By Susan Eberman – For Antique Trader
Founded in 1858 as a supply town for miners, Colorado’s capital city is now the largest urban area within a 600-mile radius. This vibrant 21st century city is surrounded with awesome natural attractions that provide opportunities for all types of outdoor activities.
Born in Hannibal, Mo., Margaret Tobin moved to the silver-mining town of Leadville, Colo., in 1885 when she was 18 years old. A year later she married miner J.J. Brown, with whom she would start a family in a two-room cabin. In 1893, gold became the only metal to back U.S. currency, so the silver market tumbled. Brown persevered until he struck a huge vein of gold. In 1894, the Brown family moved to a 7,600-square-foot Victorian mansion in Denver.
Never accepted by high-society matrons in spite of her immense wealth, flamboyant Margaret Brown became an extraordinary fundraiser for many charities, a social activist and a world traveler. Returning from Europe in 1912 on the Titanic, she would row a lifeboat for more than 7 hours, saving many hysterical passengers. When she arrived in New York aboard a rescue ship, Margaret was surrounded by reporters and was asked to what she attributed her survival.
“Typical Brown luck,” she replied. “We’re unsinkable.” This quote stuck, and she was immortalized in stage productions and a movie as the Unsinkable Molly Brown, even though she always preferred to be called Margaret.
The Brown home was sold after her death in 1932, and subsequent owners were not able to maintain it properly. In the 1970s, a group of civic leaders banded together to restore the residence. Today, the Molly Brown Historic Home is managed by Historic Denver Inc. Granite lions guard the entrance where visitors flock to admire lavish Victorian furnishings including many pieces that belonged to the Browns. During the summer of 2006, special events and an exhibit, The Roaring Twenties, celebrate a special time in the life of Molly Brown.
Embracing the changes that came after World War I, she began acting in stage productions, driving her new automobile and living a privileged life in Newport and Paris. Art Deco furniture, jewelry and elegant fashions are displayed along with liquor bottles, jazz records and photographs that represent the nightlife of the era.
The Byers-Evans House was built in 1883 by newspaper editor William Byers. His family lived there for six years before it was sold to William Evans, an officer of the Denver Tramway Co. The home was in the Evans family for three generations before the Colorado Historical Society took ownership. View a 20-minute film of Denver’s history to learn more about these important families. Then admire this magnificently restored Italianate home, furnished just as it would have been from 1912 to 1924.
The Museo de las Americas is the only museum in the Rocky Mountain region showcasing the heritage of Latinos in America. Other noteworthy specialized museums include the Mizel Museum of Judaica, Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, Forney Museum of Transportation, Black American West & Heritage Center, Stiles African-American Heritage Center, Denver Firefighters Museum, Colorado Railroad Museum and the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys. Note: The Denver Art Museum is currently closed for major renovations.
At 10,200 feet above sea level, Leadville has been dubbed “The Two-Mile-High City.” Its rich mining history and exciting former residents such as Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, the Cole-Younger gang and the Unsinkable Molly Brown make it one of America’s most-visited historic districts.
One colorful story from this mining town involves Horace A.W. Tabor, who moved here with his wife, Alberta, in 1859. Silver from the Matchless Mine made Tabor very rich. In what would be known as the most-talked-about scandal of the era, he divorced his wife and married a younger woman, Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt Doe, better known as “Baby Doe,” who shared his interest in leading a flamboyant lifestyle. Their lavish 1883 wedding was held in Washington, D.C., with President Chester A. Arthur in attendance. But the collapse of silver prices in 1893 left Tabor penniless. He died a pauper in 1899, uttering (some records say) these last words to Baby Doe: “Hold on to the Matchless. It will make millions again.”
Baby Doe spent her last 36 years as a recluse living in a small cabin near this mine until she froze to death in 1935. Tours of the Tabor Home show a portrait of Alberta, who remained a millionaire throughout her life. Visitors see a stark contrast at the site of Baby Doe’s cabin and the Matchless Mine, which never again made anyone wealthy.
The National Mining Hall of Fame is recognized for its displays, artifacts and tours, which detail the nation’s mining history from the early prospectors to modern-day mining. Art, life-size replica mines, detailed models, antiques, interactive displays and a world-class mineral collection are housed in a Victorian-era, 70,000-square-foot facility.
Established by a railroad tycoon in 1871, Colorado Springs was the first resort town in the West. The Italian Renaissance-style Broadmoor Resort, built in 1918, is a great place to experience luxurious accommodations amidst the opulence of another era. Hike or ride through a 1,350-acre city park, Garden of the Gods, to see world-famous red sandstone rocks forming magnificent arches, walls and overhangs. The 45-room, 15,000-square-foot Miramont Castle was built in 1895 by a Catholic priest, after his wealthy widowed mother moved from France. It is most noted for its nine distinctive architectural styles and spectacular mountain views. The American Numismatic Association Money Museum is the only public museum dedicated to the study and collection of money. See vintage ice skates and costumes worn during Olympic performances at the World Figure Skating Museum. Much of the campus of the U. S. Air Force Academy is off limits to visitors, but there is an area where the cadets can be seen marching off to lunch during their school year.
Mesa Verde National Park
In 1906, Mesa Verde became the first archaeological site to become a national park. Climb the steps and ladders to enter the elaborate 13th-century stone villages created by ancestral Pueblos. The 500 dwellings range from small houses to the 200-room Cliff House. Newly added this summer are ranger-led hikes and horseback riding tours. The Chapin Mesa Museum displays pottery and other artifacts from the daily life of the Pueblos. A stamp honoring the park’s centennial was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in June, and special centennial events are scheduled throughout the summer.
Founded in 1842 on the banks of the Arkansas River, the city of Pueblo has been an important cultural crossroads of the Southwest. Rosemount Victorian House Museum is called “Colorado’s Crown Jewel.” Built in 1893 for banker John Thatcher, this 37-room mansion with 10 fireplaces was named for Mrs. Thatcher’s favorite flower. It remained a family residence for 75 years. Nearly all furnishings, accessories, decorative arts, paintings custom paneling, wall and window treatments are original to the home. Specialized museums of interest include Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, Pueblo’s Fire Museum, Pueblo Railway Museum, El Pueblo History Museum and Southeast Colorado Heritage Center.