Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Leadville, Colorado Historical Buildings

Early Leadville
Sitting at 10,152ft above sea level, Leadville, Colorado is a small town known for its importance in 1800’s silver mining. Folks looking to ‘strike it rich’ flocked to the Continental Divide with picks and shovels, and before long the town was booming with business. Even the railroad eventually made its way to Leadville. With striking views of the peaks along the Continental Divide, two of the buildings from the 1800’s boom are still in existence and use today.   

Delaware Hotel 
elaware Hotel: Originally from the state of Delaware, William, George and John Callaway left the east coast and settled in Denver as ware merchants. The brothers decided to expand their business and chose Leadville for their next venture. They built the 2-story Callaway Block on the corner of Sixth and Harrison in the mid 1880’s. The Callaway burned and the brothers turned their attention to building the Delaware as a tribute to their home state. The Delaware opened in 1886, with the ground floor home to several shops. The second and third floors housed fifty furnished rooms for use as offices or bedrooms. The hotel had steam heat, hot and cold water, gas lighting, and six bathrooms. William and George eventually went back to Denver, leaving John in charge of the hotel. The brothers retired in 1890, wealthy from their business ventures and investments.      

A gust room at the Delaware
The Delaware is Leadville’s only remaining hotel from the mining era. The hotel features a museum, gallery, and Victorian style rooms. The hotel is decorated with American and European antiques, with each bedroom telling a story relating to Leadville’s history.

Tabor Opera House
Tabor Opera House:
Born in Vermont in 1830, Horace Tabor was a stone cutter. He moved to Leadville in 1850 with his wife, August, and mined what is known as California Gulch. That mine didn’t net him riches, so he sold it and became a Leadville merchant. During this time, e gave supplies to two men in exchange for 1/3 of their mining claim. Lucky for Tabor, the men struck silver, making Tabor rich. He used his wealth to start several other mining companies, making even wealthier. But Tabor was also a reckless spender, of which his wife didn’t approve. He eventually divorced August and married his mistress, Elizabeth McCourt, a.k.a. Baby Doe. Horace and Baby Doe continued to spend their wealth in a reckless manner, and when the silver market crashed in 1893, they were poor. Horace died in 1899 with the notion his mines would become profitable again, but he was wrong.

Interior of Tabor Opera House, circa 1800's
 a prominent historic figure in Leadville’s history, Tabor’s house is now a museum and open to the public. His other famous legacy is the Tabor Opera House. Before Tabor came to Leadville, Denver had a difficult time acquiring opera singers to come to the city and perform. Out of the way and off the beaten path, opera companies thought Denver unworthy of their time, as getting to and leaving the city meant the loss of other dates and revenue. After Tabor came to Leadville, he opened a small opera house, and later decided to build an even bigger one that Denver, ‘Queen City of the Plains’ deserved. Construction began during the summer months, with Tabor sparing no expense for the finest opera house in the west. Constructed of cherry wood from Japan and mahogany from Honduras, the house was furnished with paintings from Europe, silk plush chairs, tapestry and carpeting. Opening night was September 6, 1881, with Tabor securing Emma Abbott and her Grand English Opera Company to christen the house. The house was a success for a few years until the Broadway Theater opened on 16th Street and took away most of the opera house’s business. Tabor had to sell his opera house in 1896, after he went bankrupt.       

Tabor Opera House today
Tabor Opera House still stands today and is undergoing major renovation, which is expected to last several years and is paid for in part by the town of Leadville. Improvements have been made to the roof and to structural support due to water seeping through the bricks and causing major problems from freezing and then thawing. Electrical work, plumbing, and the brick exterior also need to be improved as well as the heating. Currently the opera house is only open for performance during the summer because the building does not have heat.

**** To learn more about Leadville, or for directions and aaccomodations, Google offers several great links. 

1 comment:

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Love seeing these pictures and hearing the stories behind them. One of my favorite pictures, which sits on my desk is of my great grandfather and his cousin taken in Leadville. They ventured out from Evanston, IL to strike it rich...they didn't. The cousin died, in fact, and my great grandfather came home.