4 Things About Leadville’s History
By James Harper, Freelance Writer for Leadville Today
Like a lot of towns in the American Southwest, Leadville has an interesting history, shaped by the industries and “booms” of westward expansion throughout the 19th century. Though known more as a destination for silver prospectors than gold, it’s a town that nevertheless fits right into some of the traditional mythologies about this chapter of American history. Even so though, there are some things people may not know about the city’s past, and just for fun we’ve compiled a few.
Oro City Blossomed Twice
Many are likely aware that the first settlement in the Leadville area was actually called Oro City. It was established in 1860 in the midst of the gold rush, and was located roughly a mile from where Leadville is today. What isn’t quite as well known however is that this early establishment actually rose and fell twice. After the initial promise of gold in the area was exhausted, the original city essentially declined and became a ghost town. Some years later though, a second Oro City rose a few miles farther up the California Gulch. While the original Oro City can be said to have laid the foundation for Leadville, however, all that’s left of the second is a small sign marking its one-time location.
The City’s Founder Inspired An Opera & A Film
The name Horace Tabor will be familiar to plenty of Leadville residents, but the full extent of his legacy may not be. Tabor came to the Southwest from Vermont, and while there was a settlement already at Leadville when he arrived, he is largely credited with founding the town (as well as some of its core establishments, in his name). He also established it as a “Silver Boom” destination en route to becoming a U.S. Senator, if briefly, in the 1880s. Tabor’s impact on the area and his place in westward expansion were remarkable enough to inspire not one, but a few dramatic interpretations. These include the opera The Ballad Of Baby Doe, the 1932 film Silver Dollar, and the 1987 novel Silver.
Horse Racing Was Once Prominent In Town
When most Americans think of horse racing, they imagine it as a grand spectacle. There are famous U.S. events like the Kentucky Derby known as much for the hats worn by women attending as for the horses. Similarly, there are British occasions like the Royal Ascot that ooze tradition, and where what color hat the Queen will wear even comes into play in betting markets! In 19th century America though, horse racing was pure sport, and played a role in the development of Leadville’s culture. The Leadville Trotting & Running Club was apparently the city’s primary sporting facility late in the century, and featured regular horse racing events with significant prize money on the line.
There Was An Ice Rink – In 1896
This is another piece of Leadville history that may be more widely known simply because it’s so unusual, but it bears mentioning for the same reason. Leadville was home to what, as far as we know, is one of the earlier attempts at an ice rink in a state so far south. Known as the “Ice Palace” and established in 1896, it used 5,000 tons of ice, and not just for the rink. The “palace” itself was comprised partially of ice, and contained the rink, a curling facility, a restaurant, and its own carousel house. If only it had lasted!
About the writer: James Harper is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist. His interests and writings include mystery, history, fascinating figures, and any and all other subjects that inspire curiosity.
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Cheers to Spirits in The Shaft at Mining Museum
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum (NMHFM) presents its annual “Spirits in the Shaft,” a wine, beer, and whiskey tasting event this Friday, Feb. 8, from 6 to 9 p.m.
This after-hours event, formerly known as the annual Wine Tasting, has expanded in recent years to include craft beer and wines, as well as food samplings from Leadville eateries and chefs. This year’s event will bring back the popular silent auction and include something new: a psychic medium. Attendees will also have an exclusive first look at NMHFM’s new temporary exhibition Sequencing Through Time and Place: The Carissa Mine.
Tickets are $45. The first 150 ticket purchasers receive a free NMHFM logo branded wine glass. Tickets can be purchased HERE or by calling 719-486-1229. All proceeds from the event benefit the nonprofit National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.