was built. It is open for tours during the summer months). When Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Act, the government was no longer in the market for silver and Horace, failing to listen to the advice of others and diversify, faced ruin. Tabor also had made a number of unsuccessful investments in foreign mining ventures, losing huge amounts of money in Mexico and South America. His reserves diminished, he and Baby Doe lost everything. Horace died a broken man in 1899.
(Photos:  Matchless Mine; Inside Baby Doe's Shack; one of the last known photos of the once glamorous Baby Doe).  Baby Doe, once a millionaire, died in virtual poverty in 1935…found dead in her small shack at the Matchless Mine.  After her death, 17 trunks that had been stored in Denver were opened, as well as several gunny sacks and 4 trunks from Leadville.  All that was left from the Tabor fortune were several bolts of exquisite cloth, several pieces of china, a tea service and some jewelry, including a diamond and sapphire ring.  The famous watch fob and chain given to her husband at the opening of the $700,000 Tabor Opera House in Denver was also found.
The Delaware Hotel is the social hub, in the center of historic Leadville.  The hotel, known as the “Crown Jewel” of Leadville, has remained an active part of Leadville history, and continues to represent the graciousness of the Victorian era.  Erected in 1886 by the Callaway Brothers, as a monument to their home state.  Baby Doe, who became a tragic figure after Horace’s death, lived alone at the Matchless Mine, and often visited the hotel to warm herself.  She would climb the front entrance stairs, walk to the office and seat herself at the desk where she would write letters.  Baby Doe’s feet were customarily wrapped in gunny sacks for warmth as she walked to town from her wooden shack.
Open for business year round, The Delaware is a member of the Historic Hotels of the Rockies.  Reservations:  1-800-748-2004 ~ Office 719-486-1418; 700 Harrison Avenue, Leadville, CO  80461

Friday, July 13, 2012


I've returned from our first trip home to CO this summer - relaxing and sentimental, this jaunt was.  A real longing to be back, after all these years away, has settled into my heart - but no waxing melancholy for now.  FAMILY PHOTO TIME!!!  Just what the Boss ordered...
Denver has 4 (count 'em - FOUR) professional teams in town (Vegas has...hmmmm...none), covering baseball, hockey, basketball and, of course, Peyton Manning, now.  Took in a ROCKIES vs. Angels game with my husband's family (that's my nephew, Matty, enjoying a cool Rocky Mountain Spring Water at the game - he was not sitting on that woman's head)...we lost in the end, but that damned peanut stayed perched on that railing the entire game!  WINNING!
More sights, in and around the ball field, including my nephew and niece, Allix.  Denver loves it some baseball!  "You're killin' me, Smalls"...the Sandlot photo was for you, Jackie!
Downtown Denver has become so cosmopolitan and congested over the years, we found that riding the bus allowed us to bypass heavily travelled downtown streets, and parking issues. It also meant that we missed the one back out of town by 4 minutes (of course), allowing us another 45 minutes to sit (outside, I might add) and enjoy the wait at a local pub - Wahoo's, who apparently are famous for their fish tacos.  Don't ask about the humpback whales on the inside wall - maybe it was the Coors.
In addition to the sports attractions in town, Denver has a FABULOUS, actual art museum (Vegas?  Zero), in the heart of town - DAM (Denver Art Museum).  My daughter and I took in the most stunning exhibit the last day there - a collection of 200 jaw-dropping creations by Yves Saint Laurent (this was as far as I could get with my camera in there).  Downstairs was another un-photographable, travelling display of Secretary of State Madeline Albright's pins...the Art Museum is always a joy to spend an entire day at!
I gave up trying to figure out what belonged to the museum (those things you can photograph), and what was on loan (off-limits to cameras), but believe me, there are 7 floors of the most incredible art ranging from Modern/Contemporary to Spanish Colonial;  African to American Indian; Architecture, Textile, and Photography, etc.
The highlight that day, for my daughter, had to be a brand new acquisition by the museum of this massive painting by Gustave Dore, La Famille du Saltimbanque: L'Enfant Blesse (The Family of Street Acrobats: the injured child), painted about 1853.  Hanging next to yet another favorite - Bouguereau's Childhood Idyll.  The smile on her face was the highlight for me.
A great week spent with my husband's family, ending with a birthday party for my niece, Jessi.  Thanks for the love and laughter, you guys...and the hospitality - XOXO

More vacation photos to come, with some brand new travel suggestions for your own getaway.  In the meantime, having a big clearance sale over at Bead and Needle at Etsy - pass the word.  Back in a few days...missed you all, and have some catching up on blog reading to do on my own.