Mary Elitch Long: First Lady of Fun | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/mary-elitch-long-first-lady-fun[12/8/2015 1:04:48 PM] Home Mary Elitch Long: First Lady of FunMary Elitch Long: First Lady of FunSubmitted by jainlayconley on 1-4-2010 02:45 PMAuthor: Debra B. Faulkner Publishing: Palmer Lake, CO: Filter Press, 2008. Appendices, bibliography, index. 63 pages. 5-1/2 x 8. $8.95 paperback. Reviewer: Rosemary Lewis In the northwest corner of Denver stood an oasis, a playground, a cultural institution, and for over a century the object of community affection known as the Elitch Gardens Amusement Park. Founded by John and Mary Elitch in 1890, it became the embodiment of genteel pursuits and the site of family-oriented amusements, from baseball games to balloon rides to animal attractions to live legitimate theatreso many attractions, in fact, that compressing them into Debra Faulkners short, lively biography gives the reader a taste of just how pioneering Mary Elitch truly was. John Elitch died the year after the Gardens opened, leaving his widow to carry on, and carry on she did. Although she did make some poor choices in her life that resulted in her losing control of the Gardens on more than one occasion, she gained the respect of Denverites across political, economic, social, and gender lines. In an age when society regarded women who engaged in business outside of the home with a jaundiced eye, widowhood thrust proper, respectable Mary into a spotlight. For a quarter century she navigated through the restrictions of convention and became a forerunner in producing summer stock theatre, an unrecognized leader in the Progressive movements innovation of organized playgrounds, and arguably the first woman in America to run a zoo. Unstinting generosity to her fellow citizens and an unfortunate second marriage culminated with the sale of her beloved land for back taxes. Denver leaders, most notably flour baron John Mullen, responded to her plight by providing her with a respectable retirement, housed within her garden and surrounded by her extended family. Faulkner has captured Marys ephemeral, almost storybook, quality. In a book geared towards young people, Marys love of children, animals, and flowers permeates every page. She was the aunt that all children wished for, with her own live pet bears and endless stories and patience. Photographs throughout the text show Mary from her youth to her old age, most often with animals or flowers prominently depicted. In a photograph dating to the 1920s after her zoo had been disbanded, Mary is captured on the way to the theatre with friends, clutching a small stuffed dog in her right arm. Faulkner has also developed a historical re-creation of Mary Elitch Long and transforms into her character as fully as she inhabits her button-up shoes. In this, one of thirteen books in the series profiling influential or significant Coloradans, from Ute peacemaker Chipeta to international musician John Denver, Filter Press targets young scholars. The text is very accessible and includes a timeline of events as well as a glossary to build the readers vocabulary. This is not a robust, college-level reference work but it does manage to be interesting even to older adult EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanThe Ute people have lived in Colorado longer than anyone else.
Mary Elitch Long: First Lady of Fun | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/mary-elitch-long-first-lady-fun[12/8/2015 1:04:48 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us readers. There are aspects of Marys life that are subject to interpretation, most notably the depth of her true business sense and the circumstances surrounding her troubled finances. She purposely chose not to discuss any unpleasantness in her 1932 biography/autobiography, The Lady of the Gardens: Mary Elitch Long leaving holes for her later biographers to wrestle with. My quibbles with some of the information presented, largely addressing those same voids of information, include the events of her life in California and the circumstances of her life in the first years after Johns death. Some of the stories are the result of years of nostalgic polishing of the legacy, resulting in more speculation than fact. For example, as of the summer of 1891 a syndicate of local businessmen controlled the Gardens and continued to do so until 1894, when Mary repurchased the grounds in a sheriffs sale. Design of the historic theatre has been attributed to John Elitch, based on the Globe Theatre in London. Although Elitch may have influenced the design before his untimely death, the architect of record was the firm of Liden and Lee of Denver. The theatre itself bears little resemblance to the Globe. However, these issues do not detract from the true sense of wonderment every child, and adult, felt once they passed through the gates into the shaded wonderland that was Elitch Gardens and revived in Faulkners loving look at the First Lady of Fun. Reviewer Info: A Denver native, Rosemary Lewis (MA, University of Colorado Denver) spent countless summer days at the venerable Elitch Gardens and was fortunate enough to find employment at the theatre. Her thesis,The Elitch Gardens Theatre, 1891: Americas High Plains Summer Playhouse, examined the community regard for what was once Americas Oldest Summer Theatre. Add new comment