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The quest for culture

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The quest for culture Colorado's historic opera houses of the gold and silver eras
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Colorado's historic opera houses of the gold and silver eras
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Schwarm, Elizabeth J
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English
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viii, 155 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Theaters -- History -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Cities and towns -- History -- Colorado ( lcsh )
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Theaters ( fast )
Colorado ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 150-155).
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Humanities.
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by Elizabeth J. Schwarm.

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University of Florida
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Full Text
THE QUEST FOR CULTURE:
COLORADO'S HISTORIC OPERA HOUSES
OF THE GOLD AND SILVER ERAS
by
Elizabeth J. Schwann
B. A., University of Colorado, Boulder, 1981.
A thesis submitted to the
faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
1994


0 1994 by Elizabeth J. Schwarm
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Humanities
degree by
Elizabeth J. Schwarm
has been approved for the
Department of Humanities
by


Schwarm, Elizabeth J. (M. H., Humanities)
The Quest for Culture:
Colorado's Historic Opera Houses of the Gold and Silver Eras
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
Throughout the world, communities draw prestige from a
variety of sources, ranging from holy sites to sports complexes.
Such important facilities can bring to a community the high
regard of outsiders, thus proportionately increasing the self-
respect of those within the community itself. In the western
United States in the late nineteenth century, this role was
filled partially by schools and churches, but also by theatres,
opera houses, and other venues for the performing arts. These
facilities were not merely for entertainment. They also served
as validation of a community's claims to civilization; a town
with an opera house was regarded as having matured to a
prestigious position within society. Any community wishing to
gain public respect needed to construct performing arts
facilities.
iv


This thesis analyses this trend as expressed through the erection
of opera houses in Colorado mining communities in the 1870s and
1880s, with particular consideration being given to the careers
of those persons who were directly involved in the construction
and operation of those theatres. Primary sources, including
newspapers and memoirs, are used to shed light upon both the
historic period and more modern times. Interviews with
participants in and observers of the performing arts in Colorado
provide additional perspective, and comparisons are drawn between
attitudes toward the arts in the historic and modern periods.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidates's thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed
v


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. THE CURTAIN RISES............................. . 1
2. THE FIFTY-NINERS AND THE FRONTIER FRATERNITY . 6
3. OPERATIC ENDEAVORS ................................ 20
4. CENTRAL CITY'S "TEMPLE OF THE MUSES" ............. 34
5. MONUMENTS TO TABOR ...............................55
6. PETER MCCOURT AND THE SILVER CIRCUIT ............. 82
7. THE RISE OF WHEELER; THE FALL OF SILVER...........91
8. DEATHS AND TRANSFIGURATIONS ......................107
9. THE CURTAIN FALLS ..................................140
BIBLIOGRAPHY.......................................... 150
vi


Acknowledgements
This thesis would not now exist if it had not been for the
assistance of numerous persons who graciously shared with me
their knowledge and expertise concerning Colorado and the history
of its performing arts. My committee members, Tom Noel, chairman
of the UCD history department, Kent Casper, chairman of the UCD
humanities department, and Barbara Neal, executive director of
the Colorado Council on the Arts, provided constructive advice
and essential guidance throughout the creative process. The
staff members of the Colorado Historical Society Research Library
and the Denver Public Library Western History Department assisted
in locating primary source material, as did staff members of the
Aspen Historical Society in Aspen, the Gilpin County Historical
Society in Central City, and the Lake County Library in
Leadville. Historian Duane Smith generously shared his insights
concerning Horace Tabor, and Evelyn Furman spoke with me about
her prized possession, the Tabor Opera House in Leadville. In
Aspen, both mayor John Bennett and Bob Murray, executive director
of the Wheeler Opeira House, proved to be invaluable sources of
information concerning the background of the performing arts in
vii


Aspen, as well as its role in the city today. The Central City
Opera House Association generously opened its files to me, and
its staff members, particularly John Moriarty, Daniel Rule and
JoAnn Sims, enthusiastically shared their extensive expertise.
The University of Denver also allowed access to its archives,
which contain much information concerning the Central City Opera
House. Special thanks is due to Rick Glesner, for giving me the
mental space required to write, and to the editors of National
Public Radio's Morning Edition, for assigning me to report on the
restoration of the Central City Opera. House in 1987. Without
that stimulus, I might not have come to understand and appreciate
the gracious history of Colorado's opera houses.
Elizabeth J. Schwarm
December 1, 1994


CHAPTER ONE
THE CURTAIN RISES
Opera may abound with golden throats and golden moments,
but to find grand opera in the world of gold miners seems
initially incongruous. In the public image, frontier
entertainment focused on saloons, not salons, and few casual
observers would suspect that Gold Rush communities had an
interest in finer amusements. Yet as mining camps grew and
prospered, citizens began demanding performing arts of diverse
kinds. Theatre, music, and even opera appeared in mining
communities, both for entertainment purposes and for the positive
statement that the presence of such cultured diversions made
about the community. To achieve those dual goals, mining towns
constructed opera houses during the 1870s and 80s, as Colorado
evolved from a territory to a state. Ultimately, those theatres,
waxing and waning as did the gold towns themselves, came to
exemplify periods of both prosperity and despair. The story of
those opera houses illustrates aspects of Colorado's development,
both culturally and economically.
Hundreds of theatres were constructed in Colorado beginning
with its founding in 1859. Most of those facilities, as will be
shown, were at best unpretentious, little more than stage areas


appended to saloons. Yet most towns of reasonable size found the
resources to build opera houses as venues for opera, instrumental
music, theatrical productions, and various community events. The
social statement made by the presence of such facilities nation-
wide has been examined in several important published studies.
In The Urban Frontier, Richard Wade focused upon the development
of such Ohio River towns as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh from 1790
to 1830. In those communities, he found that schools, churches,
and theatres were quickly established so as to bring social
stability to the area, as well as a semblance of the culture that
pioneers had left behind them. Theatre, Wade explains, was "an
important carrier of refinement and taste."1 He also notes that
community leaders, ever conscious of their town's fragile status
in a changing society, sought to demonstrate that they were no
less cultured that the established cities of the East Coast, thus
proving, they hoped, their "equality with the older sections of
the Union."2 The erection of elaborate theatres was an important
path to this equality.
The Western expression of this trend was Duane Smith's
focus in Rocky Mountain Mining Camps, in which he asserts:
In the [gold] camp the opera house or theater was a mark
of cultural distinction, of maturity par excellence.
Here were presented legitimate theater, musical, and
lectures --- the cultural entertainments of the
2


respectable element of the community... It mattered so
much to have one in the camp that the local newspaper
might take it upon itself to advertise editorially for
some enterprising person to build one.3
Smith notes that such civilized facilities, together with schools
and churches, were seen as evidence of stability, of "cultured
refinement and the semblance of Eastern respectability." The
mining community resident was, in Smith's words, "striving for
something better, something similar to what he had known earlier
or heard described by those who had been East."4 Constructing an
opera house allowed a mining town to stake its claim to more than
just gold or silver. Here was the mother lode of respectability,
through which the community could validate its existence.
Like the diverse regions studied by Smith and Wade,
Colorado towns of the late 1800s felt the same unquenchable urge
to prove their respectability. Many hundreds of theatres, dozens
of which were, whether in name alone or in actual fact, opera
houses, were built during these decades; some of them still
stand. In Central City, the earliest of the surviving opera
houses is still in use as the home of a well-respected opera
company that, excepting the years of World War Two, has given
performances each summer since 1932. In Aspen, the Wheeler Opera
House is also active, with a great diversity of events presented
throughout the year. Other theatres have been rather less
3


fortunate. The Tabor Opera House in Leadville, crippled by a
weak local economy, is a meek relic of its former opulence, and
the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver was demolished in 1964.
Taken together, these four theatres show the diverse origins and
fates of the opera houses throughout Colorado. Built in the
"rush to respectability," they have, in three of the four cases,
carried that respectability to the close of the twentieth
century, despite the intervention of frequent hard times.5
This study will examine the births, deaths, and
resurrections of these four historic opera houses, the most
highly regarded of their kind, considered in the context of
Colorado's development. Like the state as a whole, these
theatres rose with the Gold Rush and the Silver Boom. They
suffered through the Panic of 1893, and sought new paths for
survival in the late twentieth century, with varying degrees of
success. Their histories, and those of their creators and their
patrons, illustrate Colorado's growth and progress, for just as
Central City, Leadville, Denver, and Aspen sought respect on a
national front, so Colorado itself in the 1870s struggled for
prominence amongst the other United States. For the cities and
the state alike, opera houses were part of a cultural
infrastructure that served as a foundation for society. Studying
4


the historic opera houses, those ambassadors of Eastern culture
transplanted to the West, shows how Colorado developed its own
culture, ultimately creating a cross-continent amalgam, a Rocky
Mountain rendition of East Coast trends. The state's four great
opera houses exemplify that continued striving for cultural
acceptance. Through the arts, Colorado communities sought to
prove that they were more than just cow-towns or mining camps.
They were, rather, civilized outposts in the Rockies.
*****
Notes for Chapter One: The Curtain Rises
1. Wade, Richard C. The Urban Frontier: Pioneer Life in Early
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lexington, Louisville, and St. Louis.
Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1959. p. 259.
2. ibid, p. 231.
3. Smith, Duane A. Rocky Mountain Mining Camps,: The Urban
Frontier. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press.
1967. p. 162.
4. ibid, p. 104.
5. The "rush to respectability" phrase was coined by Stephen J.
Leonard and Thomas J. Noel in Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis.
Niwot: University Press of Colorado. 1990.
5


CHAPTER TWO
THE FIFTY-NINERS AND THE FRONTIER FRATERNITY
Colorado's destiny as one of the United States became clear
in the 1850s, when prospectors en route to California's fabled
gold fields decided to practice their trade as they travelled.
These men were far from the first gold seekers to visit the area.
The Spanish explorer Coronado pursued rumors of the precious
metal on the High Plains in 1540. In 1807, Lt. Zebulon Pike was
told of gold nuggets while exploring the region which would later
bear his name, and he duly included those tales in his official
report, but his statements were either disregarded or overlooked.
Not until 1850, when the Ralston party found faint traces of gold
in the modern-day Denver suburb of Arvada were those tales taken
seriously.
Insignificant in itself, the Ralston strike encouraged
other prospectors to continue the quest. In 1858, William Green
Russell, a veteran of the gold fields in Georgia and California,
brought a large prospecting party to the Pikes Peak region. Of
6


the original company of 104 fortune-seekers, only thirteen,
including two of his brothers, were still with Russell in early
July when they sparked Colorado's Gold Rush by striking paydirt
at the confluence of the South Platte River and Dry Creek.1
Further explorations downstream on the Platte unearthed more
traces of so-called "color;" within weeks, news of the exciting
discoveries spread to such Missouri River towns as Kansas City,
Independence, Leavenwoth, and St. Charles. Soon, thousands of
would-be prospectors set out from these supply towns for the
journey to Pikes Peak Country. Denver's first newspaper, the
Rocky Mountain News, described the scene in its premiere issue:
The hum of busy men is heard in the mountains so lately
rising lonely in majestic silence; the cheerful tones of
a multitude fill the air that but lately echoed only the
occasional voice of a weary wanderer; the Buffalo and
Deer that but yesterday scarcely feared the form of man,
are already driven by the presence of men, from the
boundless plains where they had roamed almost
undisturbed for a thousand years.2
Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers estimated that as many
as 100,000 thousand persons would soon be in the gold regions.3
Luke Tierney, a member of the Russell party, predicted 60,000
residents within a year.4 Such a vast number of "argonauts" may
have begun the trek, but only half actually reached the gold
fields. Nevertheless, so many persons completed the journey that
the 1860 census found 34,231 residents in the future Colorado.
7


On September 24, 1858, the town of St. Charles was founded
where the South Platte converged with Cherry Creek. Two months
later, it was renamed Denver in honor of the governor of Kansas
Territory, of which this region was technically a part. The
town's founders envisioned it becoming an important gold mining
camp, but its dominance was soon challenged by discoveries in the
western foothills. In January of 1859, the first important lode
was found at the confluence of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek,
where the town of Idaho Springs now stands. Several months
later, John Gregory, like Russell an experienced miner from
Georgia, struck paydirt in a narrow, rocky gulch thirty miles
west of Denver. In need of a grubstake, Gregory shared
information concerning his find with a team of prospectors from
Indiana; those fortunate men eagerly traded supplies for possible
riches, joining Gregory in the gulch that was destined to bear
his name. Gregory himself struck the first mother lode on May 6.
Before summer began, thousands of hopeful argonauts were en route
to the Gregory Diggings.
Among those traveling to the future Colorado in these
opening weeks of the gold rush was Horace Greeley, founder and
editor of the New York Tribune. He came searching not for gold
nuggets, but for nuggets of news. Greeley wanted to witness what
8


was happening at the Gregory Diggings, which he lauded as "the
chief hope of gold-mining in the Rocky Mountains."5 Accompanied
by two other journalists, Albert Richardson of the Boston Journal
and Henry Villard of the Cincinnati Commercial, Greeley arrived
on June 9, 1859, only six weeks after the original discoveries.
As the astonished New Yorker noted in his report, hoards of
"Fifty-niners" had preceded him:
I presume less than half the four or five thousand
people now in this ravine have been here a week; he who
has been here three weeks is regarded as quite an old
settler. The influx cannot fall short of five hundred
per day, balanced by an efflux of about one hundred...
Twenty thousand people will have rushed into this ravine
before the 1st of September, while I do not see how half
of them are to find profitable employment here.6
As Greeley predicted, many went away disappointed, not only from
the Gregory Diggings, but also from every gold strike in the
region, for most soon found it simpler to dream of gold than to
actually find it. The Rocky Mountain News mocked these "gobacks"
for abandoning certain fortune, yet enough miners remained to
transform the Gregory Diggings into the town of Central City.
To call Central City and Denver "towns" at this infant
stage of their development begs explanation, for only in
comparison to the wilderness that surrounded them could mere
settlements earn such titles. Albert Richardson, journalist,
inveterate traveler, and companion of Greeley, saw Denver as a
9


"forlorn and desolate-looking metropolis" in which "chairs were
glories yet to come," and "almost every day was enlivened by its
little shooting match."7 Other visitors also remarked upon the
raw nature of these incipient cities. Helen Hunt Jackson, after
visiting the youthful mining town of Fairplay in the i870s,
derided it as "ill arranged, ill built, ill kept, dreary," then
sternly admonished the miners themselves:
Why cannot a mining town be clean, well-ordered, and
homelike? I have never seen one such in Colorado or in
California. Surely, it would seem that men getting gold
first hand from Nature might have more heart and take
more time to make home pleasant and healthful.8
Jackson was not the only visitor to offer lofty condemnation.
William Hepworth Dixon, an English clergyman, dismissed the
future capital as "ten or twelve streets laid out, with two
hotels, a bank, a theater, half a dozen chapels, fifty gambling
houses and a hundred grog shops. As you wander about these hot
and dirty streets you seem to be walking in a city of demons.1,9
Most of those so-called "demons" had journeyed to the
region seeking gold, yet few were experienced miners. Many were
farmers lured from their fields by rumors of riches. Others,
mountain men or former soldiers or professional fur traders, also
joined the stampede to the "New Eldorado." These settlers were,
to varying degrees, acquainted with existence at the edge of
10


civilization, or at least life outside of Eastern cities, yet
others knew a far different life, as Horace Greeley observed:
The next man you meet driving an ox team, and white as
a miller with dust, is probably an ex-banker or doctor,
a broken merchant or manufacturer from the old states,
who has scraped together the candle ends charitably or
contemptuously allowed him by his creditors on
settlement, and risked them on a last desperate cast of
the dice by coming hither. Ex-editors, ex-printers, ex-
clerks, ex-steamboat men, are here in abundance --- all
on the keen hunt for the gold which only a few will
secure.10
Even Augusta Tabor, who came to Denver one year after Russell's
gold strikes, declared, "I never saw a country settled up with
such greenhorns.1,11
This amalgam of adventurers was not limited to the
American-born. Englishmen were also present, many of them
younger sons who, lacking a significant inheritance, decided to
try their luck in America. As mining communities expanded, all
Europeans, but particularly those of British or German origin,
arrived in great number. According to the federal census, 23.5
percent of Central City's 1870 population was foreign-born. Two-
thirds of those immigrants were natives of Ireland or the various
German-speaking states, such as Saxony, but China, Luxembourg,
Poland, Bohemia, and the Isle of Man also made contributions.12
Enriched by such ethnic diversity, lively communities arose in
which gold fever seemed to be the only commonality.
11


Anecdotal evidence and official statistics both confirm a
significant demographic fact. These early gold rush settlements
were virtually frontier fraternities in which women were rarely
seen. Augusta Tabor, traveling in 1859 and 1860 with her husband
Horace and infant son, found that she was the first white woman
to arrive in Payne's Bar and California Gulch. This situation
proved somewhat advantageous, since lonely men, lacking their own
ladies, willingly built her a shelter. Earlier, on reaching
Denver, Augusta had reported that she was only the eleventh woman
in town, but qualified that statement by pointing out that "Most
of them were Mexicans and squaws."13 In June, 1859, amongst the
four-thousand residents of the Gregory Diggings, Horace Greeley
found only "five white women and seven squaws living with white
men."14 Albert Richardson, writing in that same month of Denver,
alleged that "the appearance of a bonnet in the street was the
signal for the entire population to rush to the cabin doors and
gaze upon its wearer as at any other natural curiosity.1,15 The
Methodist minister John L. Dyer, after travelling from California
Gulch to preach in Kent's Gulch, reported that the settlement had
"about one hundred men, one of whom had a family."16 Women, it
seems, were rarer than hen's eggs, and hen's eggs were fetching
$2.50 a dozen in Gregory Gulch.17
12


Government statistics suggest that these anecdotes were not
exaggerations. In 1860, several months after its founding,
California Gulch, where the town of Leadville would soon arise,
had a population of 2049, of whom 97.7% were men. Of the
remaining forty-eight persons, half were women, half children.18
Ten years later in that same area, adult women were still only
eleven percent of the population.19 Other communities reported
similar figures. Black Hawk, at the foot of the former Gregory
Diggings, had a population of 951 in 1870, with forty-four
percent men, nineteen percent women, and thirty-seven percent
children. One mile up the gulch in Central City, women were
comparatively numerous, comprising twenty-five percent of an 1870
population that numbered 1,449, significantly more than the mere
handful of women Greeley had found in the community eleven years
earlier.20 Despite such gains, the editors of a local newspaper
were sufficiently concerned as to print an editorial with advice
for young ladies back east. "Wake up, girls," it proclaimed,
"and come to where you are needed and appreciated.1,21 Those
journalists realized that without women, the town would never be
more than a transient camp, for men alone could never achieve a
stable, permanent population. Without women, gold camps would
never mature into civilized societies.
13


The relative absence of women in these early years is
easily explained. Professional prospectors led extremely
unsettled lives, traveling frequently and living precariously as
they followed their dreams of gold from the coast of Georgia to
the coast of California and back. Few were married; of those who
were, virtually none were accompanied to the gold fields by their
wives, let alone by their daughters. Additionally, one year
before Russell's 1858 gold strike, the United States was struck
by an economic depression that was particularly severe in the
Midwest and Kansas Territory. These areas, closer to the mining
camps than were the rest of the United States, were the first to
hear of the discoveries, and many bankrupt merchants and farmers,
seeing the hoardes of would-be prospectors passing by their
doors, joined the march to the Pikes Peak region intending to
strike it rich, then return home with pockets full of gold to
redeem their farms and businesses. They had no intention of
staying any longer than necessary, so they left their families at
home. The fact that these optimists did not become immediately
wealthy changed neither their plans nor the demographics of the
camps, which remained overwhelmingly masculine. In fact, if the
mining communities had been populated only by miners, that is, by
those who panned for gold, women might never have reached the
frontier at all, excepting inevitable prostitutes. Domesticity
14


had no place in the early days of a mining camp, for the ideals
of Victorian femininity were ill-suited to a miner's cabin.
Miners, however, were not alone on the frontier, since even
the newest settlements required men of diverse professions.
Regardless of their skills, miners could never provide for all
their own needs; they simply were too busy with pick and shovel
to bother with hoe and rake, or with needle and thread. As
miners themselves arrived in ever-increasing numbers, the demand
grew for support services, and men of diverse abilities, men with
no plans to ever pan for gold, arrived on the frontier. Greeley
noted this effect in the Gold Rush's earliest days:
Mining quickens almost every department of useful
industry. Two coal pits are burning close at hand. A
blacksmith has set up his forge here, and is making a
good thing of sharpening picks at fifty cents each. A
volunteer post office is just established, to which an
express office will soon attach itself. A provision
store will soon follow, then groceries, then dry goods,
then a hotel, etc.
Blacksmiths and brewers, shop-keepers and saloon-keepers, lawyers
and bakers and pharmacists became the middle-class of the mining
camps. In some cases, men who had come to town as miners would
abandon that profession in favor of less arduous work, and they,
too, entered this more prestigious social order. Thus, mining
camps that had begun as isolated outposts gradually evolved into
miniature imitations of nineteenth-century American cities,
15


leading to the divers ification of both industry and society.
Within a few years, the non-mining portion of the region's
population came to outnumber the actual miners by as much as five
to one in some areas.23 A clear example of this situation was
Central City. Of the numerous towns in Gregory Gulch, Central
City was the "country club community," the chosen home of the
local elite, professionals who, proud of having clean hands and
an education, held themselves aloof from the miners themselves.
In 1870, 40% of the men in Central City described themselves to
the census taker as "miners;" an additional 14% were employed as
blue-collar teamsters, carpenters, laborers, and mill workers.
Of the remaining 46%, most worked in support services as store
clerks, barbers, and saloon and hotel keepers; others practiced
such "civilized" professions as law, medicine, jewelry and watch-
making, and life insurance sales. By contrast, in neighboring
Black Hawk, 76% of the male population was employed in mining and
other physically laborious pursuits. In comparison to miners and
their co-workers, professionals led more settled lives and were
far less inclined to follow rumors to a new mining camp every few
months. Thus, these men more frequently were accompanied by
their families, or at least asked their wives and children to
join them later. Due to its middle and upper-class composition,
16


Central City boasted a significant feminine contingent, numbering
twenty-five percent in 1870. In working class Black Hawk, only
nineteen percent of the population was comprised of women.24
As Colorado's mining camps grew and stabilized, women
became more numerous, and more influential; their presence
brought to a close the frontier fraternity that had characterized
Colorado's earliest years. With the passing of those masculine
days, mining communities came of age, not merely in chronological
terms, but also intellectually and socially. Stable societies
capable of growth replaced temporary camps that would never have
outlasted the gold deposits. That maturation triggered new
demands and different needs within the community, particularly in
the realm of entertainment, for with women and families in twon,
saloon girls and music halls no longer seemed adequate. Those
changes would ultimately lead to the age of the opera house.
*****
Notes for Chapter Two:
The Fifty-niners and the Frontier Fraternity
1. Some sources state that the Russell party ultimately numbered
twelve gold-seekers, but Luke Tierney, a member of the party,
names thirteen members in his History of the Gold Discoveries on
17


the South Platte River..., Pacific City, Iowa: A. Thomson.
1859. p, 11.
2. Rocky Mountain News, 4/23/1859, p. 1.
3. Byers, William N., and Kellam, J. H. A Handbook to the Gold
Fields of Nebraska and Kansas. Chicago: D. B. Cooke and
Company, 1859. p. 13.
4. Tierney, p. 15.
5. Greeley, Horace. An Overland Journey from New York to San
Francisco in the Summer of 1859. New York: C. M. Sexton,
Barker, and Company. San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft and Company,
1860. p. 120.
6. ibid, p. 120-121.
7. Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the
Great Mississippi to the Great Ocean. Hartford: American
Publishing Company, 1867. p. 177 and p. 186.
8. Jackson, Helen Hunt. Bits of Travel at Home. Boston:
Roberts Brothers, 1894. p. 251.
9. quoted in Leonard, Stephen J., and Noel, Thomas J. Denver:
Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado,
1990. p. 22.
10. Greeley, p. 157.
11. Tabor, Augusta. "Cabin Life in Colorado." Bancroft
Manuscripts, Colorado Historical Society, p. 3.
12. Information derived from federal census reports for Central
City, 1870, at the Colorado Historical Society.
13. Augusta Tabor, p. 1-2.
14. Greeley, p. 122.
15. Richardson, p. 177.
16. Dyer, John L. The Snow-Shoe Itinerant: An Autobiography of
the Rev. John L. Dyer ______ Cincinnati: Cranston and Stowe.
1890. Reprinted 1976 by Father Dyer United Methodist Church,
18


Breckenridge, Colorado, p. 128.
17. Richardson, p. 199.
18. US census figures for California Gulch, 1860, at the Lake
County (Colorado) Library.
19. US census figures for Oro City, 1870, at the Lake County
(Colorado) Library.
20. US census figures for Gilpin County, 1870, at the Colorado
Historical Society.
21. Central City Daily Register, 3/27/1872.
22. Greeley, p. 124-5.
23. Ubbelohde, Carl, and Benson, Maxine, and Smith, Duane A. A
Colorado History. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company,1988,
sixth edition, p. 75.
24. Information derived from US census figures for Gilpin
County, 1870, at the Colorado Historical Society.
19


CHAPTER THREE
OPERATIC ENDEAVORS
In their earliest years, these Colorado communities offered
only earthy entertainment. After his 1859 Denver visit, Horace
Greeley reported drily that guns and gambling were the primary
amusement, and that revellers occupied in this fashion "had a
careless way, when drunk, of firing revolvers, sometimes at each
other, at other times quite miscellaneously.1,1 The bemused New
Yorker noted that, as this was something of an inconvenience for
a guest disinclined to dodge bullets, he left the room. Feminine
entertainment was no more refined than those gamblers. Saloon
girls were the closest thing to divas ever seen in the mining
camps, and a gambling hall might declare itself a theatre merely
on the basis of presenting vaudeville each weekend. Initially,
there were no protests. The miners, it seems, were content with
their entertainment options, too hard-worked, perhaps, to insist
upon anything better, but the longing for finer entertainment
arose rather quickly. "We want something rich and respectable in
the amusement line here," insisted Denver's Rocky Mountain News
in 1850, and the demand soon generated a supply.2
20


Theatre came early to the scene, as resident acting
companies began to offer performances first in local saloons,
later in true theatres, "legitimate" theatres constructed
specifically for that purpose. Denver's first such facility was
Apollo Hall, which opened October 3, 1860, with a performance by
Thorne's Star Company, one of few Pikes' Peak theatre troupes
known to perform Shakespeare with any semblance of fidelity to
the text.3 That same autumn, John Langrishe, Irish-born actor
and journalist, staged his first performances in Denver. A
talented comedian, Langrishe was also a fine theatrical manager;
he soon formed his own company and began touring the gold camps
with great success, presenting everything from Othello to
melodramas on socially redeeming temperance themes/ Although
many theatre companies in the gold camps sought to appeal only to
the miner's most prurient instincts, Langrishe saw higher rather
tastes in his audiences, and sought to satisfy those tastes.
Albert Richardson observed that, at Langrishe's performances,
ladies felt quite comfortable, for "despite the boisterousness of
the house there was no gross coarseness and no profanity,"6 and
Francis Young, a member of Central City's elite, described the
comedian as "a gentleman,... genial, intelligent and able."6
21


For practical reasons, this early breed of Pikes' Peak
theatre relied more upon the spoken word than upon musical
expression. Dramatic productions without music could be
presented in more primitive facilities, even outdoors if
necessary, and with fewer resources, an important detail in areas
where even pianos were rare creatures. Additionally, drama
required more commonly available skills; after all, most actors
could speak reasonably well, but comparatively few could sing
adequately. Railroads addressed both problems by bringing the
frontier in closer contact with Main Street America.
Construction materials were more available and more easily
transported, making possible the erection of more sophisticated
theatrical facilities. Also, theatre troupes from the East,
including many musically talented ensembles, could finally reach
Colorado, providing competition for Langrishe and his cohorts.
They brought with them not only the instruments required to make
music, but also an awareness of a new trend that was growing in
popularity in the East. These troupes brought opera to the West.
A theatrical marriage of music and drama, opera began in
the early seventeenth century as entertainment for the nobles of
the Italian royal courts. Before the century ended, opera had
spread throughout Europe, eventually escaping the royal realms to
22


become a popular amusement. By Mozart's time in the 1780s, opera
was regarded much in the way that Broadway musicals are viewed
today: as a pleasant evening's entertainment that persons of
virtually all classes can enjoy. Opera composers even began
satirizing the nobility that they previously would have served.
Certainly, had Mozart been dependent upon royal largesse, he
scarcely would have portrayed such corrupt noble characters as
the Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. The nobility was
incensed by this opera, but the average citizen on the street,
the person for whom Mozart wrote the opera, found it to be a
delightful diversion.
Soon, opera reached across the Atlantic. Gay's The
Beggar's Opera, a farce on English social conditions, came to the
New York City stage in 1750; in the next few decades, it was
performed in most major cities in the colonies, including Boston,
Charleston, Williamsburg, and Philadelphia.7 The first opera
written by an American composer was Charles Dibdin's The
Disappointment, or the Force of Credulity (1767). The first
American theatre to be christened as an "opera house" was
Philadelphia's Southwark Opera House, which opened in 1766.8
Washington's officers and their ladies were entertained by an
opera performance at Valley Forge.9 New Orleans, with its
23


strong European influence, was especially fond of opera. In the
1820s, it boasted two opera companies, and in 1835, the St.
Charles Theater, then America's most elegant facility, opened at
a cost of $350,000.10 It was the queen of a host of lesser
facilities that had opened in the United States since 1800.
Such effort and expense seems astonishing in pursuit of
mere entertainment. Were Americans indeed so determined to see
and hear opera? Amusement may have been the primary goal of
those purchasing tickets, but those operating such facilities
admitted to other objectives. Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart's
collaborator for The Marriage of Figaro and other operas,
emigrated to the United States in 1805, and began efforts to
present performances by an Italian opera company. As he soon
discovered, his new countrymen regarded art mainly as a means to
a goal. "The Americans," Da Ponte observed, "are almost all
merchants; they make a business of everything, even
entertainment."11 Da Ponte regarded this mercenary state of
affairs as rather discouraging, yet for others the fact that
money could be made in entertainment was a source of delight.
Certainly, P. T. Barnum was delighted to gross half a million
dollars in 1850 and '51 by promoting performances by the great
opera star, Jenny Lind.12 Lind herself only earned $200,000, but
24


for one year's work, that was still an impressive income. Opera
became so popular in America that in the 1850s, many mid-level
European singers, and even some of the finest talents, found it
profitable to tour the United States. Despite the significant
costs of transportation, an American concert tour was financially
desireable.
Profits also existed in building the facilities in which
such performances could be given. In Philadelphia, stock-holders
in a new opera house viewed it as a valuable investment because
it would boost other businesses in the area. Boston's mayor
backed an opera house plan in 1852 because, in his own words:
Traveling businessmen, who might otherwise neglect to
visit Boston, would be attracted to the city by the
dramatic and operatic entertainment such a theater could
provide and would be likely to remain in the city longer
for the same reason.13
Even smaller cities agreed with this attitude. Promoters in
Meridian, Mississippi, asserted that an opera house would "add
greatly to the attractiveness of the city, not only for the
resident but for the country merchants and the travelling man."14
Opera, it seems, was not merely aesthetic; it was also fiscally
astute, a reliable method of stimulating business throughout a
community by attracting visitors and their wallets.
25


Beyond the Eastern cities, opera also took root, although
on a different scale. The Jenny Linds of the world rarely
crossed the Mississippi, and there was neither sufficient
financing nor adequate population for luxurious theatres. For
most of small town America, including youthful Colorado, opera
houses existed, yet shared few similarities with New Orleans'
fine facilities, as John Dizikes asserts in his recent study,
Opera in America:
Small town opera houses followed a common plan. As
private speculations, they were put on the second or
third floor, above commercial space which would pay for
the building and its maintenance... A few of the larger
houses had a box [that is, box seating] on either side
of the proscenium, but often there wasn't any permanent
seating. Folding chairs were brought in when needed.15
These unpretentious theatres, Dizikes notes, usually seated about
five-hundred people. They were neither elaborate nor exclusive,
two characteristics that they shared with the democratic frontier
towns in which they stood.
Additionally, although local pride encouraged the use of
the term "opera house," actual opera was, in fact, rarely seen on
the performance schedule. More frequently, the opera house
hosted dances, charity benefits, school graduations, political
meetings, poetry recitals, and amateur musicales given by local
residents. When opera did make an appearance on the stage, it
26


was heavily edited. Lyrics were altered and music rewritten,
scenes rearranged or entirely omitted. Sometimes, a soloist might
include in one opera an aria composed for another, if it was
sufficiently popular or, perhaps, easier to sing. Dizikes notes
that such alterations were partially due to the performers'
limitations; yet another factor was difference of expectation.
Unlike many modern opera lovers, nineteenth-century Americans had
little reverence for the original document. Changes, even those
so severe as to alter the work nearly beyond recognition, were
not generally regarded as objectionable. In addition, frontier
audiences, being rather unsophisticated, were unlikely to notice
the difference, for they probably did not know the piece in its
entirety. The inclusion of the American hymn "Nearer My God to
Thee" in an Italian opera would not have surprised them.16
Although European performers had been the first opera
singers in America, the native-born soon joined their ranks, and
these are the artists who became the stalwarts of the frontier
stage. Prominent amongst them was the soprano-impresaria Emma
Abbott. Born in 1850 in Chicago, Abbott began her musical
education in the United States, but American music schools were
then little respected, so she soon crossed the Atlantic to pursue
European studies and acquire public performing experience. The
27


transition was difficult for all concerned. Abbott judged
European morality to be terribly lax, both as portrayed by
operatic characters and in actual practice. For their part,
Europeans generally and Italians specifically were horrified that
a singer, even worse, a mere American singer, might
presumptuously interpolate American melodies into beloved
operatic masterpieces. In 1878, Abbott returned home, determined
to pursue a career in the United States where the atmosphere and
the audiences were more familiar. One year later, she formed her
own English-language opera company, of which she served as both
lead soprano and impresaria.
Continual tours took the Emma Abbott English Opera Company
to hundreds of communities from Atlantic to Pacific, with as many
as seven operas performed each week. Abbott became America's
favorite diva, at least outside of the European-influenced New
York opera houses. Proof of her prominence is the fact that,
between 1880 and 1890, twenty-five American opera houses hired
her company for their inaugural performances. Colorado theatres
ranked amongst that number; in fact, when the curtain first rose
at the state's finest opera house, -Denver's Tabor Grand Opera
House, it was for a performance by Abbott's company. Her success
was such that when she died in 1890, she left a fortune of one
28


million dollars,17 a testament to the profitability of spending
one decade in small town opera houses. Such profits could only
result from a significant demand. From the Mississippi to the
Pacific, Westerners were wild about opera.
The popularity of performers such as Abbott, supplemented
by dreams of significant profits, encouraged Colorado communities
to construct their own opera houses. Usually, these facilities
were simple auditoriums like those that stood in great number
throughout the Plains and the Rocky Mountains; others, however,
bespoke greater ambitions, for in many eyes, an opera house was
more than a theatre, even more than an economic investment.
Rather, an opera house was emblematic of the city, evidence of
its stability, of the presence of truly "civilized" people. In
Denver, for example, one opera house was praised both by national
and local papers as being a credit to the city. With unabashed
enthusiasm, a local reporter avowed in 1888:
During her experimental days Denver had no better
advertisement than the Tabor Grand theatre. The tourist
from abroad or from the East who stopped over in Denver
to see a border town and spent an evening at the Tabor
with a Denver audience could not help being impressed
with the fact that Denver was not a city of mushroom
growth, here to-day and gone to-morrow but was a
permanent city of citizen residents.18
Similarly, Francis Crissey Young, in his memoirs concerning life in
Central City, cited that community's opera house as a great source
29


of local pride, and Frank Fossett, author of an 1879 tourist guide
to Colorado, gave prominent mention to those communities that had
such theatres. Opera houses brought honor and prestige to even the
grimiest mining town. In the 1870s and 1880s, opera houses were as
critical to Colorado mining communities as the existence of gold and
silver lodes, for without the latter, the town would have never come
to life, but without the former, it could not continue to live, at
least according to cultured men.
Opera houses of all dimensions brought honor to a community,
but greater opera houses accorded greater honor. This philosophy of
"bigger is better" may appear excessive in mining communities where
the simplest life was difficult and resources were relatively
scarce. However, according to Thorstein Veblen, such attitudes were
an expression of contemporary society. In his definitive analysis,
The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899, soon after the
heyday of Colorado's opera houses, Veblen expounded on "conspicuous
consumption" as an expression of wealth and self:
Not only does the evidence of wealth serve to impress
one's importance on others and to keep their sense of
importance alive and alert, but it is of scarcely less
use in building up and preserving one's self-
complacency. In all but the lowest stages of culture
the normally constituted man is comforted and upheld in
his self-respect by "decent surroundings."19
Frontier Coloradans, living far from their family roots, lacking the
30


luxuries of payed streets and sewer systems, were in grave need of
reassurance that they had done the right thing in embarking on this
new life. Not only might Easterners think better of Western cities
if there were opera houses, but the Westerners themselves could draw
confidence from the presence of the comforts of society. Just as an
idle and elegant wife was a credit to the husband who supported her,
so an opulent opera house validated a community. That both the
husband and the community strained to provide for such luxuries only
increased the power of the symbol, for effort and sacrifice were
both laudable. "The consumption of expensive goods is meritorious,"
wrote Veblen, "and the goods which contain an appreciable element of
cost in excess of what goes to give them serviceability for their
ostensible mechanical purpose are honorific."20 Honor was a primary
goal of those communities desirous of opera houses. That they were
also serviceable was an additional benefit.
It is in this tradition, that of conspicuous consumption for
the glorification of a person or a community, that Colorado's great
opera houses were built, not of pine and pitch, but of mahogany and
marble. The sacrifices made in pursuit of that goal, the benefits
thereby achieved, and the ultimate effects of the effort, will be
detailed in the ensuing chapters. It is worth noting here, however,
that at no other time or place, before or since, have Americans of
31


virtually all classes placed such emphasis on the presence of the
performing arts in their communities. In the gold rush towns of
Colorado, opera houses were the principal symbol of a local persona.
*****
Notes for Chapter Three: Operatic Endeavors
1. Greeley, Horace. An Overland Journey from New York to San
Francisco in the Summer of 1859. New York: C. M. Saxton, Barker
and Company. San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft and Company. 1860.
p. 163.
2. Rocky Mountain News, 9/24/1860.
3. Schoberlin, Melvin. From Candles to Footlights: a biography
of the Pike's Peak Theatre 1859-1876. Denver: Old West
Publishing Company. 1941. p. 23.
4. ibid, p. 39ff.
5. Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the
Great River to the Great Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing
Company. 1867. p. 307.
6. Young, Francis Crissey. Echoes From Arcadia: the story of
Central City, as told, by one of "The Clan." Denver: Lansing
Bros. 1903. p. 33.
7. Dizikes, John. Opera in America: A Cultural History. New
Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1993. p. 18-19.
8. ibid, p. 59.
9. ibid, p. 21 & 23.
10. ibid, p. 25ff.
11. ibid, p. 73.
32


12. ibid, p. 134.
13. ibid, p. 165.
14. ibid, p. 272.
15. ibid, p. 269.
16. Dizikes relates that Emma Abbott, the fine American singer,
had become so accustomed to inclusions of American songs in opera
that she tried it in Milan, and was roundly hissed by incensed
Italians.
17. Dizikes, p. 264ff.
18. Denver Morld, 7/14/1888, clipping in the "Baby Doe
Scrapbook," Colorado Historical Society.
19. Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An
Economic Study of Institutions. New York: MacMillan, 1899.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973, with introduction by
John Kenneth Galbraith, p. 42.
20. ibid, p. 111.
33


CHAPTER FOUR
CENTRAL CITY'S "TEMPLE OF THE MUSES"
Nineteenth-century journalistic styles are for historians
both a bane and a boon. The scant fidelity to facts forces
skepticism of any numerical assertions, yet the evocative and
imaginative phrases bring old occurrences vividly to life. Who
would not be amused by a reporter's description of a theatre
"packed almost to suffocation," so great was the desire for
entertainment?1 The star of that particular matinee was P. T.
Barnum's Lilliputian discovery, Tom Thumb; the venue was Central
City's Belvidere Theatre, one of a half dozen performance spaces
operating in the town on that May afternoon in 1877. It might
seem that so many theatres would be sufficient for a community of
twenty-five hundred people; nevertheless, a new facility was
already being planned. In the same issue of the Central City
Ueekly Register as the review of Thumb's performance, another
article noted that $15,000 had been contributed to an opera house
fund. The citizens of Central City were promising to build the
finest opera house in the West.
34


Such ambitious plans would have astonished early visitors
to the region, for its gold camp priorities had led to the
emphasis on function over form. After his visit with Greeley's
party in June, 1859, Albert Richardson described the future
Central City as "a confused and constantly-shifting picture, made
up of men, tents, wagons, oxen and mules."2 Six years later,
when he returned for a second visit, the chaos remained; only the
scale was altered:
Near the old Gregory Diggings we reached the mining
settlements, of Black Hawk and Central, which tread the
narrow valley for three miles... Wood and granite quartz
mills, old log-cabins of '59, shops, stables, school
houses, drinking-saloons, handsome brick blocks,
newspaper and express offices, side by side crowd each
other in the torturous thoroughfares/
Other observers also noted Central City's aimless appearance.
Frank Fossett's 1879 tourist's guide was generally complimentary,
yet he still confessed that buildings seemed "ready to topple one
on another."4 Bayard Taylor observed that the town had "a
curious, rickety, temporary air," then compounded the insult by
insisting that Central City was "the most outrageously expensive
place in Colorado. You pay more and get less for the money than
in any other part of the world."5 Even Francis Crissey Young,
one of the community's leading citizens, admitted that Central
City was, visually, "a hodge-podge of frame and log buildings...
35


intermingled in an irregular, tumble-down fashion, and varied by
an occasional brick structure marking a spasmodic attempt at
improvement.1,6
With such harsh adjectives applied even by the community's
supporters, outsiders could be forgiven for expecting Central
City to be a place of neither class nor culture, merely another
mining camp of saloons and dance-hall girls. Reality, however,
was kinder to Central City. As was shown earlier, its population
included a large percentage of professionals and white-collar
workers who boasted far more education than the average unskilled
"Argonaut." These professionals were frequently accompanied by
their families, creating a community that, however haphazard its
architecture, still treasured refined activities. As Young
asserted in his memoirs, "Modest and unpretentious enough in its
outer aspects, it held a pardonable pride in the character of its
social elements... [It was] a Tittle social community of high
intelligence."7 Young's anecdotes are no doubt idealized, yet
his tales of Central City's fondness for drama, literature, and
the niceties of society have the aura of sincerity. If the
frequent newspaper accounts of society events can be granted any
credence, then Young was quite accurate to describe Central City
as "absurdly decorous for a mining camp."8 Even the skeptical
36


Taylor admitted grudgingly in 1867 that "men of culture and
education are plenty."9 Who else would have purchased the Elgin
watches and Key West cigars that were advertised abundantly in
the local newspapers?
From early in its existence, Central City exhibited a great
fondness for theatre. Mile Haydee's Star Company performed in
Gregory Gulch in early 1860, when the gold diggings were not yet
a year old. John Langrishe, comic monarch of the stage in the
Pikes Peak region, made his first Central City appearance in
March, 1861, and returned frequently to the region throughout his
career.10 Nate Forrester, a prominent Denver theatre manager,
brought occasional variety acts and theatrical troupes to Central
City, hoping to milk the miners' pockets. With an emphasis on
comedy and melodrama, performances had little pretense. In fact,
Taylor observed that, "A good deal of swearing is introduced into
the farces, to please the miners."11 Yet the dramatic appetite
was whetted, and soon finer things appeared. In 1861, the
National Theatre (later renamed the Montana) opened as the town's
first building constructed specifically to house the performing
arts, and by 1862 six other theatres were also operating.12
Amateurs, too, had their day. By 1869, the Central City Daily
Register could fill multiple columns with accounts of local
37


theatricals produced by dramatically minded residents. Francis
Young, who participated in many such productions, attested that
actors might also serve as carpenters, performing amidst the
stage sets they had constructed. Even opera had come to Central
City, with Offenbach's comedy The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein in
1869,13 and the staging in 1873 of scenes from Verdi's tragedy II
Trovatore at the Montana Theatre.14 "Central," observed Young,
"is nothing if not musical... There never was a time, from its
earliest days, when music did not form a material feature of any
entertainment, public or private."15
Tragedy forced a lull in such artistic endeavors. On May
21, 1874, a small fire started in Central City's Chinese slums.
It soon spread beyond those ragged sheds and shanties to assault
the heart of the community. The following day, under headlines
that shouted "Central in Ruins!" and "Terrible Conflagration," a
reporter for the Central City Daily Register described the scene:
The City of Central is almost entirely blotted out by
fire, at last, an event long expected and now
consummated with such destruction as only those who have
witnessed similar scenes in Portland, Chicago, Boston,
and Baltimore, can properly conceive of... The hell of
flames tore madly down the street, consuming with the
velocity of a whirlwind all that had been left to
consume.16
The inferno raged uncontrolled until reaching a cleared area
burned in a previous blaze in 1873, where a lack of combustibles
38


finally halted the flames, allowing fire-fighters to extinguish
it. As the smoke slowly cleared, residents learned that about
one-hundred-fifty buildings had been destroyed; within the broad
fire-zone, only the occasional stone or brick buildings, notably
the Catholic church and the Teller House hotel, were spared.
Amongst the casualties were the venerable Montana Theatre and
other smaller performance spaces. The Daily Register estimated
damage at half a million dollars, and noted that that amount was
a minimum figure.17
Rebuilding efforts began immediately. The city council
formed a relief committee to assist devastated families and
donations poured in from both inside and outside the community.
Colorado governor John Evans personally donated five-hundred
dollars to the cause, and Central's Catholic parishioners,
grateful for the survival of their sanctuary, collected food and
blankets for the displaced.18 Two days after the blaze, as
workers cleared away scorched rubble in preparation for new
construction, the Daily Register optimistically proclaimed, "We
are going to have a new, and, if properly directed, much more
substantial and better city than that which disappeared on
Thursday.1,19 Rebuilding proceeded at an astonishingly swift
pace, so quickly that within one month, the inferno became stale
39


news, supplanted in regional newspapers by developments in
national and international politics. The only suggestions of the
recent conflagration were occasional mentions of "new" stores or
"re-opened" facilities.
After homes and businesses had been re-established,
residents turned their attention to theatre, which had been
sorely missed since the fire. Young addressed this issue in his
memoirs:
Of all the destruction wrought by the fire, I make bold
to say there is nothing more keenly regretted as a
public loss than that of the Montana Theatre... It
certainly had no beauty to boast of, either without or
within, yet it was in its way comfortable and roomy
enough; and during the dozen years of its reign as our
one home of the drama, we got from it season after
season of more real solid enjoyment than we shall
probably ever realize hereafter in any new construction
that may seek to fill its place, however ornate or
pretentious.20
Replacement of the lamented Montana Theatre began in the summer
of 1875, one year after the fire. Its successor, like most of
the town's post-conflagration construction, was built of brick,
so as to resist future infernos, and was also more user-friendly
than the old Montana, for these builders took pains to correct
the vanished facility's perceived problems, particularly the lack
of an efficient heating system and comfortable seating. This new
theatre, named the Belvidere, was completed in time for a New
40


York comedy troupe performance on August 23.21 Area residents,
long bereft of dramatic and musical amusements, could again enjoy
the succession of touring groups and local theatricals to which
they had become accustomed.
No doubt the managers of the Belvidere looked forward to a
prosperous future, but new priorities shortened the theatre's
popularity. Changing demands in entertainment came to Central
City, thanks to members of the local high society, many of whom
habitually spent part of the winter in the East, enjoying the
arts and culture in Chicago, Boston, or New York. During the
winter of 1876-77, Francis Young and his wife attended a Chicago
performance of The Bohemian Giri, an English-language opera by
the Irish composer Michael Balfe. The opera and its hit soprano
aria, "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls," had enjoyed enduring
popularity since its New York opening in 1844. Three decades
later, having survived its own creator (Balfe died in 1870), it
still attracted fervent audiences, particularly in the Midwest
where the opera was beloved for being sweetly melodious yet
intellectually undemanding. Young's wife, a talented amateur
singer, decided that she and her friends should present The
Bohemian Girl in Central City for their own and their neighbors'
diversion. The production reached the Belvidere stage on April
41


17, 1877, with Mrs. Young and two other women sharing the role of
the heroine Arline; Mr. Young was the hero Thaddeus, as well as
the overall manager. Local choirs provided singers for the
smaller roles and the chorus; even the orchestra was comprised of
Central City residents. In his memoirs, Young related many
amusing anecdotes concerning the preparation and staging of the
show, and also noted that the event was of lasting effect:
This production of the "Bohemian Girl," besides
providing us with some weeks of interesting amusement in
its preparation and execution, proves of much more
lasting and material benefit, not only in suggesting the
need of an opera house, but in supplying the necessary
enthusiasm to launch the project and carry it through to
success.23
With the fading of the footlights, a fund-raising campaign began
for the construction of a more capacious, facility, an actual
opera house. Barely one month later, by the Sunday afternoon
that saw Tom Thumb on the Belvidere stage, opera house donations
already totalled sixty-five per cent of the $23,000 that would
ultimately be required for the project.24
When construction on the Central City Opera House began
later that year, two men emerged as central to the project's
success: the architect Robert Roeschlaub and the builder Peter
Barclay McFarlane. Roeschlaub, born in 1843 in Bavaria, was
brought as an infant to the United States. His family settled
42


near Quincy, Illinois, where, after serving in the Union Army,
young Roeschlaub began working with a local architect, Robert
Bunce (incidentally, the designer of Quincy's opera house). In
1873, Roeschlaub moved to Denver, then a community of 5000, only
half Quincy's population. Denver's first office-trained,
licensed architect, he became one of the city's busiest and most
highly regarded architects, specializing in schools, churches,
and other institutional buildings. One of his earliest designs
was the old Central Presbyterian Church (his own congregation) at
18th Street and Champa Avenue, the cornerstone of which was laid
January 6, 1876. The building no longer stands, yet other fine
Roeschlaub creations, among them Trinity Methodist Church (1888),
Chamberlin Observatory (1889), and Corona [now Dora Moore] School
(1889), remain. Roeschlaub spent fourteen years as chief
architect for Arapahoe [now Denver] County Schools, concluding
his tenure in 1889. He also designed schools for the towns of
Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Greeley, Platteville, Canon City and
Lake City.25 The Central City Opera House, one of Roeschlaub's
earliest Colorado ventures, helped establish his lasting
reputation.
The man largely responsible for executing Roeschlaub's
plans was Peter McFarlane, an unpretentious Canadian native of
43


Scottish ancestry. At age twenty-one, McFarlane came to Central
City in 1869 to join his elder brother William and two Barclay
cousins in the construction business. Barclay and Company, later
known as McFarlane and Company, earned modest success in its
early years, but thrived in the construction boom that followed
Central City's great 1874 fire. Soon, McFarlane was a prominent
citizen, serving on the city council in 1876, '77, '80, and
'81.26 The three-year gap in his council service was filled in
part with supervision of opera house construction in late 1877
and early 1878. Three weeks after the opera house opening on
March 5, 1878, McFarlane was elected unanimously as mayor of
Central City. Perhaps local citizens were too pleased with their
new facility to cast a vote against the man who had helped to
make it happen.
Unlike most Colorado opera houses, which were generally
built by one businessman seeking a financial windfall, funding
for the Central City Opera House was raised through a
subscription campaign that solicited donations from interested
parties. Such an attempt relied upon the existence of a
dedicated populace that was civic-minded as well as financially
secure. Fortunately, such people existed in Central City. The
tale is usually told that Central's Cornish and Welsh miners were
44


so devoted to music as a whole and singing in particular that
they gave liberally to the fund. Yet federal census figures from
1870 throw significant doubt on this long-lived legend. Only
twenty-two Welshmen were reported in a population of 1449, and
the census taker did not trouble to differentiate between the
Cornish and the hundreds of other British immigrants. Such a
small number of people, none of whom were amongst the wealthy
elite, can have had little effect on the fund-raising campaign.
However, names of specific donors have not survived to the
present day, and without knowing who were the actual contibutors,
the issue cannot be resolved. What is known is that the opera
house campaign board members (Henry R. Wolcott, Dr. William
Edmundson, Col. George E. Randolph, Thomas I. Richman, and
William Fullerton) were among the city's most prominent citizens,
and they were neither Welsh nor Cornish.28
Applause for the Central City Opera House started even
before its completion. In an article detailing construction
progress, the Central City Weekly Register reassured nervous
investors with an encouraging report:
When finished this theatre will be without an equal from
the Missouri River to Salt Lake when convenience and
excellence of construction are taken into consideration.
The outlays, although large in the aggregate, are
remarkably low considering the character and material of
the work. 9
45


Even the "big city" paper, Denver's Rocky Mountain News, reported
on the theatre-in-progress, describing the uncompleted facility
as "one of the handsomest public edifices in the state."30 Many
of the laudatory words granted to the opera house focused upon
Roeschlaub's design: a simple, almost stark creation of brick
and carved stone, which achieves its impact through clean lines,
graceful proportions, and quiet elegance. Roeschlaub's daughter
Alice, claimed that the use of such austerity required a certain
amount of persistence:
The moneyed men back of this, in their enthusiasm,
wished to make the building a most elaborate affair, but
Mr. Roeschlaub stood fast for a different type --- one
that should be in harmony with the great mountains
surrounding it, and an expression of the new and simple
West.31
Roeschlaub won the debate, and the Central City Opera House was
spared the air of "conspicuous consumption" that typified such
buildings in other communities. The resulting theatre became an
anchor, both spiritually and architecturally, for the town in
which it stood.
Roeschlaub's design blended elements of the French Second
Empire with vernacular styles. As was typical of this "Gilded
Age," he reserved impressive design features for visible areas,
those that could be seen from the street, while economizing to
the point of austerity in other portions of the building. The
46


imposing facade, reminiscent of a French chateau, was constructed
of locally mined Colorado granite, with walls four feet thick,
whereas side elevations were merely brick. The mansard roof,
flanked by two slightly lower peaked towers, was topped by a
short flagpole. Four tall arched entry doors, the middle pair in
Roman arches, the outer pair in segmented arches, faced Eureka
Street, complemented by arched windows standing above. A narrow
balcony, later known as the musician's balcony, was placed above
the center pair of doors just below the arched windows. Carved
in block letters across the center of the facade were the words,
"opera house," a quiet assertion of Central City's confidence in
itself and in its theatre.32 With the erection of its performing
arts facility, Central City foresaw for itself a prominent place
in Colorado society, indeed in the society of the entire nation.
The assurance of residents was reflected in one local newspaper
that confidently proclaimed, "There really are two cultures in
America --- Boston, of course, and Central City."33
Although the opera house achieves its immediate impact
through exterior features, its interior, praised by one Denver
newspaper as "neat not gaudy," was also impressive.34 From the
long but narrow marble-floored foyer, twin stairways arced
gracefully up to the inside balcony. Shorter flights of steps
47


led to the two main entrances into the theatre itself, which was
illuminated by a kerosene chandelier and warmed by two hot air
furnaces, a vast improvement over the lamented Montana's
inadequate wood-stoves. Seven sets of scenery and gas footlights
graced the opera house stage.35 Although by modern standards the
theatre was small, seating only 750, it was average for its day,
and was certainly large enough for Central City. In every
conceivable way, the new opera house surpassed the Belvidere
Theatre. One local newspaper enthusiastically called it "the
finest temple of the muses west of the Missouri, and far ahead of
anything ever projected in the Rocky Mountains.1136
The more elaborate the theatre, the more repute granted to
the community which constructed it. Central City chose to
advance its position by adorning its "temple of the muses" with
visual arts to complement the performing arts. The opera
house's walls and ceilings were graced by frescoes, water-based
paints applied to fresh plaster, similar to the technique used on
the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Designs were based on geometrical
and classical motifs, including "putti" (cherubs) above the
stage, a Pegasus on either side of the proscenium, and trompe
l'oeil medallions on the ceiling. The artist was John C. Massman
(some sources give his name as "Moseman"), a San Francisco based
48


artist who had created similar designs for another Roeschlaub
project, Denver's now demolished Central Presbyterian Church.
Under construction since January, 1876, the church was only
recently completed when, on January 14, 1878, the Daily Central
City Register printed a favorable notice of the building,
describing it as "an ornament to the 'Queen City of the
Plains'."37 The brief article praised Roeschlaub and "Moseman,"
who were at the time busily engaged in completing the Central
City Opera House. Accolades for work on the church boded well
for the soon-to-be-opened opera house.
As the opera house neared completion, two competing
factions debated what type of entertainment should be offered on
opening night. One element insisted that a musical program would
be most appropriate; another advocated a dramatic evening.
Ultimately, two opening nights were presented, as a compromise.
The first performance, March 4, 1878, was devoted to music,
beginning with Suppe's "Poet and Peasant Overture," followed by
Weber's chorus "Brightly the Morning Dawns," and a variety of
violin and piano pieces, traditional songs, and opera arias and
choruses performed in English.38 The following evening, March
5, drama reigned, as the "Amateur Dramatic and Singing Club of
the New Opera House" presented two plays: "School," a tale of
49


love and intrigue, and the comedy "Cool as a Cucumber.1,39 On
both occasions, the opera house was filled to the doors, with an
audience drawn from "the wealth, beauty and intelligence of the
mountain towns."40 Both literally and figuratively, Central City
had launched its new theatre in fine fashion. "Local pride,"
said Frank Young, "is gratified."41
Newspaper accounts of the opera house overflowed with
praise. Denver's Rocky Mountain News commended it as "a temple
of art in every way worthy of the name, and a splendid monument
to western culture as well as to western pluck and enterprise."
The article continued in a similarly celebratory vein, with the
rapturous reporter finally declaring, "Taken all in all it is a
theater of which any city might be proud, and is as far superior
to anything Denver has or ever had that no comparison need be
instituted.1,42 The Central City Evening Call was equally
effusive, applauding the new theatre as "a credit to Colorado,"
then asserting:
If ever the people of Colorado had reason to feel proud
of the energy and enterprise of the first city of the
mountains, it was last night upon the opening of her
magnificent opera house, which today stands the finest
temple of the muses west of the Missouri, and far ahead
of anything ever projected in the Rocky Mountains.43
The other local newspaper, the Meekly Register, indulged in its
usual boosterism by declaring, "Now the world knows that Central
50


contains the finest and most spacious opera house in the West...
Now that Central has a beautiful palace of music, let the people
unite in making it one of the solid institutions of the State."**
No opportunity was lost to tell the world that, with this opera
house, Central City had staked a claim to social respectability.
The immediate future of the Central City Opera House seemed
on track for such predictions of prominence. The week never
passed without multiple performances in the new facility, and
local papers seemed unable to produce more than four consecutive
column-inches without exhorting residents to patronize their new
treasure. However, critical state-wide developments would soon
irretrievably complicate the situation. On the very day of the
opera house opening, in an issue largely devoted to the evening's
festivities, the Daily Register commented in passing upon an
emerging Colorado community, one that would figure prominently in
the state's history. "Leadville," it reported, "is growing fast.
According to an exchange an assay was made of some of the mud was
used in chinking a log house and found to run over 1,000 ounces
in silver."*5 Central City itself was almost exclusively a gold
town; tales of extravagant silver finds were thus not of
immediate interest, but soon silver would eclipse gold, Leadville
would surpass Central City, and a Leadville citizen would trigger
51


the decline of Central City's "temple of the muses." Even as the
opera house curtain rose to its first burst of applause, its
ultimate fall was already foretold.
*****
Notes for Chapter Four: Central City's "Temple of the Muses"
1. Central City Meekly Register, 5/19/1877.
2. Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the
Great River to the Great Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing
Company. 1867. p. 181.
3. ibid, p. 335.
4. Fossett, Frank. Colorado: its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms
and Stock Ranges, and Health and Pleasure Resorts. Tourist's
Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G. Crawford, 1879.
Reprinted by New York: Arno Press, 1973. p. 58.
5. Taylor, Bayard. Colorado: A Summer Trip. New York:
Putnam, 1867. Reprinted Niwot: University Press of Colorado,
1989. p. 57 & p. 68-9.
6. Young, Francis Crissey. Echoes From Arcadia: the Story of
Central City, as told by one of "The Clan." Denver: Lansing
Brothers, 1903. p. 6-7. Although Young's memoir was not
published until 1903, it was written in 1880.
7. Young, F. C., p. 15.
8. ibid, p. 88.
9. Taylor, p. 58.
10. Schoberlin, Melvin. From Candles to Footlights: a
biography of the Pike's Peak Theatre 1859-1876. Denver: Old
West Publishing Company. 1941. p. 39ff.
52


11. Taylor, p. 60.
12. Gern, Jesse William. "Colorado Mountain Theatre: History
of Theatre at Central City, 1859-1885." Ph.D dissertation for
Ohio State University, 1960. In two volumes, v. 2, p. 291ff;
and Draper, Benjamin Poff. "Colorado Theatres, 1859-1969." Ph.D
dissertation for University of Denver, 1969. In five volumes,
v. 1, p. 453ff.
13. Dizikes, John. Opera in America: a Cultural History. New
Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1993. p. 275.
14. Bancroft, Caroline. Gulch of Gold: A History of Central
City, Colorado. Denver: Sage Books. 1958. p. 255.
15. Young, F. C., p. 178-9.
16. Central City Daily Register, 5/22/1874.
17. ibid.
18. ibid.
19. ibid, 5/23/1874.
20. Young, F. C., p. 166.
21. Gern, v. 1, p. 218.
22. Dizikes, p. 93.
23. Young, F. C, p. 197.
24. Central City Meekly Register (5/19/1877) cited the figure of
$15,000 as the total donated as of that date. The Rocky Mountain
News (3/5/1878) gave $23,000 as the total cost.
25. Haber, Francine, and Fuller, Kenneth R., and Wetzel, David
N. Robert S. Roeschlaub: Architect of the Emerging Nest 1843-
1923. Denver: Colorado Historical Society. 1988. p. 13-14.
26. Axford, H. William. Gilpin County Gold: Peter McFarlane
(1849-1929) Mining Entrepreneur in Central City, Colorado.
Chicago: Sage Books/Swallow Press Inc. 1976. p. 65.
53


27. 1870 federal census records at the Colorado Historical
Society.
28. Central City Weekly Register, 1/12/1878.
29. Central City Weekly Register, 10/10/1877.
30. Rocky Mountain News, 12/15/1877.
31. Haber, et al, p. 16.
32. Architectural information concerning the Central City Opera
House is taken from National Historic Register applications on
file in the Historic Preservation Office of the Colorado
Historical Society, from Haber's biography of Roeschlaub (p.
137ff), and from personal observation.
33. Undated clipping in the Cental City Opera House files of the
Western History Department of the Denver Public Library.
34. Rocky Mountain News, 3/5/1878.
35. Haber, et al, p. 137ff.
36. Central City Evening Call, 3/5/1878.
37. Central City Daily Register, 1/14/1878.
38. Central City Weekly Register, 3/9/1878, and Daily Register,
3/5/1878.
39. Weekly Register, 3/9/1878, and Daily Register, 3/6/1878.
40. Central City Evening Call, 3/5/1878.
41. Young, F. C., p. 198.
42. Rocky Mountain News, 3/5/1878.
43. Central City Evening Call, 3/5/1878.
44. Central City Weekly Register, 3/9/1878.
45. Central City Daily Register, 3/4/1878.
54


CHAPTER FIVE
MONUMENTS TO TABOR
The new-found prominence of Central City and its opera
house lasted only a few months. Other gold towns soon erected
their own luxurious opera houses; before the decade ended,
Leadville silver had eclipsed Central City gold. The story of
silver is personified in the tale of Horace Austin Warner Tabor,
praised even during his lifetime as "associated with all that is
historic and histrionic in Colorado and the great west."1
Without silver, Tabor would have ruled in neither history nor
theatre; without Tabor, Colorado's roster of opera houses would
be lacking its most notable facility. Tabor's rags-to-riches-to-
rags career personified the rise and fall of silver and of the
opera houses themselves.
Formerly a Vermont stone-cutter, Tabor came West in 1855
intending to farm the prairie. He settled near Lawrence, Kansas,
taking up first 160 acres, then 320 more. After clearing the
land and starting the farm, Tabor returned to the east to marry
Augusta Louise Pierce, daughter of his former employer. In mid-
April, 1857, the couple returned to Kansas, but an arid summer
55


followed and their crops failed. Horace supplemented their
income by resuming stone-cutting; Augusta took in boarders and
sold butter and eggs to support the family, which soon included
an infant son, Maxcy. The Tabor's trials worsened with a nation-
wide depression that was particularly severe in the High Plains
states. Like many farmers, they found themselves with mortgaged
land and limited possibilities. Any new opportunity, however
risky, would have seemed appealing. In May, 1859, only two years
after Augusta's arrival in Kansas, early rumors of Rocky Mountain
gold lured the Tabors to Colorado.
The Tabors reached Denver after six weeks on the Republican
River road. Had they read recent guidebooks and newspapers
before departing, they might have held high hopes for this new
home, for in April, Denver's Rocky Mountain News had boldly
asserted, "Men are rapidly gathering together, towns are built,
cities are in embryo formation, and all the paraphernalia of busy
life are seen and heard 600 miles west of last year's outposts of
civilization,"2 and Tierney's guidebook for the gold fields
predicted that Denver would have a population of 60,000 by June.3
Yet such brave words defied reality. When the Tabors arrived,
there were only three-hundred houses in Denver and perhaps one
thousand people.4 Little gold lay in the South Platte River.
56


Denver served only as a staging area for prospectors headed for
the hills, where, amongst the high peaks and valleys, gold was
supposedly abundant. Weary but optimistic, the Tabors continued
their long journey. They left Denver and passed through Golden,
Gregory Gulch [later Central City], Russell Gulch, Payne's Bar
[later Idaho Springs], and Colorado City before finally reaching
California Gulch in the upper Arkansas River Valley on May 8,
1860. Barely three weeks earlier, California Gulch had seen its
first gold strikes. In that remote Colorado valley, Leadville
would eventually arise, and with it, Tabor himself would rise to
national prominence.
During that first year in California Gulch, soon to be re-
named Oro City, Tabor panned gold from the icy mountain streams
and Augusta took in boarders. Through joint effort, they built
up a tidy savings of about $7000, which Augusta, remembering the
meager days in Kansas, described happily as "quite a little
fortune."5 Tabor might ultimately have proven to be a successful
miner, but during the winter, when frigid weather prevented gold
panning, he decided that shop-keeping, which could be equally as
profitable as mining, had the added advantage of being physically
less grueling. Augusta went east to purchase supplies. By the
spring of 1861, Tabor, with his wife's daily assistance, served
57


as postmaster and shopkeeper, first in Oro City in Lake County,
later in Buckskin Joe in Park County, then ultimately back to Oro
City in 1868.
Tabor's business activities were a more secure line of work
than gold-panning, but actual prosperity still eluded his grasp.
Not until 1878, after nineteen years in the mining camps did
Tabor, approaching fifty years of age, finally find the riches
that had haunted his dreams. In April of that auspicious year,
the aging postmaster and shopkeeper grubstaked George Hook and
August Rische, two down-on-their-luck prospectors, providing them
with food and supplies in exchange for a share of the profits
gained from any discoveries.6 On May 1, Hook and Rische struck
paydirt. Within six months, their historic claim, soon named the
Little Pittsburg mine,7 was producing eight-thousand dollars of
silver each day. Total earnings for that half-year period were
estimated to be $375,000, yet operating costs were no more than
ten percent of receipts.8 Since in September, Tabor and Rische
had bought out Hook's share of the enterprise, those handsome
profits were divided between only two men, leading one Denver
paper to remark, "This mine within five months has made two poor
men rich and promises to make two rich men vastly richer."9
Tabor's sun was on the rise.
58


The income from the Little Pittsburg allowed Tabor to
acquire other mining properties, some proven commodities, others
purely speculative. With various partners, Tabor bought the
Chrysolite mine, which was destined to be his second great
success. One year later, in 1879, the now-legendary Matchless
Mine also entered his portfolio, and by this time, earlier
investments were beginning to prove lucrative. The high-country
minister John L. Dyer claimed in his autobiography that mining
property he sold to Tabor in the late 1870s for three-thousand
dollars was resold two years later for sixty-thousand dollars.10
By late 1879, Tabor's income was estimated at "thousands daily,"
making him the richest citizen in a town of wealthy men.11 He
was the monarch of a community where the economy was booming,
where nine-million dollars worth of silver was mined in 1879
alone.12 Much of that paydirt came from mines owned or
controlled by Tabor, of whom the Colorado poet Thomas Hornsby
Ferril wrote, "everything he touched turned to gold."13
Tabor's phenomenal successes triggered a renaissance of the
Upper Arkansas Valley. In 1860, when Tabor first came to the
Pikes Peak region, the census taker had found only 2049 people in
the area, 2001 of them adult men.14 A few years later, the area
59


experienced a decline when gold claims panned out and many
residents, including Horace and Augusta, sought greener pastures
in other gold camps. The valley might have faded from Colorado's
history as yet another ghost town had not discoveries of rich
silver and lead deposits, particularly the Little Pittsburg Mine,
revived the stampede in the late 1870s. Leadville rebounded so
swiftly that, by 1880, 14,820 residents made the city their home,
and 23,563 lived in Lake County as a whole.15 Soon, it became
the state's second largest city after Denver, growing so swiftly
that, as Frank Fossett, a contemporary observer of the mining
industry, noted, an average of one-hundred new residents arrived
each day and property values sometimes quadrupled in a week.16
Leadville's rising tide led the Leadville Daily Chronicle to
predict that the community Would soon "become a resort second to
none other in America."17
As was usually the case in mining camps, Leadville's early
entertainment options were skewed toward masculine interests. A
1880 business census attested that residents of this high-country
metropolis could avail themselves of the services of seven
churches, three breweries, ten liquor dealers, twenty-five
barbers, sixty-five grocers, five billiard halls, one bowling
alley, thirty-two restaurants, and one-hundred-six saloons.18
60


Although the total number of brothels and "sporting houses" was
unspecified, all but the most official accounts confirm that such
facilities flourished, especially on raucous State Street. Mary
Hal lock Foote, who lived in Leadville with her mining engineer
husband in 1879 and 1880, called it "a place where no woman could
walk alone,."19 and Frank Fossett asserted, "the entire scene
gives the town and place the appearance of one grand holiday.1'20
A few saloons offered live entertainment, but Shakespeare was not
amongst the options. In his definitive biography of Tabor, Duane
Smith summed up the situation:
Leadville's populace could view many theatricals and
variety shows that aroused the miner's passions and
advertised the wares of the chorus, yet nowhere in town
could a man take his wife and children to a respectable
theater. By 1879, with wives and families appearing in
ever-increasing numbers, the demand grew for better-
grade entertainment. Receipts in some lower-class
establishments reached a reported twelve-hundred dollars
per night, offering hope that a family-type theater
would be able to pay its way.21
Several saloon owners, with such profits in mind, sought to
upgrade their facilities so as to appeal to a more sophisticated
clientele, but those efforts fell short of local expectations.
The mere presence of alcohol and gambling in their facilities
ensured the opposition of temperance-minded ladies. Ultimately,
it fell to Tabor to erect the city's first facility intended
specifically for the performing arts.
61


The distance of years makes it difficult to judge Tabor's
true motive in the building of this theatre. As one of the
senior residents of the area, and a man fond of grand spectacle,
he may well have genuinely believed that Leadville (not to
mention Tabor himself) deserved a lavish opera house, and he
allegedly once remarked, "I'm going to make Leadville a first-
class city, so people will want to stay here."22 In addition,
according to Duane Smith, Tabor wrote that he wanted family
entertainment in Leadville, something more civilized than a red-
light district.23 Yet Smith also admits that Tabor was a good
enough businessman to anticipate the likely financial benefits of
constructing the city's only legitimate opera house. Ticket
proceeds could be significant. Additional income would
potentially accrue from rent paid by offices and businesses
sharing the same facility, since storefronts along Harrison
Avenue, Leadvilie's "Main Street" on which the opera house stood,
were renting for as much as five-hundred dollars per month.24
Furthermore, an opera house might even increase the mining
business, since, as Smith notes, "the fact that you brought in
other investors, enticed by the opera house and the more
civilized image, would help other investments, and Tabor had
plenty."25 As president of the Bank of Leadville, the Leadville
Mining and Stock Exchange, the Leadville Improvement Company, the
62


Leadville Illuminating Gas Company, and two consolidated mining
companies, Tabor stood to gain from virtually anything that
benefited the city itself. Whichever motivation was primary,
whether income or image, Augusta, Tabor's austere but hard-
working wife, probably would have supported him, for she was
known to care for both business and propriety.
Leadville's reputation and Tabor's personal fortune appear
to be persuasive arguments in favor of building an opera house,
yet an additional explanation for his actions may exist. By the
late 1870s, Tabor was closely involved in political activities.
He was elected Leadville's first mayor in 1878, and shortly
thereafter was chosen by the state's Republican Party for
lieutenant governor, an office he held from 1879 to 1883. As a
powerful, influential figure who had gained fame through fortune,
he soon dreamt of higher offices, notably those of governor and
senator. Constructing such a popular project, especially at his
own expense, could only serve to boost those aspirations.
Once Tabor decided to erect an opera house for Leadville,
he acted swiftly. His team of local builders began the new
theatre early in 1879, as soon as the snow melted, and completed
it in about one-hundred days during the brief high-country
63


summer. Next door to the plush Clarendon Hotel, the new opera
house of brick, stone and iron stood three stories tall, sixty
feet wide, sixty feet tall, and one-hundred-twenty feet deep.
Its brick walls, though generally unadorned, were sixteen inches
thick.26 Within this simple yet massive Italianate exterior was
an ornate theatre, at the time the finest in Colorado. Frescoes
adorned the high ceilings, red carpeting ran down the aisles, and
the proscenium boxes, intended for Leadville's elite, were
shielded with lace curtains. The city's first gas lighting was
installed in the new opera house. Its 880 patrons luxuriated in
the finest available "Andrews patent" cast-iron plush-upholstered
opera chairs, identical to those found in some of New York's best
theaters. The opera house even boasted a fire-fighting system.
Such resplendence would have been noteworthy anywhere, but its
presence in Leadville was particularly remarkable, for when it
was built, Leadville had no railroad and would not have one for
another nine months. All supplies and furnishings were brought
over Weston Pass from South Park by stage and wagon. Due to
those formidable logistics, Tabor's costs for his opera house
were far in excess of Central City's expenses for its facility,
even though his theatre was somewhat less spacious. Final costs
for the Tabor Opera House were estimated at $78,000.
64


On November 20, 1879, the Tabor Opera House opened,
acclaimed by the Leadville Daily Chronicle as "the only place
where respectable people need not be afraid to go."28
Ironically, a double lynching next door to the opera house the
previous night led to poor attendance at its opening, but with
the restoration of relative tranquility, the theatre prospered.
Most offerings were greeted by packed houses. Theatrical
productions ranged from Uncle Tom's Cabin to Richard the Third,
from The Merchant of Venice to The Wizard of Wall Street. With
the passing years, a touring company from New York's Metropolitan
Opera reached Leadville, seemingly undaunted by its ten-thousand-
feet of altitude; John Philip Sousa and Lillian Russell also took
to the Opera House stage in Leadville. Even Oscar Wilde came to
town in 1882 to lecture on a markedly improbable subject, given
the venue: "The Practical Application of the Aesthetic Theory to
Exterior and Interior House Decoration, with Observations on
Dress and Personal Ornament." Supposedly, Wilde's listeners were
somewhat perplexed, yet ultimately impressed by the Irishman's
vast capacity for whiskey.29 Another notable occasion saw a
circus on the Opera House stage, when the high-country weather
turned too bitter for an outdoor performance. Such theatrical
shenanigans were generally an exception to the opera house's
usual offerings, which tended to be somewhat more refined. The
65


Tabor Opera House allowed proud Leadville residents to boast of
a certain level of culture, for now, thanks to the efforts of a
leading citizen, they could at last enjoy "a chaste and superior
class of amusement," making them the moral equal of those Central
City sophisticates.30 Like its competitor across the Continental
Divide, Leadville's social standing rose with the rise of those
brick and mortar walls. The Tabor Opera House was a first-class
ticket on the road to respectability.
Tabor's biographer, Duane Smith, describes the Leadville
opera house as "the capstone of his [Leadville] projects." 31
Opera house historian Evelyn Furman calls it "Tabor's first great
accomplishment,"32 and it was indeed an impressive facility.
Yet for all its splendor, the Leadville opera house was only a
rehearsal for the main event, for the other Tabor Opera House,
the one called "Grand." That theatre, constructed two years
later, arose after Leadville had become too small a kingdom for
"The Silver King," leading him to look further afield for more
sterling glories. His gaze settled on the new state capital of
Denver, where both Tabor himself and Colorado opera houses would
reach their pinnacles of prominence.
Tabor had lived in Denver briefly in 1859, but by 1880,
66


when he finally returned in search of new investments, the
community had greatly changed. Albert Richardson, who in 1859
had described the population of Denver as "a strange medley"33,
returned in 1860 to observe more optimistically, "there is a
pure, pleasant, social life for those who know where to find
it." A subsequent visit in 1865 proved to be even more
encouraging, as Richardson admitted that "the hotel bills-of-fare
did not differ materially from those in New York or Chicago."35
Denver was maturing; it would mature further with the advent of
two critical events; the arrival of the railroads in 1870 and
the advent of statehood in 1876. Those developments stimulated
growth and Denver rapidly changed from a raw frontier town in
which miners sought gossip and supplies to a prominent community
boasting a population of 35,629.36 The regional hub for banking,
government, and transportation, 1880s Denver boasted twenty-seven
churches, a Gothic cathedral, a university, respectable hotels,
and five-story office buildings.37
In the 1870s and 80s, many visitors remarked favorably upon
Denver's progress. In his tourist's guide, Fossett observed,
"There is a dash and animation to the place, along with a finish
and elegance that suggests prosperity, wealth, and Eastern
stability, as well as the progressive and aggressive frontier."38
67


English traveller Isabella Bird's unforgettable turn-of-phrase,
"the great braggart city," seems something less than actual
praise, yet even she conceded that, in 1873, this youthful and
vital community was "the entrepot and distributing point for an
immense district, with good shops, some factories, fair hotels,
and the usual deformities and refinements of civilization."39
Bird also confirmed that shootings and lynchings were no more
common in Denver than in Liverpool. Eleven years later, another
English visitor, Emily Faithful 1, remarked, "it is marvelous to
think what has been already accomplished [in Denver] in such a
short space of time, and in the face of such difficulties ... If
Denver has the faults, she has also the virtues of a new wealthy
Western city."40 Such comments sounded sweet to local civic
promoters, yet even Faithfull's laudatory words were outdone by
Harper's Magazine, which praised the growing metropolis as "a
center of refinement, a place rich in itself, influential, and
the admiration of all beholders."41 Significantly, that high
commendation came to Denver after its new opera house opened.
Tabor initiated his Denver portfolio in the late 1870s,
shortly after his phenomenal experience with Leadville's Little
Pittsburg mine. In 1879, he purchased half the stock of Denver's
First National Bank. The next year, the five-story Tabor Block
68


office building opened, soon to be regarded as the city's most
prestigious business address; even the aforementioned First
National Bank took offices in the Tabor Block. As an high-
profile income-producing property, that facility proved central
to Tabor's financial empire. Yet these impressive projects were
insufficient for Tabor's ambitions. Declaring that "Denver was
not building as good buildings as it ought," the mining magnate
decided to set an example for future development by constructing
a lavish new opera house.42 Such a grand theatre would not only
boost architectural standards, but would also substantially
enhance the quality of entertainment in a city that already had
a strong tradition of theater and the performing arts.
In March, 1880, Tabor paid $57,000 for several lots at what
is now the corner of 16th Street and Curtis Avenue (at the time,
G and Curtis) in downtown Denver. He then hired two Chicago
architect, Willoughby J. Edbrooke and his younger brother Frank,
to design a facility that would include stores and offices, in
addition to a theater. In later years, Frank would become for
Coloradans the better-known of the two brothers, designing many
notable Denver structures, including Loretto Heights College, the
Brown Palace, and the Denver Dry Goods Building. Willoughby's
reputation was stronger on the East Coast, yet this collaboration
69


was a masterful design, both regal and imposing. The Edbrookes
opted for eclecticism, blending elements of freely-adapted Second
Empire style with High Victorian Gothic. The combination proved
puzzling for some local residents, uncertain how to judge the
facility. The building's long facade and corner towers reminded
some observers of the British Houses of Parliament. Tabor's most
irrepressible gadfly, Eugene Field, then associate editor of the
Denver Tribune, satirically labelled it "modified Egyptian
moresque," a line echoed by nearly every newspaper reporter in
the region, most of whom seem to have regarded it as a serious
architectural assessment.43 Despite such barbs, Tabor and
Edbrooke would not be daunted. Even the abrupt collapse of the
west exterior wall, resulting in injuries, a long investigation
and a thirty-day delay, could not long halt construction, nor
could mounting costs, ultimately estimated to be three-quarters
of a million dollars. The Tabor Grand Opera House was not only
the most costly performing arts facility erected in Colorado in
the nineteenth century, but was also the most impressive. One
Denver newspaper enthused, "Wealth and taste, art and science
have all combined to give to this western world a temple fit to
be the amusement hall for the kings of earth."44
70


After nearly a year of construction, the Tabor Grand opened
September 5, 1881. A few interior details were not yet
completed, but festivities went on as scheduled, as the Tabor
Grand held all attention throughout the region, especially for
the media. For several weeks before the opening, Denver
newspapers had advised readers concerning appropriate dress for
the grand occasion. The Denver Tribune even published a lengthy
article justifying the price differential between opera tickets
and circus tickets, explaining that the former "costs a lot of
money ... and it is a much higher order of entertainment.1,45
Indeed, tickets for opening night were comparatively expensive,
ranging from one dollar for balcony seats to two dollars for
reserved seats in the front rows,46 but every ticket sold, some
to travellers taking advantage of special railroad fares being
offered for theatre-goers coming from as far away as Kansas City
and Salt Lake City.47 The next day, under the simple headline
"Perfection," the Rocky Mountain News printed sixteen columns of
coverage of opening night. Even the ever-ironic Eugene Field
found pleasantly poetic words for the occasion:
The opera house --- a union grand
of capital and labor ---
Long will the stately structure stand
a monument to Tabor.48
71


The Tabor Grand was an unalloyed success. As a reporter for the
Denver Tribune remarked, Tabor himself "could have been elected
to the Senate last night if there had been a viva voce vote of
the audience."49
The Tabor Grand Opera House was grand indeed. Emma Abbott,
the star performer on opening night, reportedly remarked to
Tabor, "I know of nothing more beautiful, except, perhaps, the
Grand Opera House in Paris."50 Seating fifteen-hundred patrons,
the Tabor Grand was far more spacious than any other theatre in
the area; in fact, if it were standing today, it would still be
one of Denver's most capacious performing arts facilities. The
seating area alone, ninety-one by seventy-one feet, with a
ceiling sixty-five feet high, was nearly as large as the entire
Leadville opera house, and its capacious stage, forty-five feet
deep and seventy-two feet across, could have accommodated most of
today's extravagant Broadway musicals.51 On each side of the
stage stood two intricately carved pillars, each created from an
entire redwood tree.52 A profile of Shakespeare graced the
proscenium arch. Other woodwork, of cherry and mahogany, was as
luxurious as any to be found in the finest Denver mansions. Yet
the center of attention, the focus of all eyes of those entering
the theatre, was the stage curtain, painted with a misty, moody
72


scene of a castle on the moors, bearing a few lines from Charles
Kingsley's poem, "Old and New: A Parable:"
So fleet the works of men,
back to the earth again;
Ancient and holy things fade like a dream,
and the hand of the master is dust.53
Within a decade, those words would prove strangely prophetic;
Tabor would live just long enough to see them come to pass.
Just as the Tabor Grand itself was more elaborate than
other theatres, so its staged productions tended to be on a
larger and more adventurous scale. The Tabor Grand offered
actual operas (as opposed to light operetta and theatre) more
frequently than most other opera houses in the Rocky Mountain
region. During its initial two weeks in business, the theatre
hosted the renowned Emma Abbott Opera Company, which presented
six different operas in only fourteen days. In its first four
seasons, the Tabor Grand presented Denver's first professional
performances of such opera classics as II Trovatore, La Traviata,
Faust, Rigoletto, Carmen, and The Marriage of Figaro. Yet like
other lesser opera houses, even the Tabor Grand was not solely an
opera theatre. Dramatic performances were also given, along with
frequent stagings of Gilbert and Sullivan's high-spirited
73


operettas. Sacred concerts and masquerade balls, minstrels and
mind-readers came to the Tabor Grand, and the state Republican
party held many conventions there, despite steadfastly refusing
to nominate Tabor himself to higher office. In general terms,
more theatre was presented than opera, more comedies than dramas.
Although Denverites gradually were acquiring an affection for the
finest in the performing arts, they preferred those serious
offerings well-leavened by more light-hearted stage productions.
There was always room for laughter at the Tabor Grand.54
Tabor's opera house changed Denver for the better. It set
a higher standard of architecture, and encouraged other builders
to raise similarly ambitious structures. It also served as
evidence to out-of-state visitors that Denver was a significant
community, proving that, as one reporter enthused unabashedly,
"Denver was not a city of mushroom growth, here to-day and gone
to-morrow, but was a permanent city of citizen residents.1,55
Most directly, it affected entertainment offerings for decades to
come. In 1880, one year before the Tabor Grand opened, the city
business directory listed only four so-called "amusements:"
Forrester's Opera House (where opera was not performed) and three
other halls that hosted German singing ensembles. Although more
respectable than saloons, such plebeian facilities could not
74


compete with the monarch in their midst; by comparison, Tabor's
palatial opera house "seemed like a magnificent temple in the
wilderness.1,56 Audiences, quickly becoming accustomed to its
offerings, demanded a higher quality of entertainment. More
theatres opened, some in converted saloons and dance halls whose
proprietors had found it profitable to appeal to a better class
of people. As Thomas Hornsby Ferril attested in his overview of
the theatre's history, "the erection of the Tabor Grand overthrew
the old order of theatrical entertainment in Denver."57
The Central City Opera House arose through community
effort. Even the Tabor Opera House in Leadville exuded some
semblance of public-spiri.tedness, and at first the media
steadfastly attempted to place the Tabor Grand in this same lofty
category. At the time of the opening, the Rocky Mountain News
proclaimed, "The opera house was not built for the select but for
the people,"58 and one year later, the Magazine of Western
History described it as "a monument to his [Tabor's] public
spirit."59 Tabor himself occasionally endorsed such idealistic
assertions. In an opening night speech given at the Tabor Grand,
he extolled Denver as "the finest city of its size on the
American continent," adding, "It needed an opera house, and I
decided to build one."50 It also enabled the generous tycoon to
75


indulge his philanthropic ways, as he donated use of the theatre
for performances to benefit such charitable causes as the Grand
Army hospital fund. Additionally, Tabor, lauded by Denver
newspapers for having "a strong love for children" and for taking
"special delight in contributing to their happiness," offered
free children's performances.61 One occasion, an H.M.S. Pinafore
production given in February, 1882, saw 2000 youngsters "packed
in like sardines in a box," while another 1500 were turned away
for lack of space.62
Philanthropy, however, was not Tabor's only intention in
constructing the opera house. After all, happy children grew
into paying patrons, so free performances were a prudent long-
term investment, and the public relations aspect of such
charitable endeavors was also significant. In addition, Judge
William Stone, a Tabor confidant, asserted that the entrepreneur
admitted to more pecuniary objectives. According to Stone, Tabor
said on one occasion:
You are much mistaken if you think I am building this
other than as a business enterprise; the public may look
at it that way, but I can say to you that I am building
this for myself, to make money... I can make twice as
much out of this opera block, having this opera house in
it, and I have other property that it will help.63
By building his opera house on 16th Street, instead of the then-
popular Larimer, Tabor diverted public attention to a new area of
76


downtown Denver, an area in which many other Tabor enterprises
stood. Thus, income from those businesses increased, but income
at the Tabor Grand was also significant. Receipts for its first
two weeks of operation were $27,620, of which over seven-thousand
dollars were profit.64 First-year profits topped twenty-thousand
dollars. Such an astonishing start was difficult to match in the
future, but even with more reasonable receipts, it continued to
thrive, soon becoming flagship of the interstate Tabor Amusement
Company. In the Tabor Grand Opera House, the renowned tycoon had
struck a mother lode of sterling value, both for business and for
public relations. Tabor's fortune multiplied, and Denver gained
from his efforts.
*****
Notes to Chapter Five: Monuments to Tabor
1. Teetor, Henry D. "The Silver Theatrical Circuit, or All the
World's a Stage." Magazine of Western History XIII, November
1890 April 1891, p. 740.
2. Rocky Mountain News, 4/23/1859.
3. Tierney, Luke. History of the Gold Discoveries on the South
Platte River, to which is appended a guide of the route, by Smith
and Oaks. Pacific City, Iowa: A. Thomson. 1859. p. 15.
4. Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the
Great River to the Great Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing
Company, 1867. p. 186.
77


5. Tabor, Augusta. "Cabin Life in Colorado." Bancroft
Manuscripts, Colorado Historical Society, p. 3.
6. Backus states that Tabor provided $64.75 worth of supplies.
Furman rounds this figure to $65. One newspaper source cites a
figure closer to $20, unlikely given Leadville's high inflation,
yet Fossett, who knew Tabor personally, claims the grubstake was
worth "about seventeen dollars." Tabor's principal biographer,
Duane Smith, hedges his bets by citing no exact figure.
7. Apparently, Tabor, Rische, and Hook did not know how to spell
the name of the city in Pennsylvania.
8. Fossett, Frank. Colorado: its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms
and Stock Ranges, and Health and Pleasure Resorts. Tourist's
Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G. Crawford, 1879.
Reprinted by New York: Arno Press, 1973. p. 452-3. Fossett
states that, in doing his research, he had been given access to
the company's financial records and bookkeeping.
9. Denver Tribune, 11/23/1878.
10. Dyer, John L. The Snow-shoe Itinerant: An Autobiography of
the Rev. John L. Dyer... Cincinnati: Cranston and Stowe. 1890.
Reprinted 1976 by Father Dyer United Methodist Church,
Breckenridge, Colorado, p. 279.
11. Fossett, Frank. Colorado: its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms
and Stock Ranges, and Health and Pleasure Resorts. Tourist's
Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G. Crawford, 1879.
Reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1973. p. 456.
12. Ubbelohde, Carl, and Benson, Maxine, and Smith, Duane A. A
Colorado History. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1988,
sixth edition, p. 163.
13. Ferril, Thomas Hornsby. "Playhouse Made Famous by Eugene
Field." New York Times Book Review and Magazine, May 15, 1921.
p. 18.
14. US census figures for California Gulch, 1860, at the
Colorado Historical Society.
15. Schulze, Suzanne. "A Century of the Colorado Census."
Thesis for University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, 1976. p.
1880-5.
78


16. Fossett, p. 413-414.
17. Leadville Daily Chronicle, 7/1/1879.
18. Leadville City Directory of 1880.
19. Foote, Mary Hallock. A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far
West: the Reminiscences of Mary Hallock Foote. San Marino,
California: Huntington Library. 1972. Edited with introduction
by Rodman W. Paul. p. 203.
20. Fossett, p. 415.
21. Smith, p. 106.
22. Furman, Evelyn E. Livingston. The Tabor Opera House: A
Captivating History. Self-published, 1972. p. 15.
23. Personal interview with Smith, 10/26/93.
24. Central City Daily Register, 3/4/1878. Ironically, this
report was published the same day that Central City's opera house
opened. Even as it spoke of the evening's pending glories, the
Daily Register was foretelling its city's doom.
25. Personal interview with Smith, 10/26/93.
26. Statistics from Furman and from the National Historic
Register application on file at the Historic Preservation Office
of the Colorado Historical Society.
27. Both Crowley and Furman confirm these statistics.
28. Degitz, Dorothy. A History of the Tabor Opera House in
Leadville, Colorado, from 1879 to 1905. Master's thesis for
Western State College, Gunnison, Colorado, 1935. p. 7.
29. Furman, p. 63, and personal interview, 9/21/93.
30. Furman, p. 52.
31. Smith, p. 106.
32. Furman, p. 51.
33. Richardson, p. 186.
79


34. ibid, p. 297.
35. ibid, p. 333.
36. Schulze, p. 1880-5.
37. Tabor's own six-story Tabor Block office building, built in
1880, was the first Denver building to exceed five stories.
38. Fossett, p. 33.
39. Bird, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, reissued by
Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press. 1986. p. 137-
8.
40. Faithful!, Emily. Three Visits, to America. Edinburgh:
David Douglas, 1884. p. 128-129.
41. Dorsett, Lyle W., and McCarthy, Michael. The Queen City:
A History of Denver. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1986,
second edition, p. 87.
42. Leonard, Stephen J., and Noel, Thomas J. Denver: Mining
Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990.
p. 45.
43. Brettel, Richard. Historic Denver: the Architects and the
Architecture, 1859-1893. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc., 1973.
p. 35.
44. Denver Daily News, 9/6/1881.
45. Tribune, 8/20/1881. Curiously, the explanations offered are
still a fair justification of ticket prices for the performing
arts today.
46. Denver Post, "A Part of Denver History Goes Down With Tabor
Theater," 11/18/1964, p. 70. The reporter was Clark Secrest.
47. Crowley, Elmer S. History of the Tabor Grand Opera House in
Denver. Master's thesis for University of Denver, 1940. p. 69.
48. Smith, p. 176, and numerous other sources.
49. Denver Tribune, 9/6/1881, p. 4.
80


50. Rocky Mountain News, 5/30/1941, p. 17.
51. By comparison, the stage at what is Denver's current largest
theatre, the Temple Hoyne Buell Theater, is sixty-seven feet wide
and fifty-two feet deep (information provided by the Denver
Department of Theatres and Arenas, which operates the theatre).
52. Some sources assert that the pillars were actually cherry
wood.
53. Denver Post, 11/18/1964, and numerous other sources.
Kingsley's entire poem appeared in print with others of his poems
in 1889.
54. Repertory information may be found in Crowley, p. 255 ff.
55. Denver World, 7/14/1888.
56. Ferril, p. 18.
57. ibid.
58. Rocky Mountain News, 9/4/1881, p. 3.
59. Teetor, p. 740.
60. Denver Republican, 9/6/1881, p. 4. The text of this speech
varies slightly from source to source. Clearly, Tabor lived
before the days of politicians distributing copies of their
speeches to the press.
61. Denver Republican, 2/23/1882.
62. ibid.
63. Smith, p. 172.
64. Denver Tribune, 9/18/1881, p. 4.
81


CHAPTER SIX
PETER MCCOURT AND THE SILVER CIRCUIT
The erection of Denver's Tabor Grand set the stage for a
long-desired alteration in the world of theatre in Colorado and
in the West as a whole. Most traveling theatrical ensembles,
with the notable exception of Langrishe's team, were based in the
East or the Midwest. The expansion of railroads in the 1870s
allowed access to distant communities, but travel increased
expenses for those theatres that hired the performers, and
greater expenses did not necessarily equal greater ticket sales.
Furthermore, from the performer's perspective, a week spent on a
train was a week not spent on the stage earning income. As a
comparatively small community over one-thousand rail miles from
the nation's great population centers, Denver seemed
prohibitively distant; mountain communities, isolated by high
passes that held railroads at bay, might as well be on another
continent. Leadville was so remote that its Tabor Opera House
once paid over six-hundred dollars in railroad and baggage fares
for one Shakespearean actor alone.1 Few opera houses could
afford such extravagent expenses, and no theatrical troupe was
82


willing to absorb the cost when there was no more at stake than
meager earnings from a trifling population. Towns might build an
opulent opera house merely to discover that local performers of
limited talent were the only available artists.
Growing California communities might have eased the
situation, for certainly there was much money to be made on the
Pacific Coast if actors traveled that far, and at first glance,
Denver might seem perfectly situated to take advantage of passing
rail traffic. However, the traffic did not pass, for Denver was
not, despite a central location, a trans-continental rail hub.
Faced with impenetrable mountains west of the "Queen City,"
railroad surveyors had abandoned Colorado in favor of Wyoming
Territory's less problematic South Pass. Thus, Wyoming, not
Colorado, was the crossing point for the Rockies, and Cheyenne,
not Denver, became the central rail-link between the East and
West Coasts. A secondary line linked Denver and Cheyenne, but to
any traveler, it represented a literal side-track on which both
time and money were expended. For theatrical travelers, it was
both easier and cheaper to bypass Denver. Additionally, the
1870s and 1880s were dangerous decades on the High Plains, for
Native American tribes waged a continuing series of conflicts
with the United States Army. With regional bloodshed possible at
83


any time, some coast-to-coast travelers found it safer, cheaper,
and not much slower to forgo the railroads in favor of a
steamship. Theatre troupes that "doubled" Cape Horn on their way
to California, instead of crossing the Plains and the Rockies,
were of no use to amusement-starved Coloradans.
The ideal solution to this dilemma of distance and expense
was a theatre circuit, a partnership of opera houses and theatres
in different communities. Performing troupes would come to
Colorado to play the entire circuit, not just one single theatre.
Rather than importing a performing ensemble from the East Coast
for only one or two performances, a dozen nights might be
scheduled, thus increasing income without increasing expenses.
Profits could be maximized, while costs remained fairly stable,
since only one set of cross-country round-trip rail tickets
needed to be purchased. Performers had long sought such an
arrangement; the obstacle was opera house managers, who were too
self-involved, too important in their own perceptions, to
cooperate with other managers.2
The impasse might never have been resolved, if not for the
Tabor Grand and its powerful proprietor. Its opening gave Tabor
personal control of two prominent Colorado opera houses, which he
84


insisted should work together in scheduling all performances.
Additionally, he ordered William Bush, his long-time assistant
who managed the Tabor Grand, to arrange the cooperation of other
theatre managers. Tabor's wealth facilitated and expedited this
process. By March, 1884, an embryonic circuit encompassing five
theatres (Tabor's two in Denver and Leadville, as well as those
in Central City, Colorado Springs, and Georgetown) was in place,
but Bush's tenure ended abruptly when he took the wrong side in
Tabor's contentious divorce. It was left to his successor, Peter
McCourt, to carry out the directive.3
Early observers might have questioned McCourt's suitability
to the task, for there was at first little evidence that he was
hired for his professional skills. In fact, nepotism seemed the
most likely factor. McCourt was the elder brother of Tabor's
second wife, Elizabeth McCourt Doe, better known by the nickname
"Baby Doe." Tabor married Baby in Washington, D. C., March 1,
1883, after an unseemly divorce from his first wife, Augusta.
Peter McCourt attended the wedding (many others, in protest of
the scandal, refused to attend), and soon after was appointed
Tabor's personal secretary. He accompanied the newlyweds on
their return to Denver, and was conveniently on the scene when
Bush, who had conspicuously favored the little-lamented Augusta,
85


was peremptorily dismissed, and replaced by McCourt, who thus
inherited the task of forming a theatre circuit.
Family connections may have brought McCourt to prominence,
but he quickly proved himself equal to the task of expanding
Bush's "Colorado Circuit" (sometimes called "Tabor Circuit"). In
fact, apparently, the Wisconsin native was ideally suited to his
work, for he better understood the value of cooperation than did
his abrasive employer. Allen Adams, in his thorough academic
study of McCourt'.s career, offered the following analysis:
Peter McCourt's cultivated manners and his diplomatic
approach and gentle nature won him many friends among
the best social circles, while his sure and steady
business sense won him quick acceptance in the business
and financial world of Denver.4
Tact and social skills, so prominent in McCourt, were noticeably
lacking in his brother-in-law, who despite his immense wealth (or
perhaps because of it) was sometimes dismissed as an uncultured
boor. Additionally, Tabor was known to occasionally indulge in
questionable business practices. A theatre manager in Pueblo or
Fort Collins might not wish to deal with Tabor personally, but
McCourt was far more palatable. Only three months after taking
the helm of the West's finest opera house, McCourt was praised in
the New York Dramatic Mirror, a prominent trade paper, as "an
efficient manager in every respect."5
86


By November, 1884, four more Colorado opera houses, those
in Fort Collins, Canon City, Salida, and Pueblo, joined the new
theatre circuit. Salida was a useful link, since it was located
in the mountains on the Arkansas River en route to Leadville.
The other new members were along the Front Range of the Rockies
north and south of Denver. Performers traveling on the rail spur
from Cheyenne could visit all five Front Range theatres (from
north to south: Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs, Canon
City, and Pueblo), diverting to Georgetown and Central City in
the foothills west of Denver, then head for the high country to
take the stage in Salida and Leadville. Such efficiency was
further facilitated in July, 1885, when the Cheyenne Opera House
joined the fold, providing a crucial link to the cross-country
connections of the Union Pacific railroad. By 1886, McCourt had
recruited opera houses in Greeley and Idaho Springs. Gradually,
he filled vacant spaces in the theatrical map of Colorado, thus
also filling what would otherwise have been vacant dates in a
performer's travel schedule. It was theoretically possible for
a theatrical troupe to range throughout the gold region giving
performances every night.6
By December, 1888, the New York Dramatic Mirror reported
that the "Silver Circuit" of the Rockies included thirteen
87


theatres: seven in Colorado, four in Utah, and two in Wyoming.7
As it grew, the Circuit would include as many as twenty theatres
at any given time, yet far more than twenty towns participated in
the Circuit, for McCourt's roster continually changed, both with
and without his acquiescence. New theatres opened; old ones
closed, frequently due to catastrophic fires. The Salida Opera
House burned in 1888, Salt Lake City's Walker Opera House in
1890. The latter loss was particularly acute, for it left
McCourt without a member theatre in the area's second largest
city. He resolved the issue by enlisting another facility, the
Salt Lake Theater. Although managers of that opera house were
initially reluctant to grant control to McCourt, Tabor's threat
to build a new (that is, competing) theatre in Salt Lake proved
persuasive.8 With the acquisition of the Salt Lake Theater, an
important population had been kept within reach. Smaller towns
also participated. At various times, twenty-nine communities
from southern Colorado to northern Utah to eastern Wyoming were
members of this ambitious theatrical network.9 Peter McCourt,
who had begun his Western career as personal secretary to his
brother-in-law, controlled this empire, having become, as Adams
described him, "the most powerful single manager in the Rocky
Mountain West."10
88


McCourt's business sense, as demonstrated by rapid growth
of the Silver Circuit, was the major factor in the success of the
Tabor Amusement Company. Through his leadership, he contributed
directly to Horace Tabor's vast wealth, as well as to his own
prominence in the region. Yet those outside of the company also
benefited from his abilities. Theatre troupes found tours of the
Rocky Mountains to be both economical and profitable. Theatre
operators and opera house managers also benefited from decreased
costs and increased earnings. Audiences, too, came to be in a
more desirable position, for favorable economic arrangements led
to more frequent performances of higher quality. Furthermore, as
the Silver Circuit increased the practicality of performing arts,
more opera houses came to be built, many of which would never
have risen had McCourt not planned a means of providing
performers. Without these opera houses, the communities in which
they stood would have been poorer in terms of both amusement and
architecture, and their claims to culture would have been tenuous
at best. Throughout the Rocky Mountain West, residents of all
classes gained from Tabor's inspired act of nepotism.
*****
89


Notes for Chapter Six:
Peter McCourt and the Silver Circuit
1. Smith, Duane A. Horace Tabor: His Life and Legend.
University Press of Colorado. 1989. p. 261.
2. This technique of theatres working together in the
scheduling and hiring of performers is now known as "block-
booking," and is standard practice today.
3. Adams, Allen John. "Peter McCourt, Jr., and the Silver
Theatrical Circuit, 1889-1910: an Historical and Biographical
Study." Ph.D Thesis, University of Utah, 1969. p. 13.
4. ibid, p. 11.
5. ibid, p. 14.
6. Adams' thesis summarizes the growth and expansion of the
Silver Circuit. It is the best source of information concerning
the Circuit and McCourt's life, and offers a thorough analysis of
the development of theatre in the western United States.
7. Adams, p. 42.
8. ibid, p. 53-4.
9. Adams, p. 228-229. Adams cites the following theatres as at
least occasional participants in the Silver Circuit:
Colorado: Aspen, Boulder, Canon City, Central City,
Colorado Springs, Cripple Creek, Denver, Florissant, Fort
Collins, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Greeley, Idaho
Springs, La Junta, Leadville, Montrose, Ouray, Pueblo,
Salida, Telluride, Trinidad, Victor
Wyoming: Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs
Utah: Ogden, Park City, Salt Lake City
10. ibid, p. 31.
90


CHAPTER SEVEN
THE RISE OF WHEELER; THE FALL OF SILVER
Although Horace Tabor was the most prominent investor in
the performing arts in Colorado, he was not alone in the field.
Jerome Byron Wheeler, financier of Aspen's Wheeler Opera House,
was. equally influential, if in a somewhat smaller arena. Unlike
Tabor, however, Wheeler's fortune was acquired earlier in life
and certainly more effortlessly. Wheeler was born in Troy, New
York, in 1841. After serving in the Union Army and fighting in
battles along the Potomac River, he moved to New York City where
he planned to pursue a career in business. The most valuable
association that he established in that city was with Harriet
Macy Valentine, an heiress of the Macy family fortune. Wheeler
married Miss Valentine in 1870, then used family connections to
extend his personal wealth through investment in and management
of Macy stores. When Mrs. Wheeler's uncle died in 1879, she and
her husband gained controlling interest in Macy's, along with the
financial benefits of such an influential position.1
An ambitious capitalist, Wheeler might have remained on the
East Coast near the sources of his fortune had Mrs. Wheeler not
suffered from acute bronchitis. Her doctors suggested a respite
91


in the Rocky Mountains, where many respiratory patients found
relief in the dry, thin air. In 1882, less than a year after the
opening of the Tabor Grand, the Wheelers first came to Colorado.
During that initial visit, Wheeler bought controlling interests
in two Aspen mines, though he had not yet seen Aspen. He did not
visit the properties until 1883, at which time he expanded those
holdings to include three more mines.2 That same summer, Wheeler
purchased land for a summer home in Manitou Springs, a resort
town in the foothills west of Colorado Springs. Family tradition
suggests that the head cashier at Macy's first suggested Manitou
Springs to the Wheelers.3 If true, the mountain community owes
a debt of gratitude to that clerk, for Wheeler soon contributed
$50,000 toward street construction. He also furnished equipment
for a volunteer fire brigade, built a conservatory and a bowling
alley, financed a town clock, and began the Manitou Mineral Water
Company and a glass company in nearby Colorado City.4 Wheeler's
substantial contributions to the area surrounding his summer
retreat indicate a certain devotion to the community, or at least
a wish to bring a few creature comforts in a town where his
family regularly spent several months of the year.
Despite the significant scope of his local contributions in
Manitou Springs, Wheeler's most notable business investments were

92


Full Text

PAGE 1

THE QUEST FOR CULTURE: COLORADO'S HISTORIC OPERA HOUSES OF THE GOLD AND SILVER ERAS by Elizabeth J. B; A., University of Boulder, 1981. A thesis submitted to the faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Humanities 1994 J

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1994 by Elizabeth J. Schwarm All rights reserved.

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This thesis for the Master of Humanities degree by Elizabeth J. Schwarm has been approved for the Department of Humanities by /Zeit9+ atJf

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Schwarm, Elizabeth J (M. H., Humanities) The Quest for Culture: Colorado's Historic Opera Houses of the Gold and Silver Eras Thesis directed by Thomas J. Noel ABSTRACT Throughout the world, communities .draw prestige from a variety of sources, ranging from holy sites to sports complexes. Such important facilities can bring to a community the high regard of outsiders, thus proportionately increasing the selfrespect of those within the community itself. In the western United States in the late nineteenth century, this role was filled partially by schools and churches, but also by theatres, opera houses,and other venues for the performing arts. These facilities were not merely for entertainment. They also served as validation of a COinmun.ity's claims to civilization; a town with an opera house was regarded as having matured to a prestigious positi on within society. Any community wishing to gain public respect needed to construct performing arts facil it ies. iv

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This thesis analyses this trend as expressed through the erection of opera houses in Colorado mining communities in the 1870s and 1880s, with particular consideration being given to the careers of those persons who were directly involved in the construction and operation of those theatres. Primary sou"rces, including newspapers and memoirs, are used to shed 1 ight upon both the historic pefiod and more modern times. Interviews with participants in and of the performing arts in Colorado provide additional perspective, and comparisons are drawn between attitudes toward the arts in the historic and modern periods. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates's thesis. I recommend its Signed v

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CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. THE CURTAIN RISES ..... 2. THE FIFTY-NINERS AND THE FRONTIER FRATERNITY 3. OPERATIC ENDEAVORS ......... 4. CENTRAL CITY'S "TEMPLE OF THE MUSES" 5 MONUMENTS TO TABOR . .. 6. PETER MCCOURT AND THE SILVER CIRCUIT 7. THE RISE OF WHEELER; THE FALL OF SILVER 8. DEATHS AND TRANSFIGURATIONS 9. THE CURTAIN FALLS BIBLIOGRAPHY . . vi 1 6 20 34 55 82 91 107 140 150

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AcknQwledgements This thesis not now exist if it had not been for the ass i stance of numerous persons who grac i ous ly shared wi th me their knowledge and expertise concerning Colorado and the history of its performing arts. My committee members, Tom Noel, chairman of the UCD history department, Kent Casper, chairman of the UCD humanities department, and Barbara Neal, executive director of the Colorado Council on the Arts, proVided constructive advice and essent ia 1 gu idance throughout the creative process. 'The staff members of the Colorado Historical Society Research Library and the Denver Public Library Western History Department assisted in locating primary source material, as did staff members of the Aspen Historical Sotiety in Aspen, the Gilpin County Historical Society in Central City, and the Lake County Library in Leadville. Historian DuaneSmith generously shared his insights concerning Horace Tabor, and Evelyn Furman spoke with me about her prized possession, the Tabor Opera House in Leadville. In Aspen, both mayor John Bennett and Bob Murray, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, proved to be invaluable of information concerning the background of the performing arts in vii

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Aspen, as well as its role in the city today. The Central City Opera House Association opened its files to me, and its staff members, particularly John Moriarty, Daniel Rule and JoAnn Sims, enthusiastically shared their extensive expertise. The University of Denver also allowed access to its archives, which contain much information concerning the Central City Opera House. Special thanks is due to Rick Glesner, for giving me the mental space required to write, and to the editors of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, for assigning me to report on the restoration of the Central City Opera. House in 1987. Without that stimulus, I might not have come to understandand appreciate the history of Colorado's houses. Elizabeth J. December 1, 1994 viii

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CHAPTER ONE THE CURTAIN RISES Opera may abound with golden throats and golden moments, but to find grand opera in the world of gold miners seems initially incongruous. In the public image, frontier entertainment focused on saloons, not salons, and few casual observers would suspect that Gold Rush communities had an interest in finer amusements. Yet as mi n i ng camps grew and prospered, citizens began demanding performing arts of diverse kinds. Theatre, music, and even opera appeared in mining communities,both for entertainment purposes and for the positive statement that the presence of such cu 1 tured divers ions made about the commun'ity. To achieve those dual goals, mining towns constructed opera houses during and 80s, as Colorado evolved from a territory to a Ultimately, those theatres, waxing. and waning as did the gold towns themselves, came to exemplify periods of both prosperity and despair. The story of those opera houses illustrates aspects of Colorado's development, both culturally and economically. Hundreds of theatres were constructed in Colorado beginning with its founding in 1859. Most of those facilities, as will be shown, were at best unpretentious, little more than stage areas

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appended to saloons. Yet most towns of reasonable size found the resources to build opera houses as venues for opera, instrumental music, theatrical productions, and various community events. The social statement made by the presence of such facilities natidh wide has been examined in several important published studies. In The Urban Frontier, Richard Wade focused upon the development. of such Ohio River towns as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh from 1790 to 1830. In those communities, he found that schools, churches, and theatres were quickly established so as to bring social stability to the area, as well as a semblance of the culture that pioneers had left behind them. Theatre, Wade explains, was' "an important carrier of refinement and taste."1 'He also notes that community leaders, ever conscious of their town's fragile status in a changing society, to demonstrate that they were no less cultured that the established cities of the East Coast, thus proving, they hoped, their "equality with the older sections of the Union."z The erection of elaborate theatres was an important path to this equality. The Western expression of this trend was Duane Smith's focus in Rocky Mountain Mining Camps, in which he asserts: In the [gold] camp the opera house or theater was a mark of cultural distinction,. of maturity par excellence. Here were presented legitimate theater, musical, and lectures the cultural entertainments of the 2

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respectable element of the community ... It mattered so much to have one in the camp that the local newspaper might take it lipon itself to advertiseeditoria.lly for some enterpri sing person to bu ild one. 3 Smith notes that such civilized.facilities, together with schools and churches, were seen as evidence of stability, of "cultured refinement and the semblance of Eastern respectabil ity. The mining community res ident was, in Smith I swords, "striving for something better, something similar to what he had known earlier or heard described by those who had been East."4 Constructing an opera house allowed a mining town to stake its claim to more than just gold or silver. Here was the mother lode of respectability, through which the community could validate its existence. Like the diverse regions studied by Smith and Wade, Colorado towns of the late 1800s felt the same unquenchable urge to prove their respectabil ity. Many hundreds of theatres, dozens of in name alone or in actual fact, opera houses, were built during decades; some of them still stand. In Central City, the earliest of the surviving opera houses ... is still in use as the home of a well-respected opera company that, excepting the years of World War Two, has given performances each summer since 1932. In Aspen, the Wheeler Opera House is also active, with a great diversity of events presented throughout the year. Other theatres have been rather less 3

PAGE 12

fortunate. The Tabor Opera House in Leadville, crippled by a weak local economy, is a meek relic of its former opulence, and the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver was demolished in 1964. Taken together, these four theatres show the diverse origins and fates of the opera houses throughout Co lorado. Bu i lt i n the "rush to respectability," they have, in three of the four cases, carried that respectability to the close of the twentieth century, despite the intervention of frequent hard times.5 This study will examine the births, deaths, and resurrections of these four historic opera houses, the most highly regarded of their kind, considered in the context of Colorado's development. Like the state as a whole, these theatres rose with the Gold Rush and the Silver Boom. They suffered through the Panic of 1893, and sought new paths for survival in the late twentieth century, with varying degrees of success. Their histories, and those of their creators and their patrons, illustrate Colorado's growth and progress, for just as Central City, Leadville, Denver, and Aspen sought respect on a national front, so Colorado itself in the 1870s struggled for prominence amongst the other For the cities and the state alike, opera houses were part of a culttiral infrastructure that served as a foundation for society Studying 4

PAGE 13

the historic opera houses, those ambassadors of Eastern culture transplanted to the West, shows how Colorado developed its own culture, ultimately creating a cross-continent amalgam, a Rocky Mountain rendition of East Coast trends. The state's four great opera houses .exemp 1 ify that continued striving for cultural acceptance. Through the arts, Colorado communities sought to prove that they were more than just cow-towns or mining camps. They were, rather, civilized outposts in the Rockies. ***** Notes for Chapter One: The Curtain Rises 1. Wade, RichardC. The Urban Frontier: Pioneer Life in Ear7y Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lexington, Louisvi77e, and St. Louis. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. p. 259. 2. ibid, p. 231. 3. Smith, Duane A. Rocky Mountain Mining Camps: The Urban Frontier. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press. 1967. p. 162. 4. ibid, p. 104. 5. The "rush to respectability" phrase was coined by Stephen J. Leonard and J. Noel in Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press 9f Colorado. 1990; 5

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CHAPTER TWO THE FIFTY-NINERS AND THE FRONTIER FRATERNITY Colorado's destiny as one of the United States became clear in the 1850s; when prospectors route to California's fabled gold fields decided to practice their trade as they travelled. These men were far from the first gold to visit the area. The Span i sh exp 1 orer Coronado pursued rumors of the prec i ous metal on the Plains in 1540. In 1807, Lt. Zebulon Pike was told of gold nuggets while exploring the region which would later bear his and he duly included those tales in his official report, but his statements were either disregarded or overlooked. Not until 1850, when the Ralston party found faint traces of gold in the modern-day Denver suburb of Arvada were those tales taken seriously. Insignificant in itself, the Ralston strike encouraged other prospectors to continue the quest. In 1858, William Green Russell, a veteran of the gold fields in Georgia and California, brought a large prospecting party to the Pikes Peak region. Of 6

PAGE 15

the original company of 104 fortune-seekers, only thirteen, including two of his brothers, were still with Russell in early July when they sparked Colorado's Gold Rush by striking paydirt at the confluence of the South Platte River and Dry Creek.l Further exp lorat ions downstream on the Platte unearthed more traces of so-called within weeks, news of the exciting discoveries spread to .such Missouri River towns as Kansas City, Independence, Leavenwoth, and St. Charles. Soon, thousands of would-be prospectors set out from these supply towns for the journey to Pikes Peak Country. Denver's first newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, described the scene in its premiere issue: The hum of busy men is heard in the mountains so lately rising lonely in majestic silence; the cheerful tones of a multitude fill the air that but lately ethoed only the occasional voice of a weary wanderer; the Buffalo and Deer that but yesterday scarcely feared the form of man, are already driven by the presence of men, from the boundless p la ins where they had roamed almost undisturbed for a thousand years.2 Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers estimated that. as many as 100,000 thousand persons would soon.be in the gold regions.3 Luke Tierney, a member of the Russell party, predicted 60,000 residents within a year.4 Such a vast number of "argonauts" may have begun the trek, but on ly ha If actua lly reached the go ld fields. Nevertheless, so many persons completed the journey that the 1860 census found 34,231 residents in the future Colorado. 7

PAGE 16

On September 24, 1858, the town of St. Charles was founded where the South Platte converged with Cherry Creek. Two months later, it was renamed Denver in honor of the governor of Kansas Territory, of which this region was technically a part. The town's founders envisioned it becoming an important gold mining camp, but its dominance was soon cha llenged by discoveries in the western foothills. In Jantiary of 1859, the first important lode was found at the confluence of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek, where the town of Idaho Springs now stands. Several months later, John Gregory, like Russell an experienced miner from Georgia, struck paydirt in a narrow, rocky gulch thirty miles west of Denver. In need of a grubstake, Gregory shared information concerning his find with a team of prospectors from Indiana; those fortunate men eagerly traded supplies for possible riches, joining Gregory in the gulch that was destined to bear his name. Gregory himself struck the first mother lode on May 6. Before summer began, thousands of hopeful argonauts were en route to the Gregory Diggings. Among those traveling to the future Colorado in these opening weeks of the gold rush was Horace Greeley, founder and editor of the New York Tribune. He came searching not for gold nuggets, but for nuggets of news. Greeley wanted to witness what 8

PAGE 17

was happening at the Gregory Diggings, which he lauded as "the chief hope of gold-mining in the Rocky Mountains."5 Accompanied by two other journalists, Albert Richardson of the Boston Journal and Henry Villard of the Cincinnati Commercial, Greeley arrived on June 9, 1859, only six weeks after the original discoveries. As the astonished New Yorker noted in his report, hoards of had preceded him: I pres!Jme less than half the four or five thousand people now in this ravine have been here a week; he who has been here three weeks is as quite an old settler. The influx cannot fall short of five hundred per day, balanced by an efflux of about one hundred ... Twenty thousand people will have into this ravine before the 1st of September, while Ido not see how half of them are to find profitable employment here.6 As Greeley predicted, many went away disappointed, not only from the Gregory Diggings, but also from every gold strike in the region, for most soon found it simpler to dream of gold than to actually find it. The Rocky Mountain News mocked these "gobacks" for abandoning certain fortune, yet enough miners remained to transform the Gregory Diggings into the town of Central City. To call Central City and Denver "towns" at this infant stage of their development begs explanation, for only in comparison to the wilderness that surrounded them could mere settlements earn such titles. Albert Richardson, journalist, inveterate traveler, and companion of Greeley, saw Denver as a 9

PAGE 18

"forlorn and desolate-looking metropolis" in which "chairs were glories'yet to come," and "almost every day was enlivened by its little shooting match.,,7 Other visitors also remarked upon the raw nature of these incipient cities. Helen Hunt Jackson, after visiting the youthful mining town of Fairplay in the 1870s, it as "ill arranged, ill built, ill kept, dreary," then sternly admonished the miners themselves: Why cannot a mining town be clean, well-ordered, and homelike? I have never seen one such in Colora do or in California. Surel y, it would seem that men getting gold first hand from Nature might have more heart and take more time to make home pleasant and healthful.s Jackson was not the only visitor to offer lofty condemnation. Wi 11 iam Hepworth Dixon, an Engl ish clergyman, dismissed the future as "ten or twelve streets laid out, with two hotels, a bank, a theater, half a dozen chapels, fifty gambling houses and a hundred grog shops. As you wander about these hot and dirty streets you seem to be walking in a city of Most of' those so-called "demons" had journeyed to the seeking gold, yet were experienced miners Many were farmers lured from their fields by rumors of riches. Others, mountain men or former soldiers or professional fur traders, also joined the stampede to the "New Eldorado." These settlers to varying degrees, acquainted with existence at the edge of 10

PAGE 19

civilization, or at least life outside of Eastern cities, yet others knew a far different life, as Horace Greeley observed: The next man you meet driving an ox team, and white as a miller with dust, is probably an ex-banker or doctor, a broken merchant or manufacturer from the old states, who has scraped together the candle ends charitably or contemptuously allowed him by his creditors on settlement, and risked them on a last desperate cast of the dice by coming hither Ex-editors, ex-printers, ex-. clerks, men, are here in abundance ---all on the keen hunt for the gold which on ly a few will secure.ro Even Augusta Tabor, who came to Denver one year after Russell's gold strikes,declared, "I never saw a country settled up with such greenhorns:"ll This amalgam of adventurers was not limited to the American-born. Englishmen were also present, many of them younger sons who, a significant inheritance, detided to try their luck in America. As mining' communities expanded, all Europeans, but particularly those of British or German arrived in great number. According to the federal percent of Central City's 1870 populatibn was foreign-born. Twothirds of those immigrants were natives of Ireland or the various German-speak i ng states, such as Saxony, but Ch i na, Luxembourg, Poland, Bohemia, and the Isle of Man also made contributions.12 Enriched by such ethnic diversity, lively communities arose in which gold fever seemed to be the only commonality. 11

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--Anecdotal evidence and official statistics both confirm a significant demographic fact. These early gold rush settlements were virtually frontier fraternities in which women were rarely seen. Augusta Tabor, traveling in 1859 and 1860 with her husband Horace and infant son, found'that she w,sthe first white woman to arrive in Payne's Bar and California Gulch. This situation proved somewhat advantageous, since lonely men, lacking their own ladies, willingly built her a shelter. Earlier, on reaching Denver, Augusta had reported that she was on ly the eleventh woman in town, but qualified that statement by pointing out that "Most of them were and In June, 1859, amongst the four-thousand residents of the Gregory, Diggings, Horace Greeley found only "five white women and'seven squaws living with white Albert Richardson, writing in that same of Denver, alleged that "the appearance of a bonnet in the street was the signal for the entire population to rush to doors and gaze upon its wearer as at any other natural The Methodist minister John L. Dyer, after travelling from California Gulch to preach in Kent's Gulch, reported that the settlement had "about one hundred men, one of whom hadafamily."U Women, it seems, were rarer than hen's eggs, and hen's eggs were fetching $2.50 a dozen in Gregory Gulch." 12

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Government stat i st ics suggest that these anecdotes were not exaggerations. In 1860, several months after its founding, California Gulch, where the town of Leadville would soon arise, had a population of 2049, of whom 97.7% were men. Of the remaining persons, half were women, half Ten years later in that same are a, adult women were still only eleven percent of the population.19 Other communities reported similar figures. Black Hawk, at the foot of the former Gregory Diggings, had. a population of 951 in 1870, with forty-four percent men, nineteen percent women, and thirty-seven percent children. One mile up the gulch in Central City, women were comparatively numerous, comprising twenty-five percent of an 1870 population that numbered 1,449, significantly more than the mere handful of women Greeley had found in the community eleven years earlier.2D Despite such gains, the editors of a local newspaper were suffitiently concerned as to print an.editorial with advice for young ladies back east.' "Wake up, girls," it proclaimed, "and coine to where you are needed and appreciated. ,,21 Those journalists realized that without women, the town would never be more than a transient camp, for men alone could never achieve a stable, permanent population. Without women, gold camps would never mature into civilized societies. 13

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The relative absence of women in these early years is easily explained. Professional prospectors led extremely unsettled lives; traveling frequently and living precariously as they followed their dreams of gold from the coast of Georgia to the coast of California and back. Few were married; of those who were, virtually none were. accompanied to the gold fields by their wives, let alone by their daughters. Additionally, one year before Russell's 1858 gold strike, the United States was struck by an economic depress ion that was particularly severe in the Midwest and Kansas Terr i tory. These areas closer to the ini n i ng camps than were the rest of the United were to hear of the discoveries, and many bankrupt merchants and farmers, seeing the hoatdes of would-be prospectors pass iog by their joined the march to the Pikes Peak region intending to strike it rich, then return home with pockets full of gold to redeem their farms and bus inesses. they had no intent ion of staying any longer than necessary, so they left their fami 1 ies at The fact that th'ese optimists did not become immediately wealthy changed neither their plans nor the demographics of the camps, which remained overwhelmingly In fact, if the mining communities had.been populated only by miners, that is, by those who panned for gold, women might never have reached the frontier at all, excepting inevitable prostitutes. Domesticity 14

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had no place in the early days of a mining camp, for the ideals of Victorian femininity were ill-suited to a miner's cabin. Miners, however, were not a lone on the front i er, since even the newest settlements required men of diverse profess ions. Regardless of their skills, could never provide for all their own needs; they simply were too busy with pick and shovel to bother with hoe and rake, or with needle and thread. As miners themselves arrived in ever-increasing numbers, the .demand grew for support services, and men of diverse abilities, men with no plans to ever pan for gold, arrived on the frontier. Greeley noted this effect in the Gold Rush's earliest Mining quickens almost every department of useful industry. Two coal pits are burrilng close at.hand. A blacksmith has set up his forge here, and is making a good thing of sharpening picks at fifty cents A volunteer post office is just established, to which an express office will soon attach :itself. A provision store wilT soon follow, then groceries, then dry goods, then a hoteli etc.u .... Blacksmiths and brewers shop-keepers and saloon-keepers, lawyers and bakers and pharmacists became the middle-class of the mining camps. In some cases, men who had come to town as miners would abandon that pr ofession in favor of less arduous work, and they, too, entered this more prestigious social order. Thus, mining camps that had begun as isolated outposts gradually evolved into miniature imitations of nineteenth-century American cities, 15

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leading to the of both industry and society. Within a few years, the non-mining portion of the region's population came to outnumber the actual miners by as much as five to one in some areas.n A clear example of this situaticin was Central City. Of the numerous towns in Gregory Gulch, Central City was the "country club commun i ty," the chosen home of the local elite, professionals who, proud of having clean hands and an themselves aloof from the miners themselves. In 1870, 40% of the men in Central City described themselves to the census taker as "miners;" an additional 14% were employed as teamsters, carpenters, laborers, and mill workers. Of the remaining 46%, most worked in support services as store clerks, barbers, and saloon and hotel keepers; others practiced such "civilized" professions as law, medicine, jewelry and watchmaking, and life insurance sales. By in neighboring BlackHawk, 76% of the male population was employed in mining and other physically laborious pursuits. In comparison to miners and their co-workers, professionals led more settled lives and were far less inclined to follow rumors to a new mining camp every few months. Thus, these men more frequently Were accompanied by their families, or at least asked their wives and children to join them later. Due to its middle and upper-class composition, 16

PAGE 25

Central City boasted a significant feminine contingent, numbering twenty-five percent in 1870. In working class Black Hawk, only nineteen percent of the population was comprised of women.24 As Colorado's mining camps grew and stabilized, women became more numerous, and more influential; their presence brought to a close the frontier that had characterized Colorado's earliest years. With the passing of those masculine days, mining communities came of age, not merely in chronological terms, but also intellectually and Stable capable of growth replaced temporary camps that would never have outlasted the gold deposits. That maturation triggered new demands and different needs within the community, particularly in the realm of entertainment, for with women and families in twon, saloon girls and music halls no longer seemed adequate. Those changes would ultimately lead to the age of the opera house. ***** Notes for Chapter Two: The Fifty-niners and the Frontier Fraternity 1. Some sources state that the Russell party ultimately numbered twelve gold-seekers, but Luke Tierney, a member of the party, names thirteen members in his History of the Gold Discoveries on 17

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the South Platte River ... Pacific City, Iowa: A. Thomson. 1859. p. 11. 2. Rocky Mountain News, 4/23/1859, p. 1. 3. Byers, William N., and Kellam, J. H. A Handbook to the Gold Fields of Nebraska and Kansas. Chicago: D. B. Cooke and Company, 1859. p. 13. 4. Tierney, p. 15. 5. Greeley,Horace. An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer of 1859. New York: C. M. Sexton, Barker, and Company. San Francisco: H.H. Bancroft and Company, 1860. p. 120. 6. ibid, p. 120-121. 7. Richardson, Alpert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great Mississippi to the Grea. t Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1867. p. 177 and p. 186. 8. Jackson, Helen Hunt. Bits of Travel at Home. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1894. p. 251. 9. quoted in Leonard, Stephen J., and Noel, Thomas J. Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990. p 22. 10. Greeley, p. 157. 11. Tabor, Augusta. "Cabin Life in Colorado." Bancroft Manuscripts, Colorado Historical Society, p. 3. 12. Information derived from reports for Central City, 1870, at the Colorado Historical Society. 13. Augusta Tabor, p. 1-2. 14. Greeley, p. 122. 15. Richardson, p. 177. 16. Dyer, John L. The Snow-Shoe Itinerant: An Autobiography of the Rev. John L. Dyer ... Cincinnati: Cranston and Stowe. 1890. Reprinted 1976 by Father Dyer United Methodist Church, 18

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Breckenridge, Colorado. p. 128. 17. Richardson, p. 199. 18. US census figures for California Gulch, 1860, at the Lake County (Colorado) Library. 19. US census figures for Oro City, 1870, at the Lake County (Colorado) Library. 20. US census figures for Gilpin County, 1870, at the Colorado Historical Society. 21. Central City Daily Register, 3/27/1872. 22. Greeley, p. 124-5. 23. Ubbelohde, Carl, and Benson, Maxine, and Smith, Duane A. A Colorado History. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1988, sixth edition. p. 75. 24. Information derived from US census figures for Gilpin County, 1870, at the Colorado Historical Society. 19

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CHAPTERTHREE OPERATIC ENDEAVORS In their' earl iest years, these Co lorado communit ies offered only earthy entertainment. After his 1859 Denver visit, Horace Greeley reported drily that guns and gambling were the primary amusement, and that occupied in this fashion "had a careless way, when drunk, of 'firing at each other, at other times quite miscellaneously."l The bemused New Yorker noted that, as this was somethirig of an inconvenience for a guest disinclined to dodge bullets, he left the room. Feminine entertainment rio more refined than those gamblers Saloon girls were the closest thing to divas ever seen in the mining camps, and a gambling hall might declare itself a theatre merely on the basis of presenting weekend. Initially, there were no protests. The miners, it seems, were content with their options, too hard-worked, perhaps, to insist upon anything better, but the longing for finer entertainment arose rather quickly. "We want something rich and respectable in the amusement line here," insisted Denver's Rocky Mountain 'News in 1860, and the demand soon generated a supply.z 20

PAGE 29

Theatre came. early to the as resident acting companies began to offer performances first in local saloons, later in true theatres, "legitimate" theatres constructed specifically for that purpose. Denver's first such facility was Apollo Hall, which opened October 3, 1860, with a performance by Thorne's Star Company, one of few Pikes' Peak theatre troupes known to perform Shakespeare with any semblance of fidelity to the text.3 That same autumn, John Langrishe, lrish-born actor and journalist, staged his first performances in Denver. A talented comedian, Langrishe was also a fine theatrical manager; he soon formed his own company and began touring the gold camps with great success, presenting everything from Othello to melodramas on socially redeeming temperance themes.4 Although many theatre companies in the gold camps sought to appeal only to the miner's most prurient instincts, Langrishe saw higher rather tastes in his audiences, and sought to satisfy those tastes. Albert Richardson observed that, at Langrishe's performances, ladies felt quite comfortable, for "despite the boisterousness of the house there was no gross coarseness and no profanity,"S and Francis Young, a member of Central City's elite, described the comedian as "a gentleman, .. genial, intelligent and able."6 21

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For practical reasons, this early breed of Pikes' Peak theatre relied more upon the spoken word than upon mus ica 1 expression. productions without music could be presented in more primitive facilities, even outdoors if necessary, and with fewer resources, an important detail in areas where even pianos were rare creatures. Additionally, drama required more commonly available skills; after all, most actors could speak reasonably well, but comparatively few could sing adequately. Railroads addressed both problems by bringing the frontier in closer contact with Main Street America. Construction materials were more available and more easily transported, making possible the erection of more sophisticated theatrical facilities. Also, theatre troupes from the East, including many musically ensembles, could finally reach Colorado, providing competition for Langrishe and his cohorts. They brought with them not only the instruments required to make music, but also an. awareness of a new trend that was growing in popularity in the East. These troupes brought opera to the West. A theatrical marriage of music and drama, opera began the early seventeenth century as entertainment for the nobles of the Italian royal courts. Before the century ended, opera had spread throughout Europe, eventually escaping the royal realms to 22

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become a popular amusement. By Mozart's time in the 1780s, opera was regarded much in the way that Broadway musicals are viewed today: as a pleasant evening's entertainment that persons of virtually all classes can enjoy. Opera composers even began satirizing the nobility that they previously would have served. Certainly, had Mozart been dependent upon royal largesse, he scarcely would portrayed such corrupt noble characters as the Count in The Marriage of Figaro. The nobility was incensed by this opera, but the average citizen on the street, the person for whom Mozart wrote the opera, found it to be a delightful diversion. Soon, opera reached across the Atlantic. Gay's The Beggar's Opera, a farce on English social conditions, came to the New York City stage in 1750; in the next few decades, it was performed in most major cities in the colonies, including Boston, Charleston, Williamsburg, and Philadelphia.7 The first opera written by an American composer was Charles Dlbdin's The Disappointment, or the Force of Credulity (1767). The first American theatre to be chri stened as an lIopera housell was Philadelphia's Southwark Opera House, which opened in 1766.8 Washington's officers and their ladies were entertained by an opera performance at Valley Forge. 9 New Orleans, with its 23

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strong European influence, was especially fond of opera. In the 1620s, it boasted two opera companies, and in 1835, the St. Charles Theater, then America's most elegant facility, opened at a cost of $350,000.10 It was the of a host of 1 esser facilities that had opened in the United States since 1800. Such effort alld expense seems astonishing in pursuit of mere entertainment. Were Americans indeed so determined to see and hear opera? Amusement may have been the primary goal of purchasing tickets, but those opeiating such facilities admitted to other objettives. Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart's collaborator for The Marriage of Figaro and other operas, emigrated to the United States in 1805, and began efforts to by an Italian opera company. As he soon discovered, his new countrymen regarded art mainly as a means to a goal. "The Americans," Da Ponte observed, are almost all merchants; they make' a business of everything, even entertainment. "n Da Ponte regarded this mercenary state of affairs as rather discouraging, yet for others the fact that money could be made in entertainment was a source of delight. Certainly, P. T. was delighted to gross half a million dollars in 1850 and '51 by promoting performances by the great opera star, Jenny Lind.u Lind herself only earned $200,000, but 24

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for one year's work, that was still an impressive income. Opera became so popular in America that in the 1850s, many mid-level European singers, and even some of the finest talents, found it profitable to tour the United States. Despite the significant costs of transportation, an American concert tour was financially desireable. Profits also existed in building the facilities in which such performances could be given. In Philadelphia, stock-holders in a new opera house' viewed itas a valuable investment because it would boost other businesses in the area. Boston's mayor backed an opera house plan in 1852 in his own words: Traveling businessmen, who might otherwise : neglect to visit Boston, 'be attracted to the city by the dramat ic and, operat ic enterta inment such a theater could provide and would be likely to remain in the city longer for the same reason. J3 Even smaller cities agreed with this attitude. Promoters in Meridian, Mississippi, asserted that an opera house would "add greatly to the attractiveness of the city, not only for the resident but for the country merchants and the travelling man. ,,14 Opera, it seems, was not merely aesthetic; it was al$o fiscally astute, a reliable method of stimulating business throughout a community by attracting visitors and their wallets. 25

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Beyond the Eastern cities, opera also took root, although on a different scale. The Jenny Lin,ds of the world rarely crossed the Mississippi, and there was neither sufficient financing nor adequate population for luxurious theatres. For most of small town America, including youthful Colorado, opera houses existed, yet shared few similarities with New Orleans' fine facilities, as John Dizikes asserts in his recent study, Opera in America: Small town opera houses followed a comnion plan. As private speculations, they were put on the second or third floor, above commercial space which would pay for the building and its maintenance A few of the larger houses had a box [that is, box seating] on either. side of the but often there wasn't any permanent seating. Folding chairs were brought in when These unpretentious theatres, notes, usually seated about five-hundfed people. They were neither elaborate nor two characteristics that they shared with the democratic frontier towns in which they stood. Additionally, alihough local pride encouraged the use of the term "opera house," actual opera was, in fact, rarely seen on the performance schedule. More frequently, the opera house hosted dances, school graduations, political meetings, poetry recitals, and amateur musicales given by local residents. When opera did make an appearance on the it 26

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was heavily edited. Lyrics were altered and music rewritten, scenes or entirely omitted. Sometimes, a soloist might include in one opera an aria composed for another, if it was sufficiently popular or, perhaps, easier to sing. Dizikes notes that such a lterat ions were part ia lly due to the performers' limitations; yet another factor was difference of expectation. Unlike many modern opera lovers, nineteenth-century Americans had little reverence for the original dbcument. Changes, even those so severe as to alter the work nearly beyond recognition, were not generally objectionable. lri addition, frontier audiences, betng rather were unlikely to notice the diffefence, for they probably did not know the piece in its entirety. The inclusion of the Ame. rican hymn IINearer My God to Theell in Italian opera would not have surprised them.a Although European perfqrmers had been the first opera singers in America, the native-born soon joined their ranks, and these are the artists who became the stalwarts of the frontier stage. Prominent amongst them was the soprano-impresaria Emma Abbott. Born in 1850 in Chicago, Abbott began her musical education in the United States, but American music schools were then little respected, so she soon crossed the Atlantic to pursue European studies and acquire public performing experience. The 27

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transition was difficult for all concerned. Abbott judged European morality to be terribly lax, both as portrayed by operatic characters and in actual practice. For their part, Europeans generally and specifically were horrified that a singer, even worse, a mere American singer, 'might presumptuously interpolate American melodies into beloved operatic In 1878, Abbott returned home, determined to pursue a career in the United States where the atmosphere and the audiences were more familiar. One. year later, she formed her own English-language opera company, of which she served as both lead soprano and impresaria. Continual tours took the Emma Abbott English Opera Company to hundreds of communities from Atla 'ntic to Pacific, with as many as, seven operas performed each week.' Abbott became America's favorite diva, at .least outside of the European-influenced New York opera Proof of the fact that, between 1880 and 1890, twenty-five American opera houses hired her company for their inaugural performances. Colorado theatres ranked amongst that number; in fact, when the curtain first rose at the state's finest opera house, Denver's Tabor Grand Opera House, it was for a performance by Abbott's company. Her success was such that when she died in 1890, she left a fortune of one 28

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million dollars," a testament to the profitability of spending .one decade in small town opera houses. Such profits could only result from a significant demand. From the Mississippi to the Pacific, Westerners were wild about opera. The popularity of performers such as Abbott, supplemented by dreams of sign .ificant profits, encouraged Colorado communities to construct own opera houses. Usually, facilities were simple auditoriums like those that stood in great number throughout the Plains .and the Rocky Mounta1ns; bespoke greater ambitions, for in many eyes, an opera house was more than a theatre, even more than an economic investment. Rather, an opera house was emblematic of the city, evidence of its stability, of the presence of truly "civilized" people. In Denver, for one opera house was both by national and local papers being a credit to the With unabashed ehthusiasm, a local reporter avowed in 1888: Dur i ng her exper imenta 1 days, Denver had no better advertisement than the Tabor Grand theatre. The tourist from abroad or from the East who. stopped over in Denver to a town and spent evenjng at the Tabor with a .Denver audience could not help being impressed with the fact that Denver was not a city of mushroom growth, here to-day gone to-morrow but was a petmanent city of citizen Similarly, Francis Crissey Young, in his memoirs concerning life in Central City, cited that community's opera house as a great source 29

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of local and Frank Fossett, author of an 1879 tourist guide to Colorado, gave prominent mention to those communities that had such theatres. Opera houses brought honor and prestige to even the grimiest mining town. In the 1870s and 1880s, opera houses were as critical to Colorado mining communities as the existence of gold and silver l6des, for without the laitef, the town would have never come to life, but without fotmer, it could not continue to live, at according to cultured men. Opera houses of all dimensions brought honor to a community, but greater opera houses accorded greater honor. Tii i s ph i losophy of "bigger is better" may appear excessive in mining communities where thes implest life was difficult. and resources were relatively scarce. However, according to Thorstein Veblen, such attitudes were an expression of contemporary society. In his definitive analysis, The Theory of the Leisure Class, published in 1899, soon after the heyday of Colorado's opera houses, Veblen expounded on "conspicuous consumption" as an expression of wealth self: Not only does the evidence of wealth serve to impress one's importance on others and to keep their sense of importanceilive and alert, but it is of scarcely less use in building up and preserving one's selfcomplacency In all but the lowest stages of culture the normally constituted man is comforted and upheld in his self-respect by "decent Frontier Coloradans, living far from their family roots, lacking the 30

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luxuries of paved streets and sewer systems, were in grave need of reassurance that they had done the right thing in embarking on this new life. Not only might Easterners think better of Western cities if there were opera houses, but the Westerners themselves could draw confidence from the presence of the comforts of society. Just as an idle and elegant wife was a credit to the husbard who supported her, so an opulent opera house va 1 i dated a community.' That both the husband and the community strained to provide for such luxuries only increased the power of the symbol, for effort and sacrifice were both laudable. liThe consumption of expensive goods is meritorious," wrote Veblen, "and the goods which contain an appreciable element of cost in excess of what goes to give them serviceability for their ostensible mechanical purpose are Honor was a primary goal of those communities desirous of opera houses. That they were also was an additional benefit. It is in this tradition, that. of conspicuous consumption for the glorification of a person or a community, that Coloradois great opera houses were built, not of pine and pitch, but of mahogany and marble. The sacrifices made in pursuit of that goal, the benefits thereby achieved, and the ultimate effects of the effort, will be detailed in the ensuing chapters. It is worth noting here, however, that at no other time or place, before or since, have Americans of 31

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virtually all classes placed such emphasis on the presence of the performing arts in their communities. In the gold rush towns of Colorado, opera houses were the principal symbol of a local persona. ***** Notes for Chapter Three: Operatic Endeavors I. Greeley, Horace. An Overland Journey from New York to San Francisco in the Summer 0""1859. New York: C. M. Saxton, Barker and San Francisco: H.H. Bancroft and Company. 1860. p. 163. 2. Rocky Mountain News, 9/24/1860. 3 Schoberlin, Melvin. From Candles to FootNghts: a biography of the Pike's Peak Theatre 1859-1876. Denver: Old West 1941. p. 23. 4. p. 39ff. 5. Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the MiSSissippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing Company. 1867. p: 307. 6. Young, Francis Crissey. Echoes From Arcadia: the story of Central City, as told by one of "The Clan." Denver: Lansing Bros: p. 33. 7. Dizikes, John; Opera in America: A Cultural History. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1993. p. 18-19. 8. 9. 10. II. ibid, ibid, ibid, ibid, p. 59. p. 21 & 23. p. 25ff. p. 73. 32

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12. ibid, p. 134. 13. ibid, p. 165. 14. ibid, p. 272. 15. ibid, p. 269. 16. Dizikes relates that Emma Abbott, the fine American singer, had become so accustomed to inclusions of American songs in opera that she tried it in Milan, and was roundly hissed by incensed Ita 1 ians. 17. Dizikes, p. 264ff. 18. Denver World, 7/14/1888, clipping in the "Baby Doe Scrapbook," Colorado Historical Society. 19. Veblen, Thorstein The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of InstitutiOns New York: MacMillan, 1899. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973,with introduction by John Kenneth Galbraith. p. 42. 20. ibid, p. 111. 33

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CHAPTER FOUR CENTRAL CITY'S "TEMPLE OF THE MUSES" Nineteenth-century journalistic styles are for historians both a bane and" a boon. The scant fidelity to facts forces skepticism of any numerical assertions, yet the evocative and imaginative phrases bring old occurrences vividly to life. Who would not be amused' by a reporter's description of a theatre "packed almost to suffocation," so great was the desire for entertainment?l The star of that particular was P. T. Barnum's Lilliputian discovery, Tom venue was Central City's Belvidere Theatre, one of a half dozen performance spaces operating in the town on that May afternoon ioI877. It might seem that so many theatres would be sufficient for a community of twenty-five hundred people; nevertheless, anew facility was already being planned. In the same issue of the Central City Weekly Register, as the review of Thumb's performance another article noted that $15,000 had'been contributed to an opera house fund. The citizens of Central City were promising to build the finest opera house in the West. 34

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Such ambitious plans would have astonished early to the region, for its gold camp priorities had led to the emphasis on function over form. After his visit with Greeley's party in June, 1859, Albert Richardson described the future Central City as "a confused and constantly-shifting picture, made tip of men, tents, wagons, oxen and mules."Z Six yearS later, when he returned for a second visit, the chaos remained; only the scale was Near the old Gregory Diggings we reached themlnlng settlements, of Black Hawk and Central, which tread the narrow valley for three miles ... Wood and granite quartz mills, old log-cabins of '59, shops, stables, school houses, drinking-saloons, handsome brick blocks, newspaper and express offices, side br side crowd each other in the torturous thoroughfares. Other observers also noted Central .City'saimless appearance. Frank Fossett's 1879 tourist's guide was generally complimentary, yet he still confessed that buildings seemed "ready to topple one on another. "4 Bayard Taylor observed that the town had "a curious, rickety, temporary air," then compounded the insult by insisting that Central City was "the most outrageously expensive place in Colorado. You pay more and get less for the money than in any part of the world."s Even Francis Crissey Young, one of the community's leading citizens, admitted that Central City was, visually, "a hodge-podge of frame and log buildings ... 35

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intermingled .in an kregular, tumble-down fashion, and varied by an occas iona 1 brick structure marking a spasmodic attempt at improvement. 116 With such harsh adjectives applied even by the community's supporters, outsiders could beforgiven for expecting Central City to be a place of neither nor culture, merely another mining camp of saloons and dance-hall girls. Reality, however, was kinder to Lentral City. As was shown earliet, its population included a large percentage of professionals and white-collar workers who boasted far more educat ion than the average unsk illed "Argonaut." were frequently accompanied by their families, creating a community that, however haphazard its architecture, still treasured refined aCtivities. As Young asserted in his memoirs, "Modest and unpretentious enough in its outer aspects, it held a pardonable pride in the character of its social elements ... [It was] a little social community of high intelligence."l Young's anecdotes are no doubt idealized, yet his tales of Central City's fondness for drama; literature, and. the n i cet i es of soc i ety have the aura of s i ncer i ty I f the frequent newspaper accounts of society events can be granted any credence, then Young was quite accurate to describe Central City as "absurd ly decorous for a mi n i ng camp. 118 Even the skept i ca 1 36

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Taylor admitted grudgingly in 1867 that limen of culture and education are plenty.llg Who else would have purchased the Elgin watches and Key West cigars that were advertised abundantly in the local newspapers? From in.its existence, Central City exhibited a great fondness for theatre. Mlle Haydee's Star Company performed in Gregory Gulch in early 1860, when the gold diggings were not yet a year old. John Langrishe, comic monarch of the stage in the Pikes Peak region, made his first Central City appearance in March, 1861, and returned frequently to the region throughout his career.10 Nate Forrester, a prominent Denver theatre manager, brought occasional variety acts and theatrical troupes to Central City, hoping to milk the miners' pockets. With an emphasis on comedy and melodrama, performances had little pretense. In fact, Taylor observed that, .IIA good deal of swearing is introduced into the farces, to the miners.lIll Yet the dramatic appetite was whetted, and soon finer things appeared. In 1861, the National Theatre (later renamed the Montana) opened as the town's first building constructed specifically to house the performing arts, and by 1862 six other theatres were also operating.12 Amateurs, too, had their day. By 1869, the Central City Daily Register could fill multiple columns with accounts of local 37

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theatricals produced by dramatically minded residents. Francis Young, who participated in many such productions, attested that actors might also serve as carpenters, performing amidst the stage sets they had constructed. Even opera had come to Central City, with Offenbach's comedy The Grand Duchess of Gero7stein in and the staging in 1873 of scenes from Verdi's tragedy 17 Trovatore at the Montana Theatre.w riCentral," observed Young, "is nothing if not musical ... There never 'was a time, from its earliest days, when music did not form a material feature of any entertainment, public or Tragedy forced a lull in such artistic endeavors. On May 21, 1874, a smali fire started in Central City's Chinese slums. It soon spread beyond those ragged sheds and shanties to assault the heart of the community. The following day, under headlines that shouted "Centra 1 in Ru ins!" and "Terrib l e Conflagrat ion, II a reporter for the Centra7 City Daily described the scene: The City of Central is almost entirelyb, lotted out by fire, at last, an event long expected and now consummated with such destruction as only those who have witnessed similar scenes in Portland, Chicago, Boston, and Baltimore, can properly conceive of ... The hell of flames tore madly down the street, cori.suming with the velocity of a whirlwind all that had been left to The inferno raged uncontrolled until reaching a cleared area burned in a previous blaze in 1873, where a lack of combustibles 38

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finally halted the flames, allowing fire-fighters to extinguish it. As the smoke slowly cleared, residents learned that about one-hundred-fifty buildings had been destroyed; within the broad fire-zone, only the occasional stone or brick buildings, notably the Catholic church and the Teller House hotel, were spared. Amongst the casua lt ies were the venerable Montana Theatre and other smaller performance spaces. The Dan y Register estimated damage at half a million dollars, and noted that that amount was a minimum figure." Rebuilding efforts began immediately. The city council formed a relief committee to assist devastated families and donations poured in from both inside and outside the coinmunity. Co lorado governor John Evans personally donated five-hundred dollars to the cause, and Central's Catholic parishioners, grateful for the survival of their sanctuary, collected food and blankets for the d isplaced.1B Two days after the blaze, as workers cleared away scorched rubble in preparation for new construction, the Daily Register optimistically proclaimed, "We are going to have a new, and, if properly directed, much more substantial and better city than that which disappeared on Thursday. 1119 Rebuilding proceeded at an astonishingly swift pace, so quickly that within one month, the inferno became stale 39

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news, supplanted in regional newspapers, by developments in national and international politics. The only suggestions of the recent conflagration were occasional mentions of "new" stores or "re-opened" facilities. After homes and businesses had been re-established, residents turned their attention to theatre, which had been sorely missed sfrice the fire. Young addressed this issue in his memoirs: Of all the destruction wrought by the fire, I make bold to say there is nothing more keenly regretted as a pub 1 ic loss than that, of the Montana Theatre... It certainly had no beauty to boast bf, without or within, yet it was in its way comfortable and roomy enough; and during the dozen years 6f its reign as our one. home of the drama, we got from it season after season of more real solid enjoyment than we shall probably ever realize hereafter in any new construction that may seek to fill its place, however ornate or Replacement of the Montana Theatre began in the summer of 1875, one year after the fire. Its successor, like most of the town's post-conflagration construction, was built of brick, so as to resist future infernos, and was also more user-friendly than the old Montana, for these builders took pains to correct the vanished facil ity' s perceived prob lems, particularly the lack of an'efficient heating system and comfortable seating. This 'new theatre, named the Belvidere, was completed in time for a New 40

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York comedy troupe performance on August 23.21 Area residents, long bereft of dramatic and musical amusements, could again enjoy the succession of touring groups and local theatricals to which. they had become accustomed. No doubt the managers of the Belvidere looked forward to a prosperous future, but new prlorities shortened the theatre's popularity. Changing demands in entertainment came to Central City, thanks to members of the local high society, many of whom habitually spent part or the winter in the East,enjoying the arts and culture in Chicago, Boston, or New During the winter of 1876-77, Francis Young and his wife attended a Chicago performance of The Bohemian Girl, an English-language opera by the Irish composer Michael Balfe. The opera and its hit soprano aria, "I I Dwelt in Marble Halls," had enjoyed enduring its York opening in Three decades having survived its own creator (Balfe in 1870), it still attracted fervent audierices, particularly in the Midwest where the opera was beloved for being swee.tly melodious yet intellectually undemanding. Young's wife, a talented amateur singer, decided that she and her friends should present The Bohemian Girl in Central City for their own and their neighbors' diversion. The production reached the Belvidere stage on April 41

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17, 1877, with Mrs. Young and two other women sharing the role of the heroine Arline; Mr. Young was the hero Thaddeus, as well as the overall manager. Local choirs provided singers for the smaller roles and the chorus; even the orchestra was comprised of Central City residents. In his memoirs, Young related many amusing anecdotes concerning the preparation and staging of the show, and also noted that the event was of lasting effect: This production of the "Bohemian Girl," besides providing us with some weeks of interesting amusement in its preparation and execution, proves of much more lasting and material benefit, not only in suggesting the need of an opera house, but in supplying the necessary enthusiasm to launch the project and carry it through to With the fading of the footlights, a fund-raising campaign began for the construction of a more capacious, facility, an actual opera house. Bare ly .one month later, by the Sunday afternoon that saw Tom Thumb on the Belvidere stage, opera house donations already totalled sixty-five per cent of the $23,000 that would ultimately be required for the When construction on the Central City Opera House began later that year, two men emerged as centra 1 to the project I s success: the architect Robert Roeschlaub and the builder Peter Barclay McFarlane. Roeschlaub, born in 1843 in Bavaria, was brought as an infant to the United States. His family settled 42

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near Quincy, Illinois, where, after serving in the Union Army, young Roeschlaub began working with a local architect, Robert Bunce (incidentally, the designer of Quincy's opera house). In 1873, Roeschlaub moved to Denver, then a community of 5000, only half Quincy's population. Denver's first office-trained, licensed architect, he became oneef the city's busiest and most highly regarded architects, specializing in schools, churches, and other institutional buildings. One of his earliest designs was the old Central Presbyterian Church (his owh congregation) at 18th Street and Champa Avenue, the cornerstone of which was laid January 6, 1876. The building no longer stands, yet other fine Roeschlaub creations, among them Trinity Methodist Church (1888), Chamberlin Observatory (1889), and Corona [now Dora Moore] School (1889), remain. Roeschlaub spent fourteen years as chief architect for Arapahoe [now Denver] County Schools, concluding his tenure in 1889. He also schools for the towns of Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Greeley, Canon City and Lake City.2s The Central City Opera House, one of Roeschlaub's earliest Colorado ventures, helped establish his lasting reputation. The man largely responsible for executing Roeschlaub's plans was Peter McFarlane, an unpretentious Canadian native of 43

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Scottish ancestry. At age twenty-one, McFarlane came to Central City in 1869 to join his elder brother William and two Barclay cousins in the construction business. Barclay and Company, later known as McFarlane and Company, earned modest success in its early years, but thrived in the construction boom that followed Central City's great 1874 fire. Soon, McFarlane was a prominent citizen, serving on the city council in 1876, '77, '80, and '81.26 The three-year gap in his council service was filled in part with supervision of opera house construction in late 1877 and early 1878. Three weeks after the opera house opening on March 5, 1878, McFarlane was elected unanimously as mayor of Central City. Perhaps local citizens were too pleased with their new facility to cast a vote against the man who had helped to make it happen. Unlike most Colorado opera houses, which were generally built by one businessman seeking a financial windfall, funding for the Central City Opera House was raised through a subscription campaign that solicited donations from interested parties. Such an attempt relied upon the existence of a dedicated populace that was civic-minded as well as financially secure. Fortunately, people existed in Central City. The tale is usually told that Central's Cornish and Welsh miners were 44

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so devoted to music as a whole and singing in particular that they gave liberally to the fund. Yet federal census figures from 1870 throw significant doubt on this long-lived legend. Only twenty-two Welshmen were reported in a population of 1449, and the census taker did not trouble to differentiate between the Cornish and the hundreds of other British immigrants.27 Such a small number of people, none of whom were amongst the wealthy elite, can have had little effect on the fund-raising campaign. However, names of specific donors have not survived to the present day, and without knowing who were the actual contibutors, the issue cannot : be resolved. What is known is that the opera house campaign board members. (Henry R. Wolcott, Dr. William Edmundson, Col. George E. Randolph, Thomas I. Richman, and William Fullerton) were among the city's most prominent citizens, and they were neither Welsh nor Applause for the Central City Opera House started even before its completion. In an article detailing construction progress, the Centra7 City Week7y Register reassured nervous investors with an encouraging report: When finished this theatre will be without an equal from the Missouri River to Salt Lake when convenience and exce llence of construct ion are taken into cons iderat ion. The outlays, although large in the aggregate, are remarkab low cons idering the character and materia 1 of the work. 9 45

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Even the IIbig cityll paper, Denver's Rocky Mountain News, reported on the describing the uncompleted facility as 1I0ne of the handsomest public edifices in the Many of the laudatory words granted to the opera house focused upon Roeschlaub's design: a simple, almost stark creation of "brick and carved stone, which achieves its impact through clean lines, graceful proportions, and quiet elegance. Roeschlaub's daughter Alice, claimed that the use of such austerity required a certain amount of persistence: The moneyed men back of this, in their enthusiasm, wished to make the building a most elaborate affair, but Mr. Roeschlaub stood fast for a different type ---one that should be in harmony with the great mountains surrounding it, and an expression of the new and simple West.31 Roeschlaub won the debate, and the Central City Opera House was spared air of IIconspicuous consumptionll that typified such buildings in other communities. The resulting theatre became an anchor, both spiritually and architecturally, for the town" in which it stood. Roeschlaub's design blended elements of the French Second Empire with vernacular styles. As was typical of this IIGilded Age,1I he reserved impressive design features for visible those that could be seen from the street, while economizing to the point of austerity in other portions of the building. The 46

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imposing facade, reminiscent of a French chateau, was constructed of locally mined Colorado granite, with walls four feet thick, whereas side e levat ions were merely brick. The mansard roof, flanked by two slightly lower peaked towers, was topped by a short flagpole. Four tall arched entry doors, the middle pair in Roman arches, the outer pair in segmented arches, faced Eureka Street, complemented by arched windows standing above. A narrow balcony, later known as the musician's balcony, was placed above the center pair of doors just below the arched windows. Carved in block letters aCross the center of the facade were the words, "opera house," a quiet assertion of Central City's in itself and in its With the erection of its performing arts facility, Central City foresaw for itself a prominent place in Colorado society, indeed in the society of the entire nation. The assurance of residents was reflected in one local newspaper that confidently proclaimed, "There really are two cultures in America ---Boston, of course, and Central City."33 Although the opera house achieves its immediate impact through exterior features, its interior, praised by one Deriver newspaper as "neat n6t gaudy," was also impressive.M From the long but narrow marble-floored foyer, twin stairways arced gracefully up to the inside balcony. Shorter flights of steps 47

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ied to the two main entrances into the theatre itself, which was illuminated by a kerosene chandelier and warmed by two hot air furnaces, a vast improvement over the lamented Montana's inadequate wood-stoves. Seven sets of scenery and gas footlights graced the opera house stage.35 Although by modern standards the theatre was small, seating only 750, it was average for its day, and was certainly large enough for Central City. In every conce i vab 1 e way, the new opera house surpassed the Be 1 v i dere Theatre. One local newspaper enthusiastically called it "the finest temple of the muses west of the Missouri, and far ahead of anything ever projected in the Rocky The more elaborate the theatre, the more repute granted to the community which constructed it. Central City chose to advance its position by adorning its "temple of the muses" with visual arts to complement the performing arts The opera house's walls and ceilings were graced by frescoes, paints applied to fresh plaster, similar to the technique used on the Sistine Chapel ceiling Designs were based on geometrical and classical motifs, including "putti" (cherubs) above the stage, a Pegasus on either side of the proscenium, and trompe l'oeil medallions on the ceiling. The artist was John C. Massman (some sources give his name as "Moseman"), a San Francisco based 48

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artist who had created similar designs for another Roeschlaub project, Denver's now demo 1; shed Centra 1 Presbyteri an Church. Under construction since January, 1876, the church was only recently completed when, on January 14, 1878, the Daily Central City Register printed a favorable notice of the building, describing it as "an ornament to the 'Queen City of the The brief article praised Roeschlaub and who were at the time busily engaged in completing the Central City Opera .House. Accolades for work on the church boded well for the soon-to-be-opened opera house. As the opera house neared completion, two competing factions debated what type of should be offered on opening night. One element insisted that a musical program would be most appropriate; another advocated a dramatic evening. Ultimately, two opening nights were as a compromise. The first performance, March 4, 1878, wa:s devoted to music, beginnirig with Suppe's "Poet and Peasant Overture," followed by Weber's chorus "Brightly the Mofning and a variety of violin and piano pieces, traditional songs, and opera arias and choruses performed in The following evening, March 5, drama reigned, as the "Amateur Dramatic and Singing Club of the New Opera House" presented two plays: "School," a tale of 49

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love and i ntr i gue, and the comedy "Coo 1 ,as a Cucumber. ,,39' On both occasions, the opera house was filled to the doors, with an audience drawn from "the wealth, beauty and intelligence of the mountain Both literally and figuratively, Central City had launched its new theatre in fine fashion. "Local pride," said Frank Young, "is gratified."" Newspaper accounts of the opera house overflowed with praise. Denver's Rocky Mountain News commended it as "a temple of art in every way worthy of the name, and a splendid monument to western culture as well as to western pluck and The article continued in a similarly celebratory vein, with the rapturous reporter finally declaring, "Taken all. in all it is a theater of which any city might be proud, and is as far superior to anything Denver has or ever had no comparison need be instituted. "4Z The Central City Evening Call was equally effusive, applauding the new theatre as "a credit to Colorado," then asserting: If ever the people of Colorado had reason to feel proud of the energy and enterprise of the first city of the mountains, it was last night upon the opening of her magnificent opera house, which today stands the finest temple of the muses west of the Missouri, and far ahead of anything ever projected in the Rocky Mountains.43 The other local newspaper, the Weekly Register, indulged in its usual boosterism by declaring, "Now the world knows that Central 50

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contains the finest and most spacious opera house in the West ... Now that Central has a beautiful palace of music, let the people unite in making it one of the solid institutions of the State."" No opportunity was lost to tell the world that, with this opera house, Central City had staked a claim to social respectability. The immediate future of the Centra 1 City Opera House seemed on track for such predictions of prominence. The week never passed without multiple performances in the new facility, and local papers seemed unable to produce more than four consecutive without exhorting residents to patronize their new treasure. However, critical state-wide developments would soon irretrievably complicate the situation. On the very day of the opera house opening, in an issue largely devoted to the evening's festivities, the Daily Register commented in passing upon an emerging Colorado community, one that would figure prominently in the state's history. "Leadville," it reported, "is growing fast. According to an exchange an assay was made of some of the mud was used in chinking a log house and found to run over 1,000 ounces in Central City itself was almost exclusively a gold town; tales of extravagant silver finds were thus not of immediate interest, but soon silver would eclipse gold, Leadville would surpass Central City, and a Leadville citizen would trigger 51

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the decline of Central City's "temple of the muses." Even as the opera house curta in rose to its first burst of applause, its ultimate fall was already foretold. ***** Notes for Chapter Four: Central City's "Temple of the Muses" 1. Central City Weekly Register, 5/19/1877. 2. Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing Company. 1867. p. 181. 3. ibid, p. 335. 4. Fossett, Frank. Colorado: its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms and Stock Ranges, and Health and Pleasure Resorts. Tourist's Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G. Crawford, 1879. Reprinted by New York: Arno Press, 1973. p 58. 5. Taylor,Bayard. Colorado: Putnam, 1867 Reprinted Niwot: 1989. p. 57 & p. 68-9. A Summer Trip. New York: University Press of Colorado, 6. Young,Francis Crissey. Echoes From Arcadia: the Story of Central City, as told by one of "The Clan." Denver: Lansing Brothers, 1903. p. 6-7. Although Young's memoir was not published until 1903, it was written in 1880. 7. Young, F. C., p. 15. 8. ibid, p. 88. 9. Taylor, p. 58. 10. Schoberlin, Melvin. From Candles to Footlights: a biography of the Pike's Peak Theatre 1859-1876. Denver: Old West Publishing Company. 1941. p. 39ff. 52

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11. Taylor, p. 60. 12. Gern, Jesse William. "Colorado Mountain Theatre: History of Theatre at Central City, 1859-1885." Ph.D dissertation for Ohio State University, 1960 In two volumes. v. 2, p. 291ff; and Draper, Benjamin Poff. "Colorado Theatres, 1859-1969." Ph.D dissertation for University of Denver, 1969. In five volumes. v. 1, p. 453ff. 13. Dizikes, John. Opera in America: a Cultural History. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1993. p. 275. 14. Bancroft, Carollne. Gulch of Gold: A History of Central City, Colorado. Denver: Sage Books. 1958. p. 255. 15. Young, F. C., p. 178-9. 16. Central City Daily Register, 17. ibid. 18. ibid. 19. ibid, 5/23/1874. 20. Young, F. C., p. 166. 21. Gern, v. 1, p. 218. 22. Dizikes, p. 93. 23. Young, F. C, p. 197. 24. Central City Weekly Register (5/19/1877) cited the figure of $15,000 as the total donated as of that date. The Rocky Mountain News (3/5/1878) gave $23,000 as the total cost. 25. Haber, Francine, and Fuller, Kenneth R., and Wetzel, David N. Robert S. Roeschlaub: Architect of the Emerging West 1843-1923. Denver: Colorado Historical Society. 1988. p. 13-14. 26. Axford, H. William. Gilpin County Gold: Peter McFarlane (1849-1929) Mining Entrepreneur in Central City, Colorado. Chicago: Sage Books/Swallow Press Inc. 1976. p. 65. 53

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27. 1870 federal census records at the Colorado Historical Society. 28. Central City Weekly Register, 1/12/1878. 29. Central City Weekly Register, 10/10/1877. 30. Rocky Mountain News, 12/15/1877. 31. Haber, et al, p. 16. 32. Architectural information concerning the Central City Opera House is taken from National Historic Register applications on file in the Historic Preservation Office of the Colorado Historical Society, from Haber's biography of Roeschlaub (p. 137ff), and from personal observation. 33. Undated clipping in the Cental City Opera House files of the Western History Department of the Denver Public Library. 34. Rocky Mountain News, 3/5/1878. 35. Haber, et al, p. 137f,f. 36. Central City Evening Ca"JI, 3/5/1878. 37. Central City Daily Register, 1/14/1878. 38. Central City Weekly Register, 3/9/1878, and Daily Register, 3/5/1878. 39. Weekly Register, 3/9/1878, and Daily Register, 3/6/1878. 40. Central City Evening Call, 3/5/1878. 41. Young, F. C., p. 198. 42. Rocky Mountain News, 3/5/1878. Central City Evening Call, 3/5/1878. 44. Central City Weekly Register, 3/9/1878. 45. Central City Daily Register, 3/4/1878. 54

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CHAPTER FIVE MONUMENTS TO TABOR The new-found prominence of Central City and its opera house lasted only a few months. Other gold towns soon erected their own luxurious opera houses; before the decade ended, Leadville silver had eclipsed Central City gold. The story of silver is personified in the tale of Horace Austin Warner Tabor, praised even during his lifetime as "associated with all that is historic and histrionic in Colorado and the great .. Without silver, Tabor would have ruled in neither history nor theatre; without Tabor, Colorado's roster of opera houses would be lack. ing its most notable faci 1 ity. Tabor's rags-to-riches-to rags career personified the rise and fall of silver and of the opera houses themselves. Formerly a VermQnt stone-cutter, Tabor came West in 1855 intending to farm the prairie. He settled near Lawrence, Kansas, tak.ing up 160 acres, then 320 more. After clearing the land and starting the farm, Tabor returned to the to marry Augusta Louise Pierce, daughter of his former employer. In midApril, 1857, the couple returned to Kansas, but an arid summer 55

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followed and their crops failed. Horace supplemented their income by resuming stone-cutting; Augusta took in boarders and sold butter and eggs to support the family, which soon included an infant son, Maxcy. The Tabor's trials worsened with a nationwide depression that was particularly severe in the High Plains states. Like many farmers, they found themselves with mortgaged land and limited possibilities. Any new opportunity, however risky, would have seemed appealing. In May, 1859, only two years after Augusta's arrival in Kansas, early rumors of Rocky Mountain gold lured the Tabors to Colorado. The Tabors reached Denver after six weeks on the Repub 1 ican River road. Had they read recent ,guidebooks and newspapers before departing, they might have held high hopes for this home, for in April, Denver's Rocky Mountain News had boldly asserted, "Men are rapidly gathering together, towns are built, cities are in embryo formation, and all the paraphernalia of busy life are seen and heard 600 miles west of last year's outposts of civil izat ion,"2 and Tierney's gu idebook for the gold fields prediited that Denver would have a population of 60,000 by June.] Yet such brave words defied reality. When the Tabors arrived, there were only three-hundred houses in Denver and perhaps one thousand people. Little gold lay in the South Platte River. 56

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Denver served only as a staging area for prospectors headed for the hills, where, amongst the high peaks and valleys, gold was supposedly abundant. Weary but optimistic, the Tabors their long journey. They left Denver and passed through Golden, Gregory Gulch [later Central City], Russell Gulch, Payne's Bar [later Idaho Springs], and Colorado citi before finally reaching California Gulch in the upper Arkansas River Valley on May 8, 1860. Barely three weeks earlier, California Gulch had seen its first gold strikes. In that remote Colorado valley, Leadville would eventually arise, and with it, Tabor himself would rise to national prominence. During that first year in California Gulch, soon to be renamed Oro City, Tabor panned gold from the icy mountain streams and Augusta took in boarders. Through joint effort, they built up a tidy savings of about $7000, which Augusta, remembering the meager days in Kansas, described happily as "quite a 1 ittle fortune. liS Tabor might ultimately have proven to be a successful miner, but during the winter, when frigid weather prevented gold panning, he decided that shop-keeping, which could be equally as profitable as mining, had the added advantage of being physically less grueling. Augusta went east to purchase supplies. By the spring of 1861, Tabor, with his wife's daily assistance, served 57

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as postmaster and shopkeeper, first in Oro City in Lake County, later in Buckskin Joe in Park County, then ultimately back to Oro City in 1868. Tabor's business activities were a more secure line of work than gold-panning, but actual prosperity still eluded his grasp. Not until 1878, after nineteen years in the mining camps did Tabor, approaching fifty years of age, finally find the riches that had haunted his dreams. In April of that auspicious year, the aging postmaster and shopkeeper grubstaked George Hook and August Rische, two down-on-their-luckprospectors, providing them with food and supplies in exchange for a share of the profits gained from any On May 1, Hook and Rische struck paydirt. Within six months, their historic claim, soon named the Little Pittsburg mine,7 waS producing dollars of silver each day. Total earnings fbr that half-year period were estimated to be $375,000, yet operating costs were no more than ten percent of receipts.s Since in September, Tabor and Rische had bought out Hook's share of the enterprise, those handsome profits were divided between only two men, leading one Denver paper to remark, "This mine within five months has made two poor men rich and promises to make two rich men vastly richer. ,,9 Tabor's sun was on the rise. 58

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The income from the Little Pittsburg allowed Tabor to acquire other mining properties, some proven commodities, others purely speculative. With various partners, Tabor bought the Chrysolite mine, which was destined to be his second great success. One year later, in 1879, the now-legendary Matchless Mine also entered his portfolio, and by this time, earlier investments were beginning to prove lucrative. The high-country minister John L. Dyer claimed in his autobiography that mining property he sold to Tabor in the late 1870s for three-thousand dollars was resold two years later for sixty-thousand dollars.lo By late 1879, Tabor's income"was estimated at "thousands daily, II making him the richest citizen in a town of wealthy men.ll He was the monarch of a community where the economy was booming, where nine-million dollars worth of silver was mined in 1879 a lone. IZ Much of that paydirt came from mines owned or controlled by Tabor, of whom the Colorado poet Thomas Hornsby Ferril wrote, "everything he t6uched turned to gold."n Tabor's phenomenal successes triggered a renaissance of the Upper Arkansas Valley. In 1860, when Tabor first came to the Pikes Peak region, the census taker had found only 2049 people in the area, 2001 of them adult men." A few years later, the area 59

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experienced a decline when gold claims panned out and many residents, including Horace and Augusta, sought greener pastures in other gold camps. The valley might have faded from Colorado's history as yet aDother ghost town had not discoveries of rich silver and lead deposits, particularly the Little Pittsburg Mine, revived the stampede in the late 1870s. Leadville rebounded so swiftly that, by 1880, 14,820 residents made the city their home, and 23,563 lived in Lake County as a Soon, it became the state's second largest city after Denver, growing so swiftly that, as Frank tossett, a contemporary observer of the mining industry, noted, an average of one-hundred new residents arrived each day and property values sometimes quadrupled in a Leadville's rising tide led the Leadvi17e Daily Chronicle to predict that the community Would soon "become a resort second to none other in Amer i ca. 1117 As was usually the case in mining camps, Leadville's early entertainment options were skewed toward masculine interests. A 1880 business census attested that residents of this high-country metropolis could avail themselves of the services of seven churches, three breweries, ten liquor dealers, twenty-five barbers, sixty-five grocers, five billiard halls, one bowling alley, thirty-two restaurants, and one-hundred-six saloons.ls 60

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the total number of brothels and "sporting houses" was unspecified, all but the most official accounts confirm that such facilities flourished, especially on raucous State Street. Mary Hallock Foote, who lived in Leadville with her mining engineer husband in 1879 and 1880, called it "a place where no woman could wa lk a 10ne,1I19 and Frank Fossett "the entire scene gives the town and place the appearance of one grand holiday."ro A few saloons offered live entertainment, but Shakespeare was not amongst the options. In his biography of Tabor, Duane Smith summed up the situation: Leadville's populace could view many theatricals and variety shows that aroused the miner's pass ions and advertised the wares of the chorus, yet nowhere in town could a man take his wi"fe and children to a respectable theater. By 1879, with wives and. families appearing in everi ncreas i ng numbers,. the demand grew. for bettergrade entertainment. Receipts in some lower"':class establishments reached a reported twelve-hundred dollars per night, offering hope that a fami ly-type theater would be able to pay its way.n Several saloon owners, with such profits in mind, sought to upgrade their facilities so as to appeal to a sophisticated clientele, but those efforts fell sh6rt of local expectations. The mere presence of alcohol and gambling in their facilities ensured the opposition of temperance-minded ladies. Ultimately, it fell to Tabor to erect the city's first facility intended specifically for the performing arts. 61

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The distance of years makes it difficult to judge Tabor's true motive in the building of this theatre. As one cif the senior residents of the area, and a man fond of grand spectacle, he may well have genuinely believed that leadville (not to mention Tabor himself) deserved a lavish opera house, and he allegedly once remarked, "I'm going to make Leadville a firstclass city, so people Will want to stay here."u In addition, according to Duane Smith, Tabor wrote that he wanted family entertainment in leadville, something more civilized than a red1 ight district. Z3 Yet Smith also admits that Tabor was a good enough businessman to anticipate the likely financial benefits of constructing the city's only legitimate opera house. Ticket proceeds could be significant. Additional income would potentially accrue from rent paid by offices and businesses sharing the same facility, since storefronts along Harrison Avenue, leadville's "Main Street" on which the h6use stood, were renting for as much as five-hundred dollars per month.24 Furthermore, an opera house might even the mining business, since, as Smith notes, "the fact that you brought in other investors, enticed by the opera house and the more civilized image, would help other investments, and Tabor had As president of the Bank of leadville, the leadville Mining and Stock Exchange, the leadville Improvement Company, the 62

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Leadville Illuminating Gas Company, and two consolidated mining companies, Tabor stood to gain from virtually anything that benefited the city itself. Whichever motivation was primary, whether income or image, Augusta, Tabor's austere but hardworking wife, probably would have supported him, for she was known to care for both business and propriety. Leadville's reputation and Tabor's personal fortune appear to be persuasive arguments in favor of building an opera house, yet an additional explanation for his actions may exist. By the late 1870s, Tabor was closely involved in political activities. He was elected Leadville's first mayor in 1878, and shortly thereafter was chosen by the state's Republican Party for lieutenant governor, an office he held from 1879 to 1883. As a powerful, influential figure who had gained fame through fortune, he soon dreamt of higher offices, notably those of governor and senator. Constructing such a popular project, especially at his own expense, could only serve to boost those aspirations. Once tabor decided to erect an opera housefor Leadville, --he acted swiftly. His team of local builders began the new theatre early in 1879, as soon as the snow melted, and completed it in about one-hundred days during the brief high-country 63

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summer. Next door to the plush Clarendon Hotel, the new opera house of brick, stone and iron stood three stories tall, sixty feet wide, sixty feet tall, and one-hundred-twenty feet deep. Its brick walls, though generally unadorned, were sixteen inches thick.z6 Within this simple yet massive Italianate exterior was an ornate theatre, at the time the finest in Colorado. Frescoes adorned the high ceilings, red carpeting ran down the aisles, and the proscenium boxes, intended for Leadville's elite, were shielded with lace curtains. The city's first gas lighting was installed in the new opera house. Its 880 patrons luxuriated in the finest available "Andrews patent" cast-iron plush-upholstered opera chairs, identical to those found in some of New York's best theaters. The opera house even boasted a system. Such resplendence would have been noteworthy anywhere, but its presence in Leadville was particularly remarkable, for when it was built, Leadville had no railroad and would not have one for another nine months. All supplies and furnishings were brought over Weston Pass from South Park by stage and wagon. Due those formidable logistics, Tabor's costs for his opera house were far in excess of Central City's expenses for its facility, even though his theatre was somewhat-iess spacious. Final costs for the Tabor Opera House estimated at $78,000.v 64

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On November 20, 1879, the Tabor Opera House opened, acclaimed by the Leadvi1le Dai1y Chronic1e as "the only place where respectable people need not be afraid to go. 1128 Ironically, a double lynching next door to the opera house the previous night led to poor attendance at its opening, but with the restoration of relative tranquility, the theatre prospered. Most were greeted by packed houses. Theatrical productions ranged from Uncle Tom's Cabin to Richard the Third, from The Merchant of Venice to The Wizard of Wall Street. With the passing years a touring company from New York's Metropolitan Opera reached Leadville, seemingly undaunted by its ten-thousand feet of altitude; Sousa and Lillian also took to the Opera House stage in Leadville. Even Oscar Wilde came to town in 1882 to lecture on a markedly improbable subject, given the venue: "The Pract i ca 1 App 1 i cat i on of the Aesthet i cTheory :to Exterior and Interior House Decoration, with Observations on Dress and Personal Ornament." Supposedly, Wilde's listeners were somewhat perplexed, yet impressed by the Irishman's vast capacity for whiskey.29 Another notable occasion saw a circus on the Opera House stage, when the high-country weather turned too bitter for an outdoor performance. Such theatrical shenan i gans were genera lly an except i on to the opera house's usual offerings, which tended to be somewhat more refined. The 65

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Tabor Opera House allowed proud Leadville residents to boast of a certain level of culture, for now, thanks to the efforts of a leading citizen, they could at last enjoy "a chaste and superior class of amusement," making them the moral equal of those Central City sophisticates.3o Like its competitor across the Continental Divide, Leadville's social standing rose with the rise of those brick and mortar walls. The Tabor Opera House was a first-class ticket on the road to respectability. Tabor's biographer, Duane Smith, describes the Leadville opera house as "the capstone of his [Leadv ill e] projects." 31 Opera house historian Evelyn Furman calls it "Tabor's first great accompl ishment, "32 and it was indeed an impressive facility. Yet for all its splendor, the Leadville opera house was only a rehearsal for the main event, for the other Tabor Opera House, the one called "Grand." That theatre, constructed two years later, arose after Leadville had become too small a kingdom for liThe Silver King," leading him to look further afield for more sterling glories. His gaze settled on the new state capital of Denver, where both Tabor himself and Colorado opera houses would reach their pinnacles of prominence. Tabor had lived in Denver briefly in 1859, but by 1880, 66

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when he finally returned in search of new investments, the community had greatly changed. Albert Richardson, who in 1859 described the population of Denver as "a strange medley"n, returned in 1860 to observe more optimistically, "there is a pure, pleasant, social life for those who know where to find it. 1134 A subsequent visit in 1865 proved to be even more encouraging, as Richardson admitted that "the hotel bills-of-fare did not differ materially from those in New York or Denver was it would mature further with the advent of two critical events: the arrival of the railroads in 1870 and the advent of statehood in 1876. Those developments stimulated growth and Denver rapidly changed from a raw frontier town in miners sought gossip and supplies to a prominent community boasting a population of The regional hub for banking, government, and transportat i on, 1880s Denver boasted twenty-seven churches, a Gothic cathedral, a university, respectable hotels, and five-story office buildings.n In the 1870s and 80s, many visitors remarked favorably upon Denver's progress. In his tourist's guide, Fossett observed, "There is a dash and animation to the place, along with a finish and elegance that suggests prosperity, wealth, and Eastern stability, as well as the progressive and 67

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English traveller Isabella Bird's unforgettable turn-of-phrase, lithe great braggart city, II seems something less than actual praise, yet even she conceded that, in 1873, this youthful and vital community was lithe entrepot and distributing point for an immense district, with good shops, some factories, fair hotels, and the usual deformities and refinements of civilization."39 Bird also confirmed that shootings and lynchings were no more common in Denver than in Liverpool. Eleven years later, another English visitor, Emily Faithfull, remarked, "it is marvelous to think what has been already accomplished [in Denver] in such a short space of time, and in the face of such difficulties If Denver has the faults, she has also the virtues of a new wealthy Western city. 1140 Such. cominents sounded sweet to 1 oca 1 c i vic promoters, yet even Faithfullis laudatory words were outdone by Harper's Magazine, which praised the growing metropolis as "a center of refinement, a place rich in itself, influential, and the admiration of all beholders."4l Significantly, that high commendation came to Denver after its new opera house opened. Tabor initiated his Denver portfolio in the late 1870s, shortly after his phenomenal experience with Leadville's Little Pittsburg mine. In 1879, he purchased half the stock of Denver's First National Bank. The next year, the five-story Tabor Block 68

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office building opened, soon to be regarded as the city's most prestigious business address; even the aforementioned First National Bank took offices in the Tabor Block. As an high profile income-producing property, that facility proved central to Tabor's financial empire. Yet these impressive projects were insufficient for Tabor's ambitions. Declaring that "Denver was not building as good buildings as it ought," the mining magnate decided to set an example for future development by constructing a lavish new opera Such a grand theatre would not only boost architectural standards, but would also substantially enhance the quality of entertainment in a city that already had a strong tradition of theater and the performing arts. In March, 1880, Tabor paid $57,000 for several lots at what is now the corner of 16th Street ahd Curtis Avenue (at the time, G and Curtis) in downtown Denver. He then hired two Chicago architect, Willoughby J. Edbrooke,and his younger brother Frank, to design a facil'ity that would include stores and offices, in addition to a theater. In later years, Frank would become for Coloradans t'he better-known of the two brothers, designing many notable Denver structures, including Loretto Heights College, the Brown Palace, and the Denver Dry Goods Building. Willoughby's reputation was stronger on the East Coast, yet this collaboration 69

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was a masterful design, both regal and imposing. The Edbrookes opted for eclecticism, blending elements of freely-adapted Second Empire style with High Victorian Gothic. The combination proved puzzling for some local residents, uncertain how to judge the facility. The building's long facade and corner towers reminded some observers of the British Houses of Parliament. Tabor's most irrepressible gadfly, Eugene Field, then associate editor of the Denver Tribune, satirically labelled it "modified Egyptian mor.esque," a line echoed by nearly every newspaper reporter in the region, most of whom seem to have regarded it as a serious architectural Despite iuch barbs, Tabor and Edbrooke would not be daunted. Even the abrupt collapse of the west exterior wall; resulting in injuries, a long investigation and a thirty-day delay, could not -long halt construction, nor could mounting costs, ultimately estimated to be three-quarters of a million dollars. The Tabor Grand Opera House was not only the most costly performing arts facility erected in Colorado in the riineteenth century, but was also the most impressive. One Denver newspaper eDthused, "Wealth and taste, art and science have all combined to give to this western world a temple fit to be the amusement hall for the kings of earth."" 70

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After nearly a year of construction, the Tabor Grand opened September 5, 1881. A few interior details were not yet completed, but festivities went on as scheduled, as the Tabor Grand held all attention throughout the region, especially for the media. For several weeks before the opening, Denver newspapers had readers concerning appropriate dress for the grand occasion. The Denver Tribune even published a lengthy article justifying the price differential between opera tickets and circus tickets, explaining that the former "costs a lot of money ... and it is a much higher order of enterta i nment. ,,45 Indeed, tickets for opening night were comparatively expensive, ranging from one dollar for balcony seats to two dollars for reserved seats in the front but every ticket sold, some to travellers taking advantage of special railroad fares being offered for theatre-goers coming from as far away as Kansas City and Sa 1 t Lake City. 47 The next day, under the simp 1 e head 1 i ne "Perfection," the Rocky Mountain News printed sixteen columns of coverage of opening night. Even the ever-ironic Eugene Field found pleasantly poetic words for the occasion: The opera house ---a union grand of capital and labor ---Long will the stately structure stand a monument to 71

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The Tabor Grand was an unalloyed success. As a reporter for the Denver Tribune remarked, Tabor himself "could have been elected to the Senate last night if there had been a viva voce vote of the aud i ence. "49 The Tabor Grand Opera House was grand indeed. Emma Abbott, the star performer on opening night, reportedly remarked to Tabor, "I know of nothing more beautiful, except, perhaps, the Grand Opera House in Seating fifteen-hundred patrons, the Tabor Grand was far more spacious than any other theatre in the area; in fact, if it were standing today, it would still be one of Denver's most capacious performing arts facilities. The seating area alone, ninety-one by seventy-one feet, with a ceiling sixty-five feet high, was nearly as large as the entire Leadville opera house, and its capacious stage, forty five feet deep and seventy-two feet across, could have accommodated most of today's extravagant Broadway musicals.51 On each side of the stage stood two intricately carved pillars, each created from an entire redwood tree. 52 A profile of Shakespeare graced the proscenium arch. Other woodwork, of cherry and mahogany, was as luxurious as any to be found in the finest Denver mansions. Yet the center of attention, the focus of all eyes of those entering the theatre, was the stage curtain, painted with a misty, moody 72

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scene of a castle on the moors, bearing a few lines from Charles Kingsley's poem, "Old and New: A Parible:" So fleet the works of men, back to the earth again; Ancient and holy things fade like a dream, and the hand of the master is Within a decade, those words would prove strangely prophetic; Tabor would live just long enough to see them come to pass. Just as the Tabor Grand itself was more elaborate than other theatres, so its staged product ions tended to be on a larger and more adventurous scale. The Tabor Grand offered actual operas {as opposed to light operetta and theatre) more frequently than most other opera houses in Rocky Mountain region. During its initial two weeks in business, the theatre hosted the renowned Emma Abbott Opera Company, which presented six different operas in only fourteen days. In its first four the Tabor Grand presented Denver's first professional performances of such opera classics as 17 Trovatore, La Traviata, Faust, Rig07etto, Carmen, and The Marriage of Figaro. Yet like other lesser opera houses, even the Tabor Grand was not solely an opera theatre. Dramatic performances were also given, along with frequent stagings of Gilbert and Sullivan's high-spirited 73

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operettas. Sacred concerts and masquerade balls, minstrels and mind-readers came to the Tabor Grand, and the state Republican party held many conventions there, despite steadfastly refusing to nominate Tabor himself to higher office. In general terms, more theatre was presented than opera, more comedies than dramas. Although Denverites gradually were acquiring an affection for the finest in the performing arts, they preferred those serious offerings well-leavened by more light-hearted stage productions. There was always room for laughter at the Tabor Grand.54 Tabor's opera house changed Denver for the better. It set a higher standard : of architecture, and encouraged other builders to raise similarly ambitious structures. It also served as evidence to out-of-state visitors that Denver was a significant community, proving 'that, as one reporter enthused unabashedly, IIDenver was not a city of mushroom growth, here to-day and gone to -morrow, but was a permanent city of cit i zen res i dents. 1155 Most directly, it. affected entertainment offerings for decades to come. In 1880, one year before the Tabor Grand opened, the city business directory listed only four so-called lIamusements:1I Forrester's Opera House (where opera was not performed) and three other halls that hosted German singing ensembles. Although more respectable than saloons, such plebeian facilities could not 74

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compete with the monarch in their midst; by comparison, Tabor's palatial opera house "seemed like a magnificent in the wilderness. "56 Audiences, quickly becoming accustomed to its offerings, demanded a h igher quality of entertainment. More theatres opened, some in converted saloons and dance halls whose proprietors had found it profitable to appeal to a better class of people. As Thomas Hornsby Ferril attested in his overview of the theatreis history, "the erection of the Tabor Grand overthrew the old order of theatrical entertainment in The Central City Opera House arose through community effort. Even the Tabor Opera House in Leadvi lle exuded some semblance of public-spiritedness, and at first the media steadfastly attempted to place the Tabor Grand in this same lofty category. At the time of the opening, the Rocky Mountain News, proclaimed, "The opera house was not built for the select but for the people,"S8 and one year later, the Magazine of Western History described it 'as "a monument to his [Tabor's] public spirit."Sg Tabor himself occasionally endorsed such idealistic assertions. In an opening night speech given at the Tabor Grand, he extolled Denver as "the finest city of its size on the American continent, II adding, lilt needed an opera house, and I dec i ded to bu ild one. 1160 I tal so enab 1 ed the generous tycoon to 75

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indulge his philanthropic ways, as .he donated use of the theatre for performances to benefit such charitable causes as the Grand Army hospital fund. Additionally, Tabor, lauded by Denver newspapers for having "a strong love for children" and for taking "special delight in contributing to their happiness," offered free One occasion, an H.M.S. Pinafore production given in February, ,1882, saw 2000 youngsters "packed in like sardines in a box," while another 1500 were turned away for lack Philanthropy, however, was not Tabor's only intention in constructing the o.perah9use. After all, happy children grew into paying s6free were a prudent longterm investment, and the public relations aspect of such charitab le endeavors was also significant. In addit ion, Judge William Stone, a Tabor confidant, asserted that the entrepreneur admitted to more pecuniary objectives. According to Stone, Tabor said on one occasion: You are much mistaken if you think I am building this other a business enterprise; the public may look at it that way, but I can say to you that I am building this for myself, to "make money ... I can make twice as much out of this opera block, having this opera house in 1t,and I have other property that it will help.83 By building his opera houseDn 16th Street, instead of the then popular Larimer, Tabor diverted publ ic attention to a new area of 76

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downtown Denver, an area in which many other Tabor enterprises stood. Thus, income from those businesses increased, but income at the Tabor Grand was also significant. Receipts for its first two weeks of operation were $27,620, of which over seven-thousand dollars were First-year profits topped twenty-thousand dollars. Such an astonishing start was difficult to match in the future, but even with more reasonable receipts, it continued to thrive, soon becoming flagship of the interstate Tabor Amusement Company. In the Tabor Grand Opera House, the renowned tycoon had struck a mother lode of sterling value, both for business and for public relations. Tabor's fortune multiplied, and Denver gained from his efforts. ***** Notes to Chapter Five: Monuments to Tabor 1. Teetor, Henry D. "The Silver Theatrical Circuit, or All the World's a Stage." Magazine of Western History XIII, November 1890 April 1891, p. 740. 2. Rocky Mountain News, 4/23/1859. 3. Tierney, Luke. History of the Gold Discoveries on the South Platte River, to which is appended a guide of the route, by Smith and Oaks. Pacific City, Iowa: A Thomson. 1859. p. 15. 4. Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1867. p. 186. 77

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5. Tabor, Augusta. "Cabin in Colorado." Bancroft Colorado Historical Society. p. 3. 6. Backus states that Tabor provided $64.75 worth of supplies. Furman rounds this figure to $65 One newspaper source cites a figure closer to $20, unlikely given Leadville's high inflation, yet Fossett, who knew Tabor personally, claims the grubstake was worth "about seventeen dollars." Tabor's principal biographer, Duane Smith, hedges his bets by citing no exact figure. 7. Apparently, Tabor, Rische, .and Hook did not know how to spell the name of the city in Pennsylvania. 8. Fossett, Frank. Colorado : its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms and Stock Ranges, and Hea 7 th and P7 easure Resorts. T ouri st' s Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G.Crawford, 1879. Reprinted by New York: Arno Press, 1973. p. 452-3. Fossett states that, in doing his research, he had given access to the company's financial records and bookkeeping. 9. Denver Tribune, 11/23/1878. 10. Dyer, John L. The Snow-shoe Itinerant: An Autobiography of the Rev. John L. Cincinnati: Cranston and Stowe. 1890. Reprinted 1976 by Father Dyer United Methodist Church, Colorado. p. 279! 11. Fpssett, Frank. Colorado: its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms and Stock Ranges, and Hea 7th and P7 easure Resorts. T oud st' s Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G Crawford, 1879. Reprinted New York: Arno Press, 1973. p. 456. 12. Ubbelohde, Carl, and Benson, and Smith, Duane A. A Colorado History. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1988, sixth edition. p. 13. Ferril, Thomas Hornsby. "PlayhOuse Made Famous by Eugene Field." New York Times Book Review and Magazine, May 15, 1921. p. 18. 14. US census figures for California Gulch, 1860, at the Colorado Historical Society. 15. Schulze, Suzanne. "A Century of the Colorado Census." Thesis for University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, 1976. p. 1880-5. 78

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16. Fossett; p. 413-414. 17. Leadville Dai1y Chronicle, 7/1/1879. 18. Leadville City Directory of 1880. 19. Foote, Mary Hallock. A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West: the Reminiscences of Mary Hallock Foote. San Marino, California: Huntington Library. 1972. Edited with introduction by Rodman W. Paul. p. 203. 20. Fossett, p. 415. 21. Smith, p. 106. 22. Furman, Evelyn E. Livingston. The Tabor Opera House: A Captivating History. Self-published, 1972. p. 15. 23. Personal interview with Smith, 10/26/93. 24. Central City Dai7y Register, 3/4/1878. Ironically, this report was published the same day that Central City's opera house opened. Even as it spoke of the evening's pending glories, the Daily Register was foretelling its city's doo"m. 25. Personal interview with Smith, 10/26/93. 26. Statistics from Furman and from the Nat iona 1 Hi storic Register application on file at the Historic Preservation Office of the Colorado Historical Society. 27. Both Crowley and Furman confirm these stati"stics. 28. Degitz, Dorothy. A History of the Tabor Opera House in Leadvi71e, Colorado, from 1879 to 1905. Master's thesis for Western State College, Co16rado, 1935. p. 7. 29. Furman, p. 63, and personal interview, 9/21/93. 30. Furman, p. 52. 31. Sm i th p. 106 32. Furman, p. 51. 33. Richardson, p. 186. 79

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34. ibid, p. 297. 3S. ibid, p. 333. 36. Schulze, p. 1880-S. 37. Tabor's own six-story Tabor Block office building, built in 1880, was the first Denver building to exceed five storiesw 38. Fossett, p.33. 39. Bird, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains" reissued by Norman University of Oklahoma Press. 1986. p. 137-8. 40. Faithfull, Emily. Three Visits to America. Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1884. p. 128-129. 41. Dorsett, Lyle W., and McCarthy, Michael. The Queen City: A History of Denver. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1986, second edition. p. 87. 42. Leonard, Stephen J., and Noel, Thomas J. Denver: Min.ing Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990. p. 4S. 43. Brettel, Richard. Historic Denver: the Architects and the Architecture, 1859-1893. ,Denver: Historic Denver, Inc., 1973. p. 3S. 44. Denver Daily News, 9/6/1881. 4S. Tribune,8/20/1881. Curiously, the explanations offered are still a ,fair justification of ticket prices for the performing arts today. 46. Denver Post, "A Part of Denver History Goes Down With Tabor Theater," 11/18/1964, p. 70. The reporter was Clark Secrest. 47. Crowley, Elmer S. History of the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver. Master's thesis for University of Denver, 1940. p. 69. 48. Smith, p. 176, and numerous other sources. 49. Denver Tribune, 9/6/1881, p. 4. 80

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50. Rocky Mountain News, 5/30/1941, p. 17. 51. By comparison, the stage at what is Denver's current largest the Temple Hoyne Buell Theater, is sixty-seven feet wide and fifty-two feet deep (information provided by the Denver Department of Theatres and Arenas, which operates the theatre). 52. Some sources assert that the pillars were actually cherry wood. 53. Denver Post, 11/18/1964, and numerous other sources. Kingsley's entire poem appeared in print with others of his poems in 1889. 54. Repertory information may be found Crowley, p. 255 ff. 55. Denver World, 7/14/i888. 56. Ferril, p. 18. 57. ibid. 58. Rocky Mountain News, 9/4/1881, p. 3 59. Teetor, p.740 60. Denver Republican, 9/6/1881,p. 4. The text of this speech varies slightly from source to source. Clear ly, Tabor lived before the days of politicians distributing copies of their speeches to the press 61. Denver Republican,2/23/1882. 62. ibid. 63. Smith, p. 172. 64. Denver Tribune, 9/18/1881, p. 4. 81

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CHAPTER SIX PETER MCCOURT AND THE SILVER CIRCUIT The erection of Denver's Tabor Grand set the stage for a long-desired alteration in the world of theatre in Colorado and in the West as a whole. Most traveling theatrical ensembles, with the notable exception of Langrishe's were based in the East or the Midwest. The expansion of railroads in the 1870s allowed access to distant communities, but travel increased expenses for those theatres that hired the performers, and did not ticket sales. Furthermore, from the perspective, a week spent on a tra i n was a week not spent on the stage earn i ng income. As a comparatively small community over one-thousand rail miles from the nation's great population centers, Denver seemed prohlbitively distant; mountain communities, isolated by high passes that held railroads at bay, might as well be on' another continent. Leadville was so remote that its Tabor Opera House once paid over six-hundred dolla rs in railroad and baggage fares for one Shakespearean actor a lone. 1 Few opera houses cou ld afford such extravagent expenses, and no theatrical troupe was 82

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willing to absorb the cost when there was no more at stake than meager earnings from a trifling population. Towns might build an opulent opera house merely to discover that local performers of limited talent were the only available artists. Growing California communities might have eased the situation, for certainly there was much money to be made on the Pacific if actors traveled that fat, first glarice, Denver might seem perfectly situated to take advantage of passing rail traffic. However, the traffic did not pass, for Denver was not, despite a central location, a trans-continental rail hub. Faced with impenetrable mountains west of the "Queen City," ra ilroadsurveyorshad at>andoned Colorado in favor of Wyoming Territory's less problematic South Pass. Tt)us ,Wyoming, not Colorado, was the crossing point for the Rockies,and Cheyenne, not Denver, became the central rail-link between the East and West Coasts. A secondary line linked Denver and Cheyenne, but to any traveler, it represented a literal side-track on which both time and money were expended. For theatrical travelers, it was both easier and cheaper to bypass Denver. Additionally, the 1870s and 1880swere dangerous decades on the High Plains, for Nat ive American tribes waged a cont inu ing series of confl lcts with the United States Army. With regional bloodshed possible at 83

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any time, some coast-to-coast travelers found it safer, cheaper, and not much slower to forgo the railroads in favor of a steamship. Theatre troupes that "doubled" Cape Horn on their way to instead of crossing the Plains and the Rockies, were of no use to amusement-starved Coloradans. The ideal solution to this dilemma of distance and expense was a theatre circuit, a partnership of opera houses and theatres in different communities. Perform'ing troupes would come to 'Colorado to the entire circuit, ncitjust one single theatre. Rather than importing a performing ensemble from the East Coast for only one or two performances, a -dozen nights might be thus increasing income without increasing expenses. Profits could be maximized, w .hile costs remained fairly stable, since only one set of cross-country round .. trip ra i1 tickets needed, to be purchased. Performers had long sought such an arrangement; the obstacle was opera house managers, who were too self-involved, too important in their own perceptions, to cooperate with other managers. 2 The impasse might never have been resolved, if not for the Tabor Grand and its powerful proprietor. Its opening gave Tabor personal control of two prominent Colorado opera houses, which he 84

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insisted should work together in scheduling all performances. Additionally, he ordered William Bush, his long-time assistant who managed the Tabor Grand, to arrange the cooperation of other theatre managers. Tabor's wealth facilitated and expedited this process. By March, 1884, an embryoniccitcuit encompassing five theatres (Tabor's two in Denver and Leadville, as well as those in Centr-alCity, Colorado Springs, and Georgetown) was in place, but Bush's tenure ended abruptly when he took the wrong side in Tabor's contentious It was left to his successor, Peter McCourt,to carry out the directive.3 Ea,rly observers might have questioned McCourt's suitability to the task, for there was at first little, evidence that he was hired for his professional skills. In fact, nepotism seemed the most 1 ike ly factor. McCourt was the elder brother of Tabor's second wife, Elizabeth McCourt Doe, better known by the nickname "Baby Tabor married Baby in Washington, D. C., March 1, 1883, after unseemly from his first wife, Augusta. Peter 'McCourt attended the wedding (many Qthers, in protest of the refused to atterid), and soon after was appointed Tabor's personal He accompanied the newlyweds on their return to Denver, and was. conveniently on the scene when who had conspicuously favored the little-lamented Augusta, 85

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was dismissed, and replaced by McCourt, who thus inhetfted the task of forming a theatre circuit. Family connections may have brought McCourt. to prominence, but he qu i ck ly proved h imse lf equa 1 to the task of expand i ng Bush's "Colorado Circuit" (sometimes called "Tabor Circuit"). In fact, apparently, the Wisconsin native was ideally suited to his work, for he better understood the value of cooperation than did his abrasive employer. Allen Adams in, hi sthorough academic study of McCourt s career, offered the fo nowi ng ana lys is: Peter cultivated manners and his diplomatic approach and gentle nature won him'many friends among the best social circles, while his sur e and steady him quick acceptance in the business and financial world' of Denver.4 Tact and social in MCCourt, were noticeably lacking in his brother-in.law, .who despite his immense wealth (or perhaps because of it) was dismissed as an uricultured boor. Additionally, Tabor was known to occasionally indulge in questionable business practices. A theatre manager in Pueblo or Fort Collins might not wish to deal with Tabor personally, but McCourt was far more palatable. Only three months after taking the helm of the West's finest opera house, McCourt was praised in the New York Dramatic Mirror, a prominent trade paper, as "an efficient manager in every respect."S 86

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'By November, 1884, four more Colorado opera houses, those in Fort Collins, Canon City, Salida, and Pueblo, joined the new theatre circuit. Salida was a useful link, since it was located in the mountains on the Arkansas River en route to Leadville. The other new members were along the Front Range of the Rockies north and south of Denver. Performers the rail spur from Cheyenne could visit all five Front Range theatres (from north to south: Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs, Canon City, and Pueblo), diverting to Georgetown and Central City in the foothills west of Denver, then head for the high country to take the in Salida and Leadville. further ,facilitated in July, 1885, when the Cheyenne Opera House, joined the fold, providing a crucial link to the cross-country connections of the Union Pacific railroad. By 1886, McCourt had recruited opera houses in Greeley and Idaho Springs. Gradually, he filled vacant spaces in the theatrical map of Colorado, thus also filling what would otherwise have been vacant dates in a performer's travel schedule. It was theoretically possible for a theatrical troupe to range the gold region giving performances every nlght.6 By December, 1888, the New York Dramatic Mirror reported that the "Silver Circuit" of the Rockies included thirteen 87

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theatres: seven in Colorado, four in Utah, and two in Wyoming.7 As it grew, the Circuit would include as many as twenty theatres at any given time, yet far more than twenty towns participated in the Circuit, for McCourt's roster continually changed, both with and without his acquiescence. New theatres opened; old ones closed, frequently due to catastrophic fires. The Salida Opera House burned in 1888, Salt Lake City's Walker Opera House in 1890. The 1 .atter loss was particularly acute, for it left McCourt without a member theatre in the area's second largest city. He resolved the issue by enlisting another facility, the Salt Theater. Although managers of that opera house were initially reluctant to grant control to McCourt, Tabor's threat to build a new (that is, competing) theatre Salt Lake proved With the acquisition of the Salt Lake Theater, an important population had been kept withiri reach. Smaller towns a 1so participated. At various times, twenty-nine communit ies from southern Colorado to northern Utah to eastern Wyoming were of this ambitious theatrical network.9 Peter McCourt, who had begun his Western career as personal secretary to his brother-in-law, controlled this empire, having become, as Adams described him, "the most powerful single manager in the Rocky Mountain West."w 88

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McCourt's business sense, as demonstrated by rapid growth of the Silver Circuit, was the major factor in the success of the Tabor Amusement Company. Through his leadership, he contributed directly to Horace Tabor's vast wealth, as well as to his own prominence in the region. Yet those outside of the also benefited from his abilities. Theatre troupes found tours of the Rocky Mountains to be both economical and profitable. Theatre operators and opera house managers also benefited from decreased costs and increased earnings. Audiences, too, came to be in a more desirabl e position, for favorable ec?nomic arrangements led to more performances of higher quality. Furthermore, as the Silver Circuit increased the practicality of performing arts, more opera houses to be built, many of which would never have risen had McCourt not a of providing performers. Without these opera houses, the communities in which they stood would have been poorer in terms of both amusement and architecture, and their claims to culture would have been tenuous at Throughout the Rocky Mountain West, residents of all classes gained from Tabor's inspired act of nepotism. ***** -89

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Notes for Chapter Six: Peter McCourt and the Silver Circuit 1. Smith, Duane A .. Horace Tabor: University Press of Colorado. 1989. His Life and Legend. p. 261. 2. This technique of theatres working together in the scheduling and hiring of perforiners is now known as "block booking," and is standard practice today. 3. Adams, Allen John. "Peter McCourt, Jr., and the Silver Theatrica 1 Circuit ; 1889-1910: an Hi storica 1 and Biographical Study." Ph.D Thesis, University of Utah, 1969. p. 13. 4. ibid, p. 11. 5. ibid, p. 14. 6. Adams' thesis summarizes the growth and expansion of the Silver Circuit. It is the best source of information concerning the Circuit and McCotirt's life, and offers a thorough analysis of the development of theatre in the western United States. 7. Adams, p.42. 8. ibid,p. 53-4. 9. Adams, p. 228-229. Adams cites the following theatres as at least occasional participants in the Silver Circuit: Colorado: Aspen, Boulder, Canon City, Central City, Colorado Springs, Cripple Creek, Denver, Florissant, Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Greeley, Springs, la Junta, leadville, Montrose, Ouray, Pueblo, Salida, Telluride, Trinidad, Victor Wyoming: Cheyenne, laramie, Rawlins, Rock Springs Utah: Ogden, Park City, Salt lake City 10. ibid, p. 31. 90

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CHAPTER SEVEN THE RISE OF .WHEELER; THE FALL OF SILVER Although Horace Tabor was the most prominent investor in the performing arts in he was not alone in the field. Jerome Byron Wheeler, financier of Aspen's Wheeler Opera House, was. equally influential, if in a somewhat smaller arena. Unlike Tabor, however, Wheeler's fortunewas acquired earlier in life and certainly more effortlessly. Wheeler was born in Troy, New York, in 1841. After serving in the Union Army and fighting in battles along the Potomac River, he moved to New York City where he to a career in business. The most valuable that he established in that city was with Harriet Macy Valentine, an heiress of the Macy family fortune. Wheeler married Miss Valentine in 1870, then used family connections to extend his personal wealth through investment in and management -of Macy stores. Mrs. Wheeler's uncle died in 1879, she and her husband gained controlling interest in Macy's, along with the financial benefits of such an influential position.l An ambitious capitalist, might have remained on the East Coast near the sources of his fortune had Mrs. Wheeler not suffered from acute bronchitis. Her doctors suggested a respite 91

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in the Rocky Mountains, where many respiratory patients found 'relief in the dry, thin air. In 1882, less than a year after the of the Tabor Grand, the Wheelers first came to Colorado. During that initial visit, Wheeler bought controlling interests in two Aspen mines, though he had not yet seen Aspen. He did not visit the properties until 1883, at which time he expanded those holdings to include three more mirles.z Th.at same summer, Wheeler purchased land for a summer home in Manitou Springs, a resort town in the west of Colorado Family tradition suggests that the head cashier at Macy's first suggested Manitou Springs to the Wheelers.3 If true, the mountain community owes a debt of gratitude to that clerk, for Wheeler soon contributed $50,000 toward also furnished equipment for a volunteer fire brigade, built a conservatory and a bowling alley,financed a town clock, and began the Manitou Mineral Water. Company and a glass company in nearby Colorado. City.4 Wheeler's substantial cont.ributions to the areasurr:ounding his summer retreat' indicate a certa in devotion to the <:ommunity, or at least a wish to bring a few creature comforts in a town where his family regularly spent several months of the year. Despite the significant scope of his local contributions in Manitou Sp' rings, Whee ler' s most notab le bus iness investments were 92

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elsewhere in the state; Aspen had attracted his attention early, and it held his focus for a decade. When Wheeler arrived on the scene, Aspen was still a young, raw mining camp, only four years old, yet with a population of over one-thousand. By 1885, its population had topped 5500, and it would remain above that figure until the mid 1890s.5 Like most youthful mining settlements, Aspen was a hell-raiser's paradise, with twenty-six saloons, fifteen "sporting houses," and one small theatre, the "Rink Opera House, II that also offered roller skating. Many cultured New Yorkers would have viewed such a situation with great disdain, but Wheeler looked beyond the chaos to see the area's potential. As related in his brief autobiography, he decided "to make some investments there, and if possible assist the residents of the town to develop the Mines, the richness of which they seemed to have great confidence in. ,,6 During his first visit to Aspen, Wheeler not only acquired mining he also purchased and completed an unfinished smelter (a highly practical enterprise for a mine owner) and founded the J.B. Wheeler and Company Bank. Soon after, he invested in regional coal and coke enterprises, and in 1888, disposed of his interest in Macy's to invest in the Co lorado Midland Ra ilroad Wheeler's investments during that first summer were so notable that a local newspaper felt driven to comment: "He bought property after property on Aspen Mounta in 93

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paying liberal prices and followed up these purchases with fearless expenditure for development. "7 Further investments were yet to come Within five years of arriving in Aspen, Wheeler had taken over leadership of the business community, yet he never 1 ived full-time in Aspen, for his wife's health precluded residence at such an altitude. Manitou Springs and New York City were the Wheeler family .homes. Aspen was, iii essence, only a large industrial incubator in which Wheeler's fortune was meant to grow, and grow it did, as Whee 1 er became one of Co lorado's wealthiest tycoons. Yet though his fortune multiplied in the Rockies, it wa'snot a case of an investor earning sign .ificant profits to the detriment of the profit-supplying region; In his written in the third he asserted: Very little of the money derived from his mlnlng has been taken out of state. confidence in the future pr6sperity nf Colorado has induced him to re-invest the major portion of such money in various enterpri ses throughout the state, and he has every reason to believe that he has not erred in so doing.8 Wheeler's belief in Aspen's future growth was sufficiently secure that he.began two more projects, buildings frequently cites as his most ambitious Aspen endeavors. The Wheeler Opera House and the Hotel Jerome both opened in 1889. Both buildings bore his 94

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name, and they were destined to perpetuate that name well beyond the existence of the tycoon himself. Even in the closing decade of the twentieth century, the name of Wheeler persisted in Aspen. Aspenites had wished for an opera house just as residents of other towns had, as a means of validating the city's existence. Yet Wheeler's decision to build an opera house apparently was not grounded on idealistic of Aspen's mer.it, for. he wrote only of the mines, not the town itself. Nor was Wheeler driven by a wish to personally attend the opera in Aspen. His Colorado residence was in Springs, about onehundred-fifty miles from Aspen; additionally, since he spent the bulk of the year in New York City, he suffered from no lack of entertai nment. Rather than imag i n i nga "temple of the muses, II as the Central City Opera House was billed, Wheeler envisioned his opera house as another Aspen investment. "This is a great country," the financier supposedly remarked to a local reporter, "and every dollar put into such improvements will clearly come back with a splendid profit."g Certainly, riches exi sted abundantly in Aspen' where, in 1889, mining properties produced dollars worth of silver.w Wheeler intended that a portion of that windfall would come to rest in his own pockets. 95

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Wheeler purchased two adjacent downtown lots on which to build his opera house. The location, at the corner of Hyman and Mill, was ideal, since most Gold Rush opera houses were multi-use facilities, with retail and office space on the first two floors. A corner lot allowed the owner to charge premium rent for those business spaces. As architect, Wheeler chose Tabor Grand Opera House designers Willoughby and Frank Edbrooke, who created for Aspen an Italianate design, sixty by one-hundred feet, of brick and local sandstone, the sandstone for the exposed, street-facing walls, and brick for unexposed walls that faced other buildings. Among the additional gracious touches were arched windows, a low profile mansard roof, a decorated frieze, and ornate pediments over theentrances.ll As expected, the ground floor accommodated retail space, including a men's clothier, a tobacco company, and the J. B. Wheeler and Company Bank. The second floor contained offices for Wheeler's Aspen Mining and Smelting Company,. as well as those for his and other professionals. From these capitalist realms, a grand staircase ascended to the third floor opera house. It was Aspen's first building As was usually the case, the opera house's interior was more elaborate than its exterior. Eight-hundred patrons could view the while seated in leather opera chairs with 96

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hat rack s built in beneath the seats. ,Crimson upholstery and carpeting contributed to the theatre's warm which was further enriched by an electrified thirty-six branch chandelier made of brass and trimmed in silver. Those patrons willing to pay premium prices were seated conspicuously in gilded theatre boxes on either wall, and homesick New Yorkers could take comfort in a painted with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River. Even facilities earned special attention. Wheeler Opera House performers revelled in the rare luxury of eight dressing rooms and fifteen sets of scenery, and fire-fighting equipment on stag e a measure of security for patrons and lJerformers alike. Aspen's new theatre was not quite the equal of the Tabor Grand; even the local newspapers admitted 'that, in comparison to Denver's fine facility, theirs was "second best ... IZ Yet it' eas fly outshone other inountai n opera houses in its close attention to comfort and elegance.13 The facility's aesthetic. and architectural opulence cost Wheeler $7?,000.14 Opening night at the Wheeler Opera House was April 23, 1889. Audience members paid twenty-five dollars for box seats, $2.50 for parquet Conreid's English Opera Company took the stage to present composer Adolph Muller's farcical opera "The King's Fool;" a grand fencing contest was also on the bill.16 97

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For this first evening, the opera house filled to the last seat, with each lady having been given a perfumed silk program. Despite the opulent fashions worn by all, some of those ladies must have donned last year's hats, for newspaper advertisements attest that the town's stock of ladies opera hats had sold out long before opening night; opera glasses, however, could still be rented. "It was evident, "reported the Aspen Daily Times, "that the people of Aspen appreciated the importance of the event, for they turned out that the house was crowded, and the scene was made resplendent with the costumes of the ladies." . According to that observer, the festive sceneproved the city's appreciation of "the opening of the temple of amusement. ,,17 Aspen had arrived on the social scene. With'an opera house in town, it had officially progressed beyond its rowdy roots. The immediate public verdict was that the Wheeler Opera House was an admirable facility. One Denver paper called it "a 1 itt le 'gem; ,,18 for the Aspen Daily Times, it was a "perfect 'bijou' of a In nearly every report, however, the laurels went' to the financier, not the architect who had actually designed it As the Aspen Daily Chronicle asserted the day after the opening,: Of the opera house itself, there is probably no cosier [sic] in the country, while no detail has been spared 98

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that looks in the remotest way to perfect ion. The acoustics are excellent, the ventilation is good and the arrangements a 11 coriduc i ve to comfort, demonstrat i ng that neither art nor expense has been spared in the consummation of Mr. Wheeler's broad ideas.zo Another local newspaper agreed, choosing very similar vocabulary. IINo other building in Aspen, II enthused the Democrat Times, "was so solidly and well constructed nor finished with such detail. Mr. Wheeler spared no in making ,it in all its deta i 1 s. 1121 Wheeler himself never heard those laudatory words, nor even seemed interested in their utterance. Despite his significant investment in the opera house that bore his name,he did not bother attend opening night. Unlike its competitors in Central City, Leadville, and Denver, the Wheeler Opera, Housewasnot an immediate success. In fact, it lost four-hundred dollars from its opening to the end of the year ,22' Several factors caused th i s iack luster performance. Notable on list was Aspen's which proved to be a significant handicap. Despite the existence of the Silver Circuit, which the Wheeler Opera House quickly joined, relatively few theatre ensembles wished to journey all the way to Aspen, nearly a full day's journey even from Leadville, and a true marathon from Denver. It proved nearly imposs ib le for the Wheeler's managers to recruit professional productions. Thus, 99

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unlike other prominent Gold Rush opera houses, the Wheeler Opera House relied heavily on local entertainments, such as amateur productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. An additional complication was Wheeler's own involvement, for he was no theatre man. On the contrary, Wheeler was a profit-driven businessman whose sole intention in constructing the opera house was to earn financial gains. When problems led to an escalating series of losses, he blamed managers, not theatrical realities. Whee ler went through three managers in the first two months, then sought to reduce expenses by hiring non-professional managers, whom he frequently recruited from his bank employees. By this time, however, Aspen had fallen on hard times. The elegant opera house that had opened with such fanfare was past salvation; even Wheeler himself was headed for unnavigable financial seas, as were Aspen and all of Colorado. Ultimately, politics crushed Wheeler, politics in the form of a silver bullet. Although gold had initiated Colorado's birth, silver brought it to adulthood, beginning with the Leadville silver strikes of 1878. By the close of that year, the miners of Leadville's Lake County had unearthed silver ore totalling $2,591,054, cent more than the total production of all metals in Central City's Gilpin County during that same 100

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period.n Silver soon became king of Colorado, as the state's production of rose to per cent of the nation's total, surpassing even Nevada.N Horace Tabor, whose vast fortune began and ended with silver, even named one daughter "Silver Dollar," and he was not the only Coloradan to revere the white ore: All those who were economically observant realized that silver had supplanted gold as Diverse businesses, ranging from railroads and ore smelters to grocery stores and opera houses, depended on the continued of silver, the foundat i ,on of Co lorado's ent ire economy. As long as silver reigned, the Colorado economy thrived, but can for ever, and silver prices began to drop in the late 1880s. The was caused in part by Colorado mine owners, whose continuing on increased production, so as to take advantage of high prices per ton, led to a glut on the market. Perceiving that a parallel increase of demand could relieve that overflow, concerned silver barons, including Tabor himself, lobbied the federal government for price supports and purchase The government responded with the Sherman Silver Purchase of 1890, which 'committed Washington to the purchase of 4.5 million ounces of silver each month for monetary usage. Not all of that silver came from Colorado. Nevada was 101

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also an important silver state, but any boost to the national silver market would have benefited Colorado, too, and Tabor and his cronies were confident that, with the Sherman Act, their industry had been rescued. As events developed, their confidence was misplaced, largely due to abysmal timing, for the Sherman Act took effect during a time of serious nation-wide economic distress. The disreputable exploits of railroad speculators and unscrupulous businessmen triggered wide-spread business failures early in 1893, leading to a depression tefmed the "Panic of '93." Although the Sherman Act .itself was not solely responsible for the decline, it proved to be an easy target for beleaguered President Grover Cleveland, who targeted the Act as too costly and only beneficial to special interests. His request for the repea 1 of the Act was met with joy by "Greenbackers," whQ favored a national gold standard in place of the dual gold-and-silver then in place, but "Free Silver" men reacted with horror and outrage. As Colorado Senator Henry M. Teller, a Central City resident, proclaimed to his colleagues, "The American Republic is on trial, and it is a crisis more fearful to the American people than crisis that was brought on by the Rebellion. ,,25 The debate raged through the House and Senate all summer. 102

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Denver newspapers fervently covered the act ion in Washington, D. C., under headlines as "The Battle is On!" and "Council of War. 112&. Cleveland himself was targeted for particular scorn, serving as the continual victim of vindictive political cartoons. Throughout the campaign, such articles remained witb the ultimate defeat of the "Goldbugs" continually predicted, but the economic realm, seeing less reason for optimism, seemed to take pre-emptive strikes in hopes of minimiz ing future .. losses. Twelve Denver banks closed that summer; wages drqpped by ten to twe 1 ve percent. 27 Silver pr ices fell, too, dropping to a low of sixty-three cents per ounce, onethird of the price three years As the losses esca lated, the Co lO. rado Bureau of Labor Statist ics reported that 377 businesses had failed and nearly half of the state's 895 mines were but of Wheeler his Aspen bank and laid off the entire staff of the Aspen Mining and Smelting Company; other mining coinmunit ies had similar stories. 30 With no way to survive in the st.ricken mining towns, workers and their families struggled to where they soon discovered that economic conditions were no better. One Denver charity, faced with ever increasing numbers of women and children needing assistance, announced that it could no longer feed single men, 103

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many of whom had been the very miners on whose shbu1ders the state's foundation had By the time Congress repealed the Sherman Act in October of 1893, the blow no longer seemed important. The Rocky Mountain economy had already dropped to the bottom of the mine shaft, and with the fall of that shooting star, Colorado, having its future and its fortune on the 'rise of silver, began a long, steep dec 1 i ne. As Co lorado's economy collapsed, it' destroyed two of its greatest, most investors: Horace Tabor and Jerome Wheeler. Having lived for s{lver,they would die with it, too. Their opera houses would similarly suffer. Those grand palaces of the performing arts, once regarded as evidence of prosperity, would soon serve as evidence of despair. ***** Notes for Chapter Seven: The Rise of. Wheeler;' the Fall of Silver 1. Wheeler's written for the Magazine of Western History, currently in the Aspen Historical Society collection. The brief autobiography, written in the third person, dates from 1889. 2. ibid. 104

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3. Co7orado Springs Gazette Te7egraph, 5/9/1948, quoting daughter Elsie Wheeler. 4. Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, 5/9/1948. 5. Schu 1 ze, Suzanne. "A Century of the Co lorado Census. II Thesis for University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, 1976. p. 1890-7. 1885 figure from state census of that year. 6. Wheeler autobiography. 7. Aspen Daily Times, 8/12/1888. 8. Wheeler autobiography. 9. Aspen Daily Times, 8/12/1888. 10. Rohrbough, Malcolm J. Aspen, Co7orado: the History of a Si1ver Mining Town, 1879-1893. Oxford University Press: New York and Oxford. 1986. p. 171-2. 11. Architectural details' are taken from an application to place the opera house on the National Register of Historic Places. The application is in the files of the Historical Society Office of Historic Preservation. The Wheeler Opera House was named to the Register in 1972. 12. Aspen Dai1y Times, 2/15/1889. 13. Shaw, Bertha Louise. "History of the Wheeler Opera House, Aspen, Colordo, 1889-1894.11 Master's thesis for Western State College, Gunnison, Colorado. 1965. p.23ff. Corroborated by research at the Aspen Historical Society. 14. ibid, p. 19. 15. ibid, p. 37 & p. 46. 16. ibid, p. 34ff. 17. Aspen Dai1y Times, 4/24/1889. 18. Denver Republican, 4/24/1889. 19. Aspen Daily Times, 4/23/1889. 105

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20. Aspen Daily Chronicle, 4/24/1889. 21. Aspen Democrat Times, 3/1889. 22. Shaw, p. 58. 23. Fossett, Frank. Colorado: its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms and Stock Ranges, and Health and Pleasure Resorts. Tourist's Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G. Crawford. 1879. Reprinted by New York: Arno Press. 19733. p. 251. 24. Axford, H. William. Gilpin County Gold: Peter McFarlane Mining Entrepreneur in Central City, Colorado. Chicago: Sage Books/Swallow Press Inc. 1976. p. 88; 25. Teller, HenryM. "Speech of Hon. Henry M. Teller of Colorado, .in the Senate of the United States, Saturday, January 12, 1895." Washington, D. C. p. 32. 26. Rocky Mountain News, 8/12/1893 & 8/1/1893, respectively. 27 Adams, All en John. "Peter McCourt, Jr., and the S i 1 ver Theatrical Circuit, 1889-1910: an Historical and Biographical Study." thesis for the University of Utah. 1969. 72. 28 i bid, p. 89. 29. Ubbe10hde, Carl,and Benson, Maxine, and Smith, Duane A. A Colorado History. Boti1der: Publishing Company. 1988, sixth edition. p. 229. 30. Shaw, 31. leonard, Stephen J.,and Noel, Thomas J.' Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado. 1990. p. 104. 106

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CHAPTER EIGHT DEATHS AND TRANSFIGURATIONS With the decline of silver and of Colorado's entire economy, the state's mining towns ended their ascents as abruptly as they had begun, and the opera houses that had graced those communities suffered sadly comparable fates. Unemployed residents lacked a disposable income to devote to entertainment, and when conditions worsened to the point that economic unimaginable, many residents transplanted their dreams to what they hoped would be greener pastures. In 1890, 5108 Aspenites were tabulated in the federal census; unofficial suggest that, three years later, it had topped ten thousand residents, yet the next census in 1900 found only 3303 people remaining. Stronger only in comparison, Leadville had lost sixteen per cent of its population from 1880 to 1900, as it fell from 14,820 to 12,455. Denver's population increased during the same period, but many of those new residents were Rocky Mountain refugees fleeing the moribund mining towns ,in search of new, opportunit ies. I They were of no more benefit to the Tabor Grand'Opera House than the few souls remaining in Aspen were to Wheeler's palace of the arts. 107

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No depression is eternal; economic conditions were bound to revive eventually. The opera houses, too, might have rebounded, yet for some of these theatres, the situation was complicated by the sOdden. poverty of their illustiious owners. the richest men in the state, they were now over-extended and over-invested, with too little capital to outlast the crisis. Jerome Wheeler's losses, which began soon after the Wheeler Opera Hriuse opening, forced immediate steps to minimize the damage. In August, 1892, he sold the Jerome Hotel, Aspen's most luxurious lodging, and four months later, hesold the opera house to bis wife for one in an shelter it from his fading fortunes impending bankruptcy. Mrs. Wheeler ultimately lost possession of the theatre herself,but by then, Wheeler's Aspen investments were :no longer in his possession. By the end of 1893, he had disposed of all his Aspen properties and businesses, bank that bore his name. After only ten years in the Rockies, he had lost his entire dollar investment.2 The Wheeler Opera House survived -its builder's departure from Aspen. Although the theatre passed through many hands in the ensuing years, it continued performances several nights each week, with a diversity of events coming to its minuscule stage 108

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A sampling of events from the 1912 calendar proves this range of activity. In March, the Crystal Club, a ensemble of dramatically inclined Aspenites, offered a staging of "Pudd'n Head Wilson" as a benefit for the children's hospital fund, raising $62.25 for that cause. Late, r in the month, movies were shown. In May, the local choral club performed, and the Christy Comedy Company was on stage at the Wheeler in August. In September, opera house audiences viewed a film version of Dante's Inferno presented with live narration. October was particularly busy at the Wheeler, with political ra1lies, voice recitals, comedic theatre, and a lecture on the topic "Individual and Society." Significantly, although music.al programs were presented occasionally during the year, entire operas were never staged.3 Like the majority of its cousins; the Wheeler was an opera house in name alone; it rarely presented actual operas, such as those of Verdi. Only the Tabor Grand, and to a somewhat lesser extenti the Central City Opera House, staged operas frequent ly. As a .community gathering place, however, and as a positive symbol of community pride, Wheeler's theatre was treasured by residents, fewthough they were. By 1912, Aspen's population had fallen below two-thousand, yet those remaining residents, though few in number, avidly patronized the performing arts.' 109

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The high esteem in which Aspenites held their opera house became clear in November, 1912, when the theatre suffered several assaults. Around ten p.m. on November 12, a fire started near the stage shortly after a film showing. The audience had only just departed; employees were still in thetheatreJ so the blaze was discovered immediately and contained quickly. The damage was estimated at $1500, including replacement of a piano and reconstruction of the stage itself. Cigarette "stubs" and electrical problems were cited as the two mbst likely causes, but one local reporter strong ly favored the latter opinion, since, as he asserted, "the wiring beneath the stage is faulty to say the best for it."5 began the next day, and all observers expected a qu i ck recovery. Tragically, the November '12 fire was only the first of two that its proved catastrophic. 'On the morning of November 21, the front page headline of the Aspen Democrat-Times shouted, "Fiendish fire in Our City ... The Prettiest Little Structure of its Kind Between Pueblo and Salt Lake City is Sacrific_d to the Venom of a Degerierate Unfit to Remain Upon article,. no more moderate than the headline that preceded it, related in outraged terms that, at two a.m., another blaze had been discover 'ed in the opera house, in fact, not merely 110

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one fire but three separate blazes, one of which had been set in a locked room, thus hindering fire-fighters. The stage, scenery, balcony chairs, and ceiling were all and the silverand-brass ch. andelier lay shattered upon the floor. Fire-fighters were able to contain the inferno to the third-floor theatre, but grocery stores on the building's first floor suffered extensive water damage that destroyed stocks. The opera house itself was gutted, with damage estimated at. $25,000 on a facility carrying only $10,000 of insurance.7 Its owner, General Boyce of Denver, had purchased the property the previous July for $50,000.8 At the time of the fire, Boyce was in Denver, unavailable for comment, but local reaction was swift and stern. According to one reporter, the feeling in the community was. that, despite of the limitations ot'the policy, thelnsurance company must pay for all the so the opera house soon as possible. nAspen must have its beautiful little opera house, II he concluded, nand will haveit.n9 Such insistent optimism went unrewarded. Only were completed. In 1914, the opera hotise was abandoned. All that remained of the IIbijou" was a scorched shell of wistful memories two floors above a few struggling store-fronts. Revival would be decades away. III

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Tabor had been no more fortunate than Wheeler. A habitual optimist, he had spent decades investing in questionable mining properties, imagining rewards equal to the risk. Some of these speculations were profitable; in fact, two Leadville mines, the Litt le Pittsburg and the Matchless, succeeded conspicuously, repaying his investments literally a million times over. Yet other endeavors, particularly an ill-conceived foray into Mexican mining, decimated his fortune. The collapse of the silver market in 1893 was the final blow. Early that year, Tabor mortgaged his Leadville properties, hoping that funds generated would support his still notably the well-managed Tabor Such fiscal consolidation might have saved a significant portion of his portfolio, if Tabor had ensuing profits to redeeminortgages. Instead, he pursued more speculative mining operations, dreaming that another Little Pittsburg would appear to restore his entire fortune. Tragically, however, more losses ensued. In May,1893, Tabor; once the wealthiest man in Colorado, defaulted on the Leadville opera house mortgage and lost the property to _A. S. Weston, a local judge. Three months earlier, Tabor had mortgaged the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver for $17 5 000 10 The mortgaging of the finest opera house in the West served 112

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as evidence of Tabor's perilous for it endangered a building that was of his rise, a 'key facility crucial to the continued survival of the profitable Silver Circuit and the closely-related Tabor Amusement Company. Without the Tabor Grand as an anchor, the Silver Circuit would be less attractive to touring theatre groups, which were already reluctant to travel to a depressed region. Additionally, Tabor would lose access to the theatre's .nd in his fast-dwindling profits wer. e a 11 too rare ly seen. Throughout the ear ly 1890s, the Tabor Grand continued operations u : nder Peter McCourt's deft guidance, but further complications arose when theatre stage hands went on strike in' August of }893. and orchestra members began a sympathy strike." Cancelled performances adversely affected box office receipts, negotiations with union members further assailed slender profit margins. Although the house itself could have outlasted .latest crisis, it was cfippled by a second mortgage undertaken in hope of redeeming other Tabor properties. Ultimately, Mrs. L. D. Smith, holder of the second Tabor Grand mortgage, sought to foreclose on the property. Although Tabor and McCourt took their battle to the state Supreme Court, Mrs. Smith won possession of the Tabor Grand Opera House on September 11, 1896.12 113

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Tabor's crown jewel had passed from his control; he died in 1899 a broken man. McCourt was far luckier. Although Mrs. Smith fired him from his managerial position, he remained as manager of the Silver Circuit and soon founded his own amusement company, first known as the Colorado Amusement Company, later the McCourt Amusement Company, in place of the Tabor Amusement Company. On March 31, 1897, barely six months after taking control of the Tabor Grand, Mrs. Smith lost the opera house to the Northwestern Mutua 1 Insurance Company, which held the first mortgage. McCourt then resumed his managerial position, which he held until his death.13 His sister, Tabor's widow' Baby Doe, never forgave him.14 Despite the traumatic events of the 1890s, performances continued at the Tabor Grand, which i"n subsequent decades passed from owner to owner. Competition from motion pictures bE)ginning early in' the new century adversely affected audiences for serious theatres, including the Tabor Grand, which fought back, altering its repertoire. Shakespeare and Verdi vanished from its spacious stage, and in their stead, this once-magnificent showplace for the arts fell to offering vaudeville shows at five and ten cents a ticket.ls The glory days were not utterly forgotten. In 1921, the New York Times Book Review and Magazine published a lengthy 114

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article in which Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Colorado's premier poet, praised the aging theatre's fabled past. After many laudatory, anecdote-filled he closed by observing, "Today the Tabor Grand isstill the pleasant, roomy old place it has always been, but its last years have .been devoted mainly to the routine mediocrities of inferior vaudeville Ferril's air of wistful sympathy was shared by many Coloradans, who perhaps recalled their own youthful years even as they reflected upon the theatre's origins. The decline of the Tabor Grand was emblematic of Colorado's fall from the silvery heights it had once occupied. In September, 1921, tacitly admitting that the Silver King's name no longer carried any cachet, the Tabor Grand's operators rechristened it the Colorado Theater, and extensive remodelling converted the old dowager into a movie The "Tabor" name returned in 1929, though without the earlier operatic connection. Tabor Theater audiences were now more interested in the exciting new Western movie star, John Wayne, than in any of Verdi's tragic heroines. Musical shows were also favorites, particularly when such talented artists as the Andrews Sisters, Donald O'Connor, and Judy Garland (as one of the Gumm Sisters) were amongst the performers.17 Fine music, too, occasionally came to the Tabor. In 1955, while a new concert hall was under construction, the 115

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Denver Symphony Orchestra made the Tabor its temporary home, and opera came to its spacious stage in the 1950s with performances by the Greater Denver Opera Association. Yet such presentations were of strictly local interest. The days in which Adelina Patti and other international opera stars sang at the Tabor Grand were long past; even American performers of Emma Abbott's respectable caliber no longer visited the theatre once extolled as "a temple fit to be the amusement hall for the kings of After World War Two, an interest in urban renewal arose in Denver, and the focus for such activities fell upon what Eugene Field had dubbed nthe monument to Tabor." A 1945 Rocky Mountain News editorial, Linder the pointed headline, "Tear It Down," spoke admiringly of the theatre's history, yet continued: Merely because discriminating ofa certain age relish those forid memories, it does not follow that we should continue to put up with a lot of antiquated buildings out of pure sentimentality. The time of victory ought to be the time for gett ing rid of a lot of obsolescent structures that have been up the towri .. We can think of the Tabor Grand fondly. But we don't need to see it or to let the city be hampered by it. It has served its purpose and done its time. Let's rejoice that, after its long and useful service, the Tabor Grand is to Lee Casey, the writer of that opinion, might have felt that he expressed the mood of the people, but he was at least premature in his predictions. Despite continuing false alarms, the Tabor 116

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Grand remained in operation for another dozen years. In January, 1957, however, "the theater with nine lives" came tri the end of its allotment.ro Its operator, Fox-Intermountain Theaters, closed the former opera hpuse, blaming "general deterioration" of the neighborhood a lack of outstanding In April, 1964, demolition began on a once-treasured building described by one reporter at the time as "a gallant lady who had outlived her Another newspaper observed, "When Tabor died in 1899, he was a penniless and disillusioned man. To some, the death of his house in 1964 is no less There is a certain irony in the fatt that the Tabor Grand Opera was supplanted by anew branch of the Reserve Bank, for after all, federal banking policies had destroyed Tabor himself seventy years earlier. In comparison to its graridei sister, the Tabor Opera House in Leadville suffered a far fate. Judge A. S. Weston, the Leadville lawyer and pioneer who had purchased the facility from Tabor for $22,000, continued operations, although he changed the name to the Weston Musical or theatrical shows were given one evening each week, and other events, ranging from political meetings to local musical programs, were also welcomed. Although important stars were no longer freque nt visitors, it was 117

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during Weston's tenure that the Metropolitan Opera came to Leadville for a rare two-mile-high performance, thus continuing the tradition of high culture in the high country. Leadville, only two years older than Aspen, had more quickly developed an educated class of residents. Many of those people remained, and were still attracted to the finer things in entertainment. Weston died in 1897; his wife then served a stint as manager of the theatre, during which time she was reputedly one of only three women opera house managers in the entire nation. In 1901, financial led her to sell the opera house to a Dr. J. H. Heron, who himself sold it one month later to Leadville's Elks fraternal lodge frir a purchase of $12,000. The Elks then invested $25,000 and. six months into remodelling, increasing seating capacity to nearly one-thousand and greatly enlarging the stage and backstage areas.25 As the Elks Opera House, Tabor's first theatre re-opened 26, 1901, with a staging of the musical comedy F1oradora.26 In the following years, vaudeville, melodrama, and Shakespeare would each take turns upon the stage. As an Elk property, Tabor's eldest opera house moved quietly into the twentieth century. Harriet Fish Backus, who moved to Leadville in 1913 with her husband, a mining engineer, recalled 118

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in her memoirs that the theatre was a favorite Sunday afternoon destination.27 Federal researchers preparing a 1941 Colorado travel guide by the Works Progress Administration reported that the opera house, open occasionally for tours, was still in use for "infrequent local .Evelyn Livingston a longtime Leadville resident, recalls touring the opera house shortly after arriving in Colorado in 1933, only to be dismayed to find that, despite owning an key Tabor property, the Elks had little interest in the Tabor history. Years later, when the Elks announced their intention to demolish the theatre, Mrs. Furman persuaded her mother, Florence Hollister, to assist the theatre. The transaction was completed January 12, 1955, after which the opera house was re-named for its creator. Some renovations were completed, and the theatre wa. s opened for tours and occasional productions. When Mrs. Hollister died in 1965 Mrs. Furman became sole proprietor of Leadville's Tabor Opera House. At this writing, it is still her possession, and is open for summer tours, history conferences, and amateur theater productions. The community's continually depressed economy and sma-ll population preclude more ambitious offerings, and its severe winters and remoteness from large population centers limit its accessibility to out-of-town 119

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visitors except during the summer. Thus,the theatre and the city suffer from the same restricting influences One-hundred twenty years after their births, the opera house and the mining town continue a symbiotic relationship that began ,in the 1870s; in this case, however, it is a symbiosis of trial, not triumph. Both Leadville and its Tabor Opera House survive, but the glory days are a distant memory!9 The Central Opera House encountered difficulties far earlier than Wheeler's and Tabor's theatres. Briefly the state's foremost city, Central City's gold-based prosperity had peaked in the late 1870s, before rich silver discoveries in Leadville and Aspen. The rise of those rivals coincided with a decline in gold production in Centtal City, leading to a corresponding decrease in Gilpin County's and ectinomic stability. 'An additional blow fell in 1881 with the opening of the Tabor Grand, the first serious competitor to the Central City Opera House. All other opera houses were either, like the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, too distant to compete, or, like the McClellan Opera House in Georgetown, too small .30 The elegant Tabor Grand, however, was highly attractive to performers due to its significantly greater capacity (over twice as large as the Central City theatre) and more convenient location. After only 120

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one year co-existing with the Tabor Grand, the Central City Opera House stockholders sold the to the county government for $8000 in 1882.31 county authorities purchased the theatre with the intent of making it into a courthouse, but residents, incensed by the thought of their treasured performing arts facility taking on such a plebeian role, banded together to effect a rescue. As the Gilpin County Opera House Association, they purchased the facility and continued its operation, presenting nationally-known performers whenever possible and local performers at other times. Even the newspapers j6ined "save the opera house" campaign, exhorting residents, despite the financially troubled times, to patronize all opera house productions. "Tonight," observed one report concerning a local staging of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, "this famous opera will be repeated, and those who failed to attend on Saturday evening must not let this opportunity pass to see one of the finest entertainments ever given. "32' Optimism was the major fuel for these productions, as it was for the opera house association's efforts as a whole. Although some shows were profitable (receipts for the previously mentioned Mikado staging were $232)D, the theatre's new operators learned what its first managers had already discovered: that occasional victories do 121

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not win the war. Like the town itself, the Central City Opera House entered a long period of decline. Despite earnest efforts by local residents, passing years and the harsh mountain climate took their toll upon the theatre. By 1896 (the same in which the Tabor Grand passed from its creator's hands), Central CitY'$ formerlY-elegant of the muses" needed serious restoration. Former maY9 r Peter McFarlane, who as contractor had supervised original constructiori, undertook repairs at his own expense, but the scope of the project quickly exceeded his resources. later the situation to former and Central City favorite-son Henry Teller: The roof is in bad shape, the : cei ling plastef shaky from leaky and ready to drop, the walls and ceilings have on them the of 25 years, the floors are worn out, furnaces almost unfit for use, scenery in need of entire renewal, all the stage wa11s ought to be plastered, anewflume put under the house, newly painted ---and a lot of other th i ngsought to be done.34 Here was a building needing immediate rescue, both in terms of infrastructure and operation. McFarlane, as the man who had brought the theatre lnto existence in 1878, could not now ignore it. He tackled the task at which the fifty-nine members of the Gilpin County Opera House Associat ion had fa iled. After camp let ing some renovat ions, McFarlane began operat ing 122

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the opera house, working with McCourt to bring theatrical troupes up from Denver. The enterprise proved frustrating During his first season as manager, 1898-1899, profits averaged $5.86 per show; the following season, he barely broke In 1907-8, in presenting twenty-five performances, he lost two-hundred fifty Profoundly discouraged, McFarlane his lack of success to poor economic conditions, warning one theatrical agent in 1908, "times are so dull here and mining so depressed that nearly all our theatre patrons have moved away."u Eleven years later, he offered an arithmetically faulty defense of the situation: "15% of our people died, 10% are in 25% have moved away, 35% are penniless, 15% out of employment, leaving only 10% to support amusements. "38 Indeed, in 1930, Central City's entire population of 572 could have fit into the opera house at the same time, with two-hundred seats to spare.39 Conditions finally grew so bad that during the season of 19181919, in which its very discouraged owner made the summation of percentages quoted he lost Clearly, McFarlane understood that opera houses depend upon audiences, which in Central City were increasingly difficult to procure Yet a declining population was not the only determining factor; success was also limited by a notable lack of managerial 123

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sense. A man of cultivated tastes,McFarlane booked performances of Ham1et and Othe110 despite his neighbors' expressed preference for comedies. The conflict of tastes continued when moving pictures arrived in Central City, with the opera house being outfittedfor films in and even .when the selected films had great popular appeal, he undermined his profits by admitting children Only two of the years from 1912 through 1926 were profitable for McFarlane; losses in the remainjng seasons averaged Such financial could not continue indefinitely. On New. Year's Day, 1927, .bne final movie flickered on the screen at the Central City Opera House. With the end of the final reel, the opera house doors closed, from McFarlane's never to open again. in Denver on May 1, 1929; it fell to his heirs to restore the facility. In the summer of 1929, only a few months after McFarlane's death, his daughter-in-law, Ida Kruse McFarlane, toured the old house with Walter Sinclair, director of the University of Denver Civ.ic Theatre. Sinclair had expressed a strong interest in presenting a summer theatre festival at the opera house, but the visit proved that such plans, however attractive, would have to be at least postponed, for the theatre was literally rat's nest in which plaster was peeling from the walls and most of the 124

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frescoed ceiling lay upon the floor, sabotaged by a roof that had leaked for at least twenty years. The foundation, too, was in deplorable condition due to humidity and serious erosion caused by the stream that flowed beneath the opera house. Yet with the opera house's austere facade generally intact and the unaided acoustics as clear as ever, Sinclair proceded with plans for the staging of summer dramatic festivals in Central City Mrs. McFarlane, herself a native of Central City and at one time its superintendent of schools, persuaded family members to donate the theatre to the of Denver, conditional upon the opera house being restored to summer operation. All parties realized, however,that performances could not be staged before extensive renovations were completed, and renovations would require funding beyond the resources of the university. Mrs. McFarlane joined with Anne Evans, patron of the arts and daughter of Colorado's first territorial governor, to begin an ambitious I campaign aimed at Denver's elite and those descended from Colorado pioneers, that is, McFarlane's and Evans' peers. The campaign was launched during the unauspicious early days of the Depression, yet enough of its targeted sources were fiscally stable that about $12,000 was contributed, thanks to McFarlane's energy and Evans' social cachet. A new roof was soon installed, 125

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the rotting foundation was stabilized, and re-painting an, d re plastering were completed. Denver artist Allen True, who, like McFarlane and Evans was associated with the university, undertook recreation of the frescoes, with enough success that a Theatre Arts Monthly reporter called it lithe work of a master:" It is rich and gay, alive and beautiful. It makes you feel that you are "going to the theatre." And it seems to me to have the rarest of qualities, and the one least to be expected in a mining camp in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the quality of The writer, Charles Bayly, Jr., closed his article by praising the upcoming summer dramatic festival, 'and by labelling Central City "an American Sa lzburg. 114 6 In apparent real izat ion that the comparison of Mozart's birthplace to a dusty mining town verging on ghosthood might seem preposterous, Bayly queried rhetorica lly, "Is that idea more visionary and fantastic than the erection of the theatre in the first place?"v The re-opening of the Central City Opera on July 16th, 1932, rivalled its 1878 opening for grandeur. One Denver paper called it "probably the most brilliant social event in half a century of Colorado history; ,,48 Another reported exuberantly that the "the days of gold and glory back Saturday to the little Kingdom of Gilpin.,,49 Members of Denver society attended in elaborate costumes of the Gold Rush days, gracing the streets 126

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of Central City with bustles and beaver hats for the first time in a generation; some even masqueraded as historic personages, such as Baby Doe Tabor or Ulysses S. Grant. Even opera house employees were appropriately garbed for the era. The evening's dramatic offering, Dumas' tragic Camille, was chosen as a period piece that would evoke an elegant age, that would, according to one newspaper report, "typify to perfection the things that the gay crowds of the '80s loved in the Newspaper accounts of the evening also invoked the Gold Rush days, sometimes with overt references to 1878, at other times by reviving, or not, the effusive rhetoric that was so prominent in that era's reporting. One anonymous Denver reporter mastered that florid approach in this recollection of the opera house bu ilders: They tore stones from the patient 'hills which h 'unch their shoulders above this city of steep streets that is Central City. Behind big horses and tiny burros, they hauled them down the slopes, laid them stone upon stone, firmly cemented them against the scratchings of the fingers of time. Thus, they built for themselves an opera house. They built not for themselves. They built, these zealous pathfinders of Colorado, for their children and their children's children. They wove into the rugged fabric of this frontier theater something of the eternalness of the hills from which the stones of its wa 11 s were dug. 51 That passage might have been written by a reporter in 1878, for it not only does it capture the spirit of journalism of the day, 127

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but also recalls the pride felt throughout Central City when the elaborate new opera house proved their prominence to Colorado and the nation. Despite the notable parallels, significant differences exist between the opera house's initial opening and its second birth. In 1878, Central City residents, including Francis Young and his wife, took to the stage, whereas in 1932, the footlights shone upon L i11ian Gish and other nationally known stars. Additionally, although opera house construction funding came from donations by ordinary local residents, the revival was bankrolled by wealthy, well-intentioned outsiders who had adopted the task of, as Time Magazine termed it, "blowing upon the cold ashes of the old-time mining boom town."52 Those cold asheswere gradually rekind1e d into a small but steady flame, which, as it grew, warmed both admirers of the opera house and the town's remaining residents. However, despite the benefits derived, and despite Central City's own limited resources, insufficient to bring about its own renaissance, the presence of wealthy Denverites in Gilpin County was long a source of local resentment. Writing in 1949, Muriel Sibel1 Wolle observed that residents were "a little exasperated by all the fanfare and commercialism that exists during the theatre years later, Daniel Rule, general manager of 128

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the Opera House Association since 1985, acknowledges a certain "ambivalent love-hate However, continuing success of the summer theatre festival, which added operetta to its schedule in 1933, and in 1940 began presenting actual operas, that is, those without spoken dialog, eventually convinced most residents that the new opera house managers were also a part of the community, thatthey, like the theatre's builders, viewed it as a symbol worth saving. Another transfiguration stimulated by exterior influences occurred iri Aspen, where the Wheeler Opera House had since being gutted by fire in 1912. The triwn itself had fallen on similarly hard times with the closure of virtually all its mining activities.' Mining production, which in 1889 totalled nearly $10,000,000, fell below $1,000,000 in 1908, and dropped further with the flooding of the Smuggler and-Free Silver mines in As mines closed, the work force In 1900, takers counted 3303 Aspen residents, barely one-quarter of the city's peak before the Panic of 1893. Ten years later, the population had declined to 1834; by 1940, only 777 residents remained to recall the glory Like Central City, Aspen had too little capital and too few .., \ 129

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residents to draw upon for a self-stimulated recovery. However, Aspen had one remaining vital commodity: abundant snowfall. The original silver miners had cursed the region's winter, which was so severe as to prevent mining activities for five months each year, yet alpine skiers found a use for all that snow, and one particular skier .changed Aspen forever. In 1939, Elizabeth Nitze Paepcke, wife of Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke, brought a group of friends from ranch near Denver to Aspen for a skiing excursion. In a newspaper interview years later, Mrs. Paepcke recalled the town as it was then: No one drove a car the ruts in the road were too deep. There was no such thing as a snow plow. We walked or rode horseback over every inch. The grocery, Beck and Bishop, was in the opera house, and only open 11 to 2. Most of the town operated on a barter and trade system because there was no money. 57 Aspen's unpretentious atmosphere charmed the cultured, educated Chicagoan, who at once determined to bring her husband to Aspen, but World War Two gas rationing delayed those plans. Not until 1945 was Elizabeth able to bring Walter to Aspen. Paepcke, too, delighted in the community, and even purchased a home three days after arriving in Aspen. It was intended to be a vacation home, not a primary residence, yet Paepcke's interest in the area went beyond the usual degree of attention granted to rural retreats. In Aspen, he envisioned a utopian community of culture and ideas, far exceeding the most ambitious plans of Wheeler-and-Company. 130

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A confident bus inessman who headed the Conta iner Corporat ion of America and served as a director of Encyclopedia Britannica, Paepcke was not reluctant to make his intentions public. Later that summer, in a front-page story headlined "Industrialist has big plans for Aspen, II the Denver Post reported that PaepcKe was considering instituting a summer music festival in the old mining That plan, sufficiently ambitious in itself, soon was supplanted by a new goal of even greater scope. Paepcke intended to create a community.that would, in his own words, "provide opportunities for man's complete life ---to earn a livelihood, to enjoy nature and physical recreation, and to have available facilities for Of those multiple goals, education waS Paepcke's primary concern. In 1949, he and his associates organized the Goethe Bicenterinial Convocation and Music Festival, a sympos ium of the arts and ideas intended to restore German tultureto respectability in the wake of anti-German sentiments that dominated the post-war years. The convocation was attended by the world's most notable figures, amongst them humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, who, in an address to his fellow attendees, advised, "it is for us to open our eyes, to realize our immediate duties, and to carry them out. In doing this we become able to see what tasks still remain to be done."w 131

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From its beginnings in 1949, the festival continued each ensuing summer to the present day, gradually dividing into two related institutions: the Aspen Music Festival, devoted to the performing arts, and the Aspen Institute, which focused on ideas. As an additional enterprise, Paepcke founded the Aspen Company, which set about expanding a few ski slopes into a major resort. Paepcke's diverse interests and influences led to the creation of a four-season recreational and intellectual retreat, arising from the corpse of a mining metropolis. By 1956, one newspaper had already labelled the ambitious industrialist "the Mr. Big of all th i ngs i nvo 1 v i ng Aspen. "61 liMy husband," asserted Eli zabeth Paepcke, "never thought Over the decades, his efforts produced a highly cultured community that, though remote from all population centers, stands on the agendas of prominent people of diverse diciplines. "What sets Aspen apart," says its current mayor, John Bennett, "is the presence of artistic, intellectual, and resources, a major city's worth of resources in a town' of seven-thousnd Those resources were developed in Aspen at the urging of Walter Paepcke. Paepcke" s plans required physical facilities. One of the first btiildings to attract his attention was the Wheeler Opera House, on which he took a twenty-five year lease in 1946. The 132

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lease stipulated that, within seven years, Paepcke's newly-formed Aspen Company would spend no less than twenty-thousand dollars on repairs and restoration to the fire-gutted auditorium and stage facilities.54 Fortunately, most of the damage was limited to the third floor performance space; the building itself was structurally sound and housed retail. stores. Sufficient repairs were completed quickly to permit usage of the facility. Burl Ives performed at the Wheeler in 1947, and Lowell Thomas hosted several broadcasts there. Classical music also returned to the aged opera house, on an even more ambitious scale than in Aspen's glory days, for the youthful Aspen Music Festival quickly attracted the most respected names in music. From performances by the renowned Juilliard String Quartet to the staging of operas by composers Darius Milhaud and Benjamin Britten, the Wheeler Opera House of the twentieth century far exceeded the imagination of its nineteenth century creator. Clearly, however, a far more thorough restoration would be required before the Wheeler could be completely useful by modern standards. The major problem was one of Aspen, silver queen of the 1880s, had four times the population of 1980s Aspen, but in the modern day, tourists were also a factor, and the opera house, seating fewer than five-hundred patrons, was far too small 133

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for the demand. Moreover, its stage and orchestra pit could only accommodate the most minuscule ensembles. Although chamber music was possible, a grand opera would never work. Another problem was not merely inconvenient, but was in fact perilous. The opera house's technical equipment, notable and lighting and rigging, was highly suspect, derided by one acoustics expert as "extremely antiquated, totally inadequate, potentially In such a dilapidated facility, one could hardly ask internationally renowned performers to put forth their best efforts. Renovation plans began in the late 1970s. After a lengthy search for of which was provided by the Music Festival, extensive renovations were undertaken in 1981. After an expenditure of $4.5 million, the theatre's operators reopened the facility with a series of musical, theatrical, and cinematic performances in May of 1984. Restored to crimson-and-gold glory, the Wheeler Opera House has become emblematic of Aspen, both of the today of its illustrious It outlived its creator and even outlasted its great competitor, the Tabor Grand Opera House, to become, like its Central City sister, a reminder of the heritage wrought of gold and silver. Today, the surviving historic opera houses combine Colorado's past and present. ***** 134

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Notes for Chapter Eight: Deaths and Transfigurations 1. Schulze, Suzanne. "A Century of the Colorado Census." University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado. 1976, with additions p. 1890-7, p. 1900-9, p. 1880-5, p. 1900-7 2. Aspen Times,I. 2/19/1985: 3. Repertory information comes from various issues of the Aspen Weekly Times and the Aspen Democrat-Times throughout 1912. 4. The 19)0 census placed Aspen's population at 1834. Schulze, p. 1910-17. 5. Aspen Democrat-Times, 11/13/1912. 6. ibid, 11/21/1912. 7. ibid. 8. ibid, 7/13/1912. 9. ibid, 11/21/1912. 10. Adams, Allen John. "Peter McCourt, Jr., and the Silver Circuit, 1889-1910: an Historical and Biographical Study." Ph.D dissertation for University of Utah. 1969. p. 73. 11. Adams, p. 76. 12. Adams, p. 91. 13. Technically, McCourt was not the manager of the Tabor Grand from September 1904 to May 1907. During that period; his wife managed the theatre. McCourt had signed the position over to her as a legal ploy when confronted with a lawsuit. Immediately after resolution of the suit, McCourt resumed management, yet even while officially out of power, he served his wife's advisor. Adams, p. 146ff. 135

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14. Although popularly known, both then and now, as "Baby Doe," Elizabeth McCourt Doe Tabor was not called "Baby by Horace. After all, the "Doe" portion of her name was a relict of her first husband, Harvey Doe; her second husband would not have cared to reta 11 that man's ex i stence. Horace's letters make clear that his nickname for his second wife was "Baby." 15. Johnson, Forrest Hall. Denver's Old Theater Row: The Story of Curtis Street and its Glamorous Show Business. Denver: B. Lay Litho. 1970. p. 42 16. Ferril, Thomas Hornsby. New -York Times Book Review and Magazine, "Playhouse Made Famous by Eugene Field," May 15, 1921. 17. H.; p. 42-43. 18. Denver Daily News, 9/6/188l. 19. Rocky 'Mountain News, 8/30/1945. 20. Denver Post, 9/28/1961. 21. ibid, 1/17/1957; ,22. Rocky Mountain 12/4/i964. The reporter was Marjorie Barrett. 23. Denver Post, 10/9/1964 24. Leadvi77e Herald Democrat, 3/21/1893. 25. ibid,p. 16-18. 26. Contemporary newsp.apersconfirm that the Elks purchased and the in 1901. However, the WPA Guide to 1930s Colorado gives the year as 1905. 27. Backus, Harriet Fish. Tomboy Bride. Boulder: Pruett Press. 1969. p. 245. ,-28. The WPA Guide to 1930's Colorado. Lawrence: Press of Kansas. 1987, with an introduction by Thomas J. Noel. Originally published as Colorado: A Guide to the Highest State. Hastings House: 1941. p. 179. 29. Personal with Evelyn Livingston Furman, 9/21/1993. 136

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30. The McClellan Opera House in Georgetown, built in 1869, was the earliest opera house built specifically for that purpose. As such, it deserves lengthy consideration in this study, but that is prevented by a faulty historical record. On January 10, 1892, the McClellan burned to the ground, taking with it virtually all records and archives. Photographs were also destroyed. Other than glimpses of corners of the building in photographs of the town, there is not even good evidence of its appearance, let alone its history. 31. Axford, H. William. Gilpin County Gold: Peter McFarlane 1849-J929. Mining Entrepreneur. in Central City, Colorado. Chicago: Sage Books/Swallow Press Inc. 1976. p. 118. 32. Central City Daily Register, 2/17/1890. ibid. 34. Axford, p. 120. The flume to which McFarlane refers was built to contain Eureka Creek, which flowed beneath the opera house. The presence of this creek further complicated McFarlane's task, for he not only had to deal with the stream itself, he had to contend with rotting foundation by the increased humidity. Not until the 1990s was the problem adequately addressed. 35. ibid, p. 123. 36. ibid, p. 125. 37. ibid 38. ibid, p. 130. 39. Schulze, p. 40. Johnson, Charli e H, Jr. The Central City Opera House: A 100 Year History. Colorado Springs: little London Press. 1980. p. 31. 41. Axford, p. 126. 42. Johnson, C. H., Jr. p. 33. 43. Axford, p. 129. 137

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44. Johnson, C. H. Jr., p. 39. Allen Young's more recent book also details the revival of the Central City Opera House, but unfortunately, his statements are not always so his book is neither cited nor consulted 45. Bayly, Charles, Jr. liThe Opera House at Central City." Theatre Arts Monthly. Vol. XVI. New York, 1932. p. 208. 46. ibid. 47. ibid. 48. Rocky Mountain News, 7/17/1932. 49. Denver Post, 7/17/1932. The reporter was Lawrence Martin 50. ibid. 51. ibid. 52. Time Magazine, "Revival in the Rockies." 8/14/1933. 53. Wolle, Muriel Sibelle Stampede to Timberline: the Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Colorado. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press. 1949. p. 28. 54. Personal interview with Daniel Rule, 10/20/93. 55. Rohrbough, Malcolm J. Aspen: the History of a Si7verMining Town, 1879-1893. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1986. p. 228. 56 Schulze. p. 1900-9, p. 1910-17, p. 1940-14. 57. Denver Post, "Aspen's First Lady, II 11/4/1990, interview with Joanne Ditmer. 58. Denver Post, 8/26/1945. 59. Hyman, Sidney. The Aspen Idea. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1975. p. 36. 60. ibid, p. 84. 61. Rocky Mountain News, 7/8/1956. 138

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62. Denver Post, 11/4/1990. 63. Personal interview with John Bennett, 2/2/94. 64. Rocky Mountain News, 6/1/1946. 65. memo from Christopher Jaffe of Jaffe Acoustics, Inc., of Connecticut and Colorado, to Edgar Stern, chairman of the Aspen Community Facilities Board, 1/25/1975, in the collection of the Aspen Historical Society. 66. Unless otherwise specified, information about the revival of the Wheeler Opera House was provided by the facility's current executive director, Robert Murray, in a personal interview 5/27/1994. 139

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CHAPTER NINE THE CURTAIN FALLS The varied origins and fates of Colorado's historic opera houses clarify the diversity of conditions in those communities, as well as the ways in which those conditions gradually altered. In the course of this study, tt has been shown that opera houses came about in many ways, erected perhaps by local groups, as in Central City, or by area tycoons, as in Leadville arid Denver, or by absentee landlords, as in Aspen: An fou-r faci 1 it ies profiled in this study endured waves of ever-varying economic conditions, rising and falling as the communities themselves rose and fell. Two theatres eventually found new life, one clings to existence, and one, the grandest of all, has passed away. The destruction of Denver's Tabor Grand eighty-three years after its gala opening proves how greatly attitudes toward the arts changed from Tabor's to more recent For Tabor and his cronies, Veblen's theories concerning "conspicuous consumption" held true; visible wealth was the one sure means of buoying ohe's reputation. Veblen's assertion that "the only practicable means of impressing one's pecuniary ability on 140

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these unsympathetic observers of one's everyday life is an unremitting demonstration of ability to pay" would ha"ve met with no argument from wealthy men who purchased their respectability by acquiring elegant accoutrements of Eastern culture.l Opera houses were a key part of that culture. Eight decades later, Colorado's community leaders were still emulating Eastern cities, just as Tabor and others had done in their own generation, but the trends they imported from New York and Boston no longer related to culture. The new game was urban renaissance, and in that context, the Tabor Grand was a liability. Rather than representing the finer side of life, as it had at its auspicious debut, the elegant old theatre now stood for regressiveness, for an obsession with the past, and the past had become a pejorative term. The opera house gave way because the high culture that it had represented was no longer esteemed, and because the concepts that were now valued, notably those of fast money and rapid growth, conflicted with its existence. Ultimately, the real estate on which the Tabor Grand stood was considered to be of more value than the history and culture that it represented. Thus, the famed opera house in which Emma Abbott and Adelina Patti had sung ended its days, the forlorn victim of a unsympathetic wrecking ball. 141

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The Tabor Grand's high country sisters in Leadville, Aspen and Central City survived the same period of changing values only because of severely depresseo local economies. In an age defined by declining populations, there was no reason to tear down an old theatre, for no one even dreamt of building anything new. With no other prospective use for the land on which the opera houses stood, even Aspen's fire-gutted Wheeler Opera House could endure. Thus, the mountain theatres survived more through neglect than through actual intent. No one was actively seeking to preserve them, but no one sought to destroy them, either, which permitted their continued existence until such time as saviors did appear. Yet as the twentieth century began, even these aging theatres, built as a stately embodiment of local pride, became peripheral to the community's identity. No longer did regional newspapers extoll the IItemple of the muses, II the IIperfect bijou, II the opera house IIfit to be the amusement hall for the kings of earth. liZ The historic opera houses, though still actively occupied, had declined so far in prominence that their upcoming productions earned only the briefest media mentions. Far more attention was granted to optimistic rumors of renewed mining, of 142

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escalations in silver and gold prices, of Colorado minerals seeking out new markets. The opera house, a once-grand symbol of prosperity, fell from popularity even as prosperity itself declined. Perhaps the theatres were an unwelcome reminder of more propitious days, of a time when Central City could, 1n all seriousness, compare itself to Boston. Yet another possibility is that of necessary sacrifice. A mining community fighting for its 1 ife can spare no init iat ive for luxuries. A grand opera house may represent one's public image, but sometimes "image" must be sacrificed in favor of survivai. Colorado's most admired opera houses suffered unavoidable declines. Those that have returned to life did so because their communities came to again esteem the old theatres, partially for their symbolic value, as they were originally treasured, but also for economic reasons. Aspen and Central City discovered that an opera house attracts audiences, not merely those who attend the opera productions, but also those who are interested in historic buildings. An Aspen Visitor's Center survey determined in the mid 1980s that summer visitors cited the Wheeler Opera House as the second most important reason to -visit the region, surpassed only by the spectacularly scenic Maroon Bells mountains.) In Central City, business owners appreciated the importance of 756 143

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opera patrons visiting the town seven times a week throughout the summer. Since 1992, those opera patrons have been outnumbered by gambling patrons, who arrived in force with the legalization of limited-stakes gambling. Yet for six full decades, from 1932 to 1992, the Central City Opera House was the dominant financial force in the community. Opera, it seems, was good for business, yet there would have been no opera without Francis Young and his friends, who believed so strongly in the value of the performing arts that they financed and constructed the opera house which would ultimately stimulate Central City's renaissance. Recent surveys have shown that Central City and Aspen are not the only communities in which the performing arts have proven to be financially beneficial. The Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities (now the Colorado Council on the Arts) determined in 1989 that the economic impact of arts organizations increased significantly in the last decade. According to survey results, arts organizations poured $104.5 million into the state economy. When collateral effects, such as the personal, every-day spending of those -employed in the arts, are included; the total impact of Colorado's arts industry in 1989 was $238.8 million. The total impact in 1982 had been only $118.7 million. Thus, the survey's 1989 figure represented an increase of over one-hundred percent 144

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during a period in which the consumer price index increased only 21.8 percent.4 Colorado's economy had declined with the end of an energy boom, yet the arts continued to thrive, playing an ever increasing role in the state's economy. Other studies report results similarly supportive of the arts. In 1993, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA) surveyed Denver metropo 1 i tan area arts, cu 1 tura 1, and scientific organizations. The survey of ninety-six organizations, including orchestras, theatres, and museums, detailed spending by the arts organizations on personnel, operations, and capital purchases, as well as ancillary spending by arts patrons (on, for example, purchase of a new suit or dinner at a restaurant prior to a night at the opera), ultimately reaching a total economic impact figure of $461 million in 1992.5 Because the CBCA survey was far more comprehensive than the Arts Council survey, encompassing more diverse organizations, its results far exceed those previously cited. However, an overview of participating organizations shows that, by total income, seventeen percent of those groups surveyed were music, theatre, or dance organizations. An additional thirty-four percent were "multi-disciplinary" presenters offering music, dance, and theatre, amongst other activities (just as the original opera 145

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houses hosted diverse events).6 Since, by income, fifty-one percent of the organizations participating in the CBCA survey were related to the performing arts, then it is reasonable to credit $235.11 million of the total economic impact of the arts in metropolitan ,Denver to the performing arts, a figure that shows significant growth of the impact of the arts in Denver 'in the four years since the Arts Council's 1989 survey. Moreover, those organizations surveyed by the CBCA, though non-profit and largely tax-exempt, paid $65 million in local payroll, seat, and sales taxes, and their nearly four-thousand employees paid $29 million in taxes to local and state governments.7 Although these figures are not solely drawn from performing arts organizations, they do indicate clearly that cultural activities,such as those so valued by Tabor's contemporaries, have a strong impact on an economy. That the general public is aware of this importance was shown on November 8, 1994, when metropolitan Denver voters voted by a fifty-seven to forty-three percent margin to renew a sales tax to benefit the arts.s In the 1870s and 1880s, Coloradans constructed opera houses to prove their claims to culture, to establish for themselves a prominent place in contemporary society. In the 1990s, the arts have yielded center stage to less cultured activities, notably, 146

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though not exclusively, sports. On athletic shoulders ride the hopes of a community, which derives nation-wide respect through its team's victories (and derision through its failures), just as, in an earlier age, a fine theatre brought glory to Central City or Leadville. With the rising profile of sports, performing arts facilities no longer symbolize an entire community. Yet despite stepping from the spotlight, music and the arts are still both popular and economically critical. The CBCA report showed that 7.3 million patrons visited cultural organization in 1993. If the previous adjustment of fifty-one percent is used, then 3.7 million patrons indulged in the performing arts. By comparison, 5.8 milliori spectators attended professional football, baseball, and basketball events.9 Given the far higher profile of sports, it is significant that the performing arts were able to score sixty-four percent of the sporting audience. Nearly four million patrons cannot be ignored. Although a city's reputation is no longer dependent on its performing arts, its economic prosperity still can be buoyed by Verdi and Mozart, as has been proven by ColoradQ's existing opera companies, prominent amongst them the Central City Opera and Opera Colorado, and by such performance facilities as Aspen's Wheeler Opera House. As Horace Tabor sensed over a century ago 147

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when he built a theatre to promote his other Denver endeavors, the performing arts are good for business, even business beyond the artistic realm. Both statistics and tradition suggest that contemporary society is short-sighted to ignore this situation. Tabor's belief in the financial importance of the performing arts has been validated recently in Aspen and in Central City. Other communities might do well to follow suit, for even at the close of the twentieth century, one can still build an opera house that may prove, in years to come, to be a valuable investment. ***** Notes for Chapter Nine: The Curtain Falls 1. Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. New York: MacMillan, 1899 Reprinted by Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973, with introduction by John Kenneth Galbraith. p. 71. 2. Central City Evening Call, 3/5/1878, concerning the Central CityOpera House; Aspen Weekly Times, 4/27/1889, concerning the Wheeler Opera House; Denver Daily News, 9/6/1881, concerning the Tabor Grand Opera House. 3. Personal interview with Robert Murray, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House, 5/27/1994. 4. Co lorado Counc i 1 on the Arts and Human i ties report, "The Arts Mean Business," released 1990. 5. Colorado Business Committee for the Arts. "The Economic Impact of the Arts in Metropolitan Denver," November 1993. p. 2. 148

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6. ibid, p. 10. 7. ibid, p. 22. 8. The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District was approved by voters in 1988. A sales tax of one-tenth of one percent was collected in a six-county region, and distributed to various arts groups in pro port i on to the size of the i r operat i ng budgets. From 1989 through 1994, $95 million was raised for the SCFD. The 1994 vote renewed the tax though 2006. Statistics cited are taken from Rocky Mountain News, p. 45A. 9. Rocky Mountain News, 11/18/93. 149

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Bibliography Published sources: Axford, H. William. Gilpin County Gold: Peter McFar7ane, 1848-1929, Mining Entrepreneur in Centra7 City, Colorado. Chicago: Sage Books. 1976. Backus, Harriet Fish. Tomboy Bride. Boulder: Pruett Press. 1969. Bancroft, Caroline. .Gulch of Gold: A History of Central City, Colorado. Denver: Sage Books. 1958. Bird, Isabella L. A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press. 1960. First published 1879. Brettell, Richard R. Historic Denver: The Architects and the Architecture, 1858-1893. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc. 1973. Byers, William N., and Jno. H. Kellam. A Handbook to the Gold Fields of Nebraska and Kansas. Chicago: D. B. Cooke New York: Derby and Jackson. 1859. Dizikes, John. Opera in America: A Cultural History. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1993. Dorsett, Lyle W., and McCarthy, Michael. The Queen City: A History of Denver. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company. 1986, second edition. Dyer, John L. Snow-Shoe Itinerant: The Autobiography of the Reverend John L. Dyer. Cincinnati: Cranston and Stowe. 1890. Re-issued 1975 by Father Dyer United Methodist Church, Breckenridge, Colorado. Fa ithfull, Emily. Three Vi sits to America. Edinburgh: David Douglas. 1884. Foote, Mary Hallock. A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West: the Reminiscences of Mary Hallock Foote. San Marino, California: Huntington Library. 1972. Edited with an introduction by Rodman W Paul. Fossett, Frank. Colorado: its Gold and Silver Mines, Farms and Stock Ranges, and Health and Pleasure Resorts. Tourist's Guide to the Rocky Mountains. New York: C. G. Crawford. 1879. Reprinted New York: Arno Press. 1973. 150

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Furman, Evelyn E. Livingston. Tabor, Leadville's First Lady. My Search for Augusta Pierce Denver: Quality Press. 1993. -__ The Tabor Opera House: A Captivating History. Leadville, Colorado. 1972. Greeley, Horace. An Overland Journey from New York to San Franci sco in the Summer of 1859. New York: C. M. Saxton, Barker, and Company. San Francisco: H. H. Bancroft and Company. 1860. Haber, Francine; Fuller, Kenneth R.; Wetzel, David N. Robert S. Roeschlaub: Architect of the Emerging West, 1843-1923. Denvr: Colorado Historical Society. 1988. Hyman, Sidney. The Aspen Idea. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1975. Jackson, Helen Hunt. Bits of Travel at Home. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1894. Johnson, Charles A. Opera in the Rockies: The History of the Central City Opera House. Central City Opera House Association. 1992. Johnson, Jr., Charlie H. The Central City Opera House: A 100 Year History. Colorado Springs: Little London Press. 1980. _________ H.A.W. Tabor and his Leadville Opera House. Denver: Tower 1980. Johnson, Forrest Hall. Denver's Old Theater Row: The Story of Curtis Street and its Glamorous Show Business. Denver: B. Lay Litho. 1970. Leonard Stephen J., and Noel, Thomas J. Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado. 1990. Lewis, Lloyd, and Smith, Henry. Oscar Wilde Discovers America. New York: Harcourt Brace. 1936. Moynihan, Betty. Augusta Tabor: A Pioneering Woman. Evergreen: Cordillera Press, Inc. 1988. Noel, Thomas J. City and the Saloon: Denver, 1858-1916. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1982. Noel, Thomas J., and Norgren, Barbara S. Denver: The City Beautiful. Denver: Historic Denver, Inc. 1987. 151

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Richardson, Albert D. Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the 'Great Ocean. Hartford: American Publishing Company. 1867. Rinehart, Frederick R., ed. Chronicles of Colorado. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, Inc. 1984. Rohrbough, Malcolm F. Aspen: The History of a Silver Mining Town, 1879-1893. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1986. Schoberlin, Melvin. From Candles to Footlights: A Biography of the Pike's Peak Theatre, 1859-1876. Denver: Old West Publishing Compa ny 1941-Schwarm, Betsy. Central City Opera: Looking Back over Sixty Years. Central City Opera House Association. 1992. Smith, Duane A. Horace Tabor: His Life and Legend. Niwot: University Press of Colorado. 1989. ______ Rocky Mountain Mining Camps: The Urban Frontier. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press. 1967. Taylor, Bayard. Colorado: A Summer Trip New York: Putnam. 1867. Re-issued 1989. Niwot: Press of Colorado. Teller, Henry M. "Speech of Hon. Henry M. Teller of Colorad6, in the Senate of the United States, Saturday, January 12, 1895." Washington, D. C. 1895. Tierney, Luke. History of the G07d Discoveries on the South Platte River, to which is appended a guide of the route by Smith and Oaks. Pacific City, Iowa: A.' Thomson. 1859. Ubbelohde, Carl, and. Benson, Maxine, and Smith, Duane A. A C070rado History. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company. 1988, sixth edition. Ubbe 1 ohde, Carl, ed. A Co lorado Reader. Publishing Company. 1962/1973. Boulder: Pruett Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. New York: MacMillan, 1899. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973, with introduction by John Kenneth Galbraith. Wade, Richard C. The Urban Frontier: Pioneer Life in Early Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Lexington, Louisvil1e, and St. Louis. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. First published Harvard University Press. 1959. 152

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Wharton, J. E. History of the City of Denver from its earliest settlement to the present time. Denver: Byers and Dailey, Printers. 1866. Includes city business directory prepared by D. o. Wilhelm. The WPA Guide to 1930's Colorado. Lawrence:' University Press of Kansas. 1987. [Originally published as Colorado: A Guide to the Highest State. Hastings House: 1941.] Young, Allen. Opera in Central City. Self-published. 1993. Young, Francis Crissey. Echoes From Arcadia: the story of Central City, as told by .one of "The Clan." Denver: Lansing Bros. 1903. [Written in 1880, this rare book exists on microfilm in the Denver Public Library Western History collection.] .Unpublished academic material: Adams, Allen John. II Peter McCourt, Jr. and the Silver Theatrical Circuit, 1889-1910: An Historical and Biographical Study. Ph.D dissertation for University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. 1969. Crowley, Elmer S. "History of the Tabor Grand Opera House, Colorado, 18S1-1891." thesis for Univefsity of Denver, Denver; Colorado. 1940. Degitz, Dorothy. "History of the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, from 1879 to 1905." Master's thesis for Western State College, Gunnison; 1935. Draper, Benjamin P. "Colorado Theatres: 1859-1969." Ph.D dissertation for University of Denver, 1969. In five vdlumes. Gern, Jesse William. "Colorado Mountain Theatre: HistorY of Theatre at Central City, 1859-1885." Ph.D dissertation for Ohio State University, 1960. Schulze, Suzanne. "A Century of the Colorado Census." University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Colorado. 1976, with additions. Shaw, Bertha Louise. "History of the Opera House: 1889-1894. II Master's thes i s for Western State Co 11 ege, Gunn i son, Colorado. 1940. 153

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Unpublished archival material: Aspen Historical Society archives, Wheeler collection, including an autobiography by Jerome B. Wheeler. Central City Opera House Association archives. Colorado Historical Society archives, including the scrapbooks of Elizabeth McCourt "Baby Doe" Tabor and the papers of Augusta Tabor, as well as federal census records and city directories. Colorado Historical Society Office of Historic Preservation, for information concerning National Historic Register nominations. Denver Pub 1 ic Library Western History Department files, including theatre program files, newspapers, and collections on the Central City Opera House, the Tabor Grand Opera House, the Wheeler Opera House, and the Tabor Opera House in Leadville. Gilpin County Historical Society, for information about Central City's early days. Lake County Public Library census prepared by Historical Research Cooperative, Leadville, Colorado, in 1984. University of Denver archives, Central City Opera House collection. Personal interviews: John Bennett, mayor of Aspen, February 2, 1994, by telephone. Evelyn Livingston Furman, owner of the Leadville Tabor Opera House, September 21, 1993, at Mrs. Furman's home in Leadville. Robert Murray, executive director of the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, May 27, 1994, at Mr. Murray's office. Daniel Rule, general manager of the Central City Opera House Association, November 11, 1993, at the Denver offices of CCOHA. Duane A. Smith, Colorado historian and Tabor authority, October 26, 1993, at the Colorado Historical Society in Denver. 154

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Magazines: Bayly, Jr., Charles. "The Opera House at Central City." Theatre Arts Monthly. March 1932. Davidson, levette J. "Shakespeare in the Rockies." Shakespeare Quarterly 4:1. January 1953. Degitz, Dorothy M. "History of the Tabor Opera House at Leadville." Colorado Magazine 13:4. May 1936. Perrigo, Lynn. "The First Two Decades of Central City Theatricals." Colorado Magazine 11:141-52. July 1934. Teetor, Henry D. "The Silver Theatrical Circuit, or All the World's a Stage." Magazine of Western History XIII November 1890-April 1891: 740-742. Time Magazine. "Revival in the Rockies." August 14, 1933, p. 28. No author named. Newspapers: Aspen: Aspen Daily Times, Aspen Central City: Central City Daily Register, City Weekly Register, Central City Evening Ca77. c ... Denver: Denver Post, Denver Repub77 can, Denver Da11 y Times, Denver Tribune, Denver Tribune-Republican, Denver World, Rocky Mountain News. Leadville: Leadville Daily Chronicle, Leadville Daily Herald, Leadville Herald-Democrat, Leadville Weekly Herald, Leadville Daily Democrat, Leadville Evening Chronicle. New York: New York Times Book Review, New York Dramatic Mirror ***** 155