COLORADO, "The Cloud City", sits at an elevation of over
10,100 feet in a broad valley near the source of the Arkansas River.
An old high-mountain mining town which has ridden the boom-bust cycle for
more than a century, it has been slammed by the closings of important
mines in the last several decades, but is gamely clawing its way back up off
When I was a young boy, in the
1960's, I went there every summer, to our family's cabin near Tennessee
Pass, and I have been going there almost every summer since 1995. It's
a real town, and it has the hard and gritty edge of a place
just hanging on by the skin of its teeth. In other words, it's
nothing like Vail, or Aspen, or Breckenridge, or any of the other
tourist-money-soaked mountain resort towns. That's why I love it.
page (which is perpetually under construction) contains some some
more-or-less random ramblings about a number of locations in and around
Leadville, with links to photos. Just scroll down to see them.
"park" is a natural geographic feature -- a large, relatively flat
area, surrounded on all sides by mountains. In Colorado, two of the
largest are North Park, which is in Rocky Mountain National Park, and South
Park, east of Leadville on the other side of the Mosquito Range. (By
the way, to get an idea of what South Park really looks like, put the
cartoon out of your mind, and take a look at these pictures of roadside
memorials there: 2
Randys / unmarked
Park, located just north of Leadville, is much smaller -- only a few miles
across. U.S. Highway 24 cuts across it south to north, dividing
a sage-covered and relatively barren east half from a better-watered pasture
area on the west, where this cabin is located. It is one of a group of
buildings on the old "Rancho Escondido".
Large herds of cattle used to be run
on the pastures, but now, with the abandonment of "Rancho
Escondido", Tennessee Park is a lonely place. Apart from
the traffic on Hwy. 24 -- Leadville natives heading to and from their
jobs in Vail, 30 some-odd miles to the north, or the occasional
visitor to the private Trout Creek development -- little happens. That
traffic is responsible for one of the other things that marks Tennessee Park
now: roadside memorials ["nacio
of Leadville, past the ramshackle settlement of Stringtown, U.S. Hwy 24
makes a wide turn past a classic old "little red schoolhouse".
old school, now empty but obviously well taken care of, is actually in
Malta, a now non-existent railroad siding stop, but even though it is a
couple of miles short of the Leadville city limits, it has become something
of an icon for the city.
It always feels that way to me, at
least. When you're rolling up from the south, you know when you swing
past the old Malta schoolhouse that Leadville is just up the hill.
And, it provides a nice contrast to
what lies pretty much directly across the highway from it -- the dark,
dirty, abandoned railroad terminal, the slag heaps with the rusted head
frames leaning at awkward angles, and the little bubbling brook running
alongside of them, well stocked with the acid /heavy metal runoff of the
Leadville Mining District...
I was a kid, in the 1960's, my family would spend a month every summer in
our cabin in the woods north of Leadville.
Sure, we'd come into town every few days to pick up this or that at Western
Hardware, "downtown" on Harrison Avenue, or at the brand-new
Safeway on the north end of town, and to check for general delivery mail at
the Post Office -- but we wouldn't eat out. Even though we were
on vacation, we had a perfectly good cabin and a perfectly good wood stove
and a perfectly good icebox and a perfectly good sink with running water
piped in from the spring up the hill, so we could eat at home.
Right before we left to head back to
the flatlands, though, usually on our last night, we'd go into Leadville,
and we'd eat at the Golden Burro.
To me it was like a palace, with all the lights, the glass blocks in the big
front window, the curved naugahyde-upholstered booths, and all that neon out
front -- especially the burro, way up on top, with its neon tail that
switched back and forth. I don't remember what I usually ate; a hamburger,
I'm sure. The event was just being there.
The Burro is still there on Harrison
Avenue, amazingly unchanged. How long that will be so, is anyone's
photos of Leadville, the spire of the Annunciation (Catholic) Church is
frequently a prominent feature. The church, on the corner of Poplar and East
7th, was built in 1879. The steeple holds a huge bell, "St. Mary",
weighing over 3,000 pounds. The famous "Unsinkable Molly Brown"
was married in the church on September 1, 1886, and the funeral services for
Baby Doe Tabor were held here in 1935.
exterior church walls bear signs reading "Danger – Avalanche".
They do not refer to avalanches on the slopes above town; the danger they
warn of is an avalanche of snow sliding off the roof of the church.
Leadville averages over 300 inches of snow per season; people have
been killed by snow falling off the roofs of regular houses. A
substantial "slump" of snow off the large, high roof of
Annunciation Church would indeed be a serious danger.
quite a bit smaller, this church is also a classic piece of old Leadville.
Now the Assembly of God Church, it
was erected 1888 as the First Evangelical Lutheran Church.
old Presbyterian Church on Harrison Avenue is referred to by many locals
just as "the Old Church". It was dedicated in 1889, and has
been a defining presence on Harrison Avenue ever since.
And, speaking of churches, just across
the street from the "Old Church" is the "Temple
Of The Living God Cosmos" . . .
Avenue is Leadville's main drag. Its many ornate, multi-storied brick
buildings evidence Leadville's past as a major city in Colorado.
of the most impressive buildings along Harrison Avenue, both inside and out
is the old Tabor
Opera House, erected in 1879 by mining magnate H. A. W. Tabor .
door is Furman's Store. Evelyn Furman, a historian of Leadville and
biographer of "Baby Doe" Tabor, rescued the Tabor Opera House
from demolition in the 1950's, and still conducts tours of its interior.
Delaware Hotel, on
Harrison Avenue, was built in 1886. Doc Holliday is said to have
stayed there for a time, until a dispute with a bartender (in which some
shooting was involved) led to his hasty departure. Butch Cassidy is
also said to have been a sometime-guest.
The Delaware underwent
major renovations in 1992. There are now 36 rooms and suites on the 2d
and 3d floors. They retain a wonderfully authentic feel, with antique
furniture and 4-poster beds.
lobby, and Callaway's restaurant, are at ground
level. In recent years, hotel management has turned the lobby into an
antique shop -- it doesn't look quite like these photos anymore. I
wish it hadn't changed, but I know they're just doing what they have to in
order to make a buck and keep their heads above water . . . Anyway, there is a bar in the lobby;
while its hours are somewhat
irregular, the Manhattan Bar, and the bar of the Golden Burro, are both only
a few steps away. There is also a terrific coffee house across
the street (Cloud City Coffee House).
question, the Delaware is the place to stay in Leadville.
Centrally located in the heart of the historic downtown district, it
provides a great base for exploring the town -- or for just sitting in an
open window and watching life go by on Harrison Avenue.
Scarlet Inn is located at the corner of East 4th Street and Harrison Avenue
in Leadville, Colorado. Bar, pool tables. Nice place.
to information at the www.leadville.com
walking tour of Leadville, the building was built in 1887 as the Breene
Block, named from Lt. Governor and State Treasurer of Colorado, Peter W.
Breene, who provided the funding. Initially the first floor was
occupied by Adolph Hirsch’s liquor store, which had some of the highest
volume of any business in Western Colorado in the 1880's. They still
like to drink in Leadville.
Scarlet used to have a striking sign out on Harrison avenue, but it was laid
low sometime in the late 1990's by an errant semi. In May, 2000,
I spotted it lying in a backyard a few blocks away, and it may still be
there; apparently, the owner has hung onto it. No word on
whether he has any plans to try to restore it to its rightful place. I
vote: do it!
stopped in to the Scarlet for a bourbon one afternoon in August, 2001, and
the bartender Carrie and good-natured patrons were kind enough to let me do
some shooting. With
of the patrons did his part to expand my photogaphic options by climbing
down off his bar stool and dropping trou. I somehow managed to avoid
capturing this image. All for the
best, I think.
OTHER BARS, JOINTS, AND
Grill. Operated by the Martinez family since 1965. Great Mexican
food. I never pass up the opportunity to eat here when I pass through
Manhattan Bar, on Harrison Avenue.
suspect that it has been a long time since anyone ordered a Manhattan in
there's the Pastime - never been there - can't vouch for the place . . .
sign on the porch reads:
Temple Of The Living God Cosmos
And Of His Cosmic Holy Spirit
And Miracle Healing Powers
For A Safe And Happy Life
always wondered about the story behind the "Temple Of The Living God
Cosmos". I asked for help here, and someone e-mailed me this bit
"Cosmos is the name of the man who
lives in that house. Cosmos came to Leadville probably in the late 1980s.
Haven't seen him for awhile. You used to always be able to find him
sitting in front of the 'Old Church'. He dresses in black, black hat too
and a beard. I always thought he looked good sitting there
From another e-mail correspondent, I heard
"My mom was friends with Cosmos 'the
guru' in the 80s -- he told her she didn't need any more God, but
that she needed a really good lover. He was always saying off the
wall stuff like that -- she found it most amusing".
"the Old Church", the first writer is referring to the old
Presbyterian Church which sits on Harrison Avenue across from the
"Temple Of The Living God Cosmos".)
You can read more about it, and some other
Leadville churches, above).
If anyone out there
has any additional information about this (or any other) bit of Leadville
"local color", please contact
ASSORTED SIGHTS AND LOCALES
think of this grand old structure on Harrison Avenue, dating to the 1880's,
as the Vendome Hotel. That's because when I first started coming to
Leadville in the 1960's there was a huge "Vendome Hotel" sign
perched on top of the prominent "hat" on the corner. Now, it
is referred to as the "Tabor Grand".
old St. Vincent hospital
on U.S. 24 south of Leadville
on U.S. 24, south of Leadville