Saturday, June 14, 2008

Village of Lead

When I was a youth, we'd go camping in the mountains of Colorado most summer weekends, largely to my chagrin. My appreciation of the mountains was limited to seeing them from afar, and my feeling was firmly that if I was truly meant to spend weekends up there, then there would be televisions attached to every tree. It didn't help that my father and I had significantly different ideas of "roughing it" -- he thought plumbing was an extravagance on these trips, I thought I was undergoing unnecessary hardship if I couldn't find arcade games.

So my heart was not in it, and I realize now that I saw lots of cool stuff all over Colorado, but mostly I just responded with the sigh of a world-weary seven-year-old, and trudged back to the camper to drink orange soda and read Street and Smith's NFL preview, trying not to think about the episodes of the Baseball Bunch that I was missing.

One of the trips was up to Leadville. I remember nothing of it -- small town, no video games. This last trip up to Colorado, though, I got my parents to take me up there again, to make up a bit for my childhood whininess, and to drink a beer at 10,000 feet.

Two things stand out about this picture: 1) what a beautiful vista and 2) this was taken on June fucking 1st??

A masonic monument to a couple of towns that were wiped away by the paper towel of progress. Dad told the story of why the valley was wiped out, but here's the thing about doing a blog post two weeks after you take the pictures: you forget nearly everything.

Leadville's an old mining town, though now the industry is in something of a lull. I've got a bit of an interest in 19th century mining -- the labor issues, the immigration -- which was part of what spurred this trip. My interest is purely non-technical, though, so I have no idea what any of this stuff does. It mines, I guess.

At some point (in the 1890s, I believe) the city of Leadville built a giant palace out of ice. It wasn't the tourist draw they hoped, and it eventually melted, to the chagrin of people who had bought their tickets that day. This is a painting of it, which I guess is obvious, so moving right along...

This sight always stirs (adult) me a bit -- the vision of a Colorado mountain town. I tell myself that it undoubtedly looked exactly like this 100 years ago (if you ignore the SUVs. And paved roads. And electricity). I omit that it looks like every other Colorado mountain town. I sometimes think that I'd like to move up to one of these places, but I know myself well enough to realize that I'd eventually get a bit bored.

Cool old neon signage. This place has been around since the 1930s, I think. I secretly wanted to eat there because of the sign, but we ended up going to a place down the street.

Did I say I might get bored in a mountain town? I take that back! Every bar should have a sign like this.

In some form or another, this bar has been around since mining days -- if I remember my crash course in Leadville history correctly, it was originally called "The Board of Trade," which would look silly on a t-shirt. It's been the Silver Dollar since the 1930s, cashing in on Leadville's most famous story (more on that in a second).

Ghost ads! I saw a 1890s (I think) photo of the Tabor Opera House with this "DRY CLIMATE" ad prominently displayed -- that made me disproportionately happy.

The Tabor Opera House. The Tabors pretty prominent in Leadville -- H.A.W. Tabor was super rich and owned a bunch of mines, his wife "Baby Doe" was a famous beauty, etc. Eventually H.A.W. lost all his money and then died, Baby Doe ended up holding on to the bankrupt Matchless until she died, their kid "Silver Dollar" became an alcoholic and got murdered in Chicago, and so on. Loads of fun. There's a load more on it here, since I probably botched the details. The Tabor Opera House was the last bit of the Tabor empire to keep the name -- it's still in business as a theater and museum.

I dig this sign, just because it speaks of a Colorado mountain community before tourism became big business.

Part of the aforementioned Matchless Mine. It's still open to tourists, but we were feeling logy post-lunch and headed back down to Boulder.

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