Turning The Corner in Leadville Today
Street Names Change with The Times
Streets. Avenues. Boulevards. No matter what you call them, they’re the thoroughfares that get you from Point A to Point B. Streets can also help people find your address, the place where you live or do business.
During Leadville’s pioneer days, people’s residences were recorded in city directories. There was no my number’s in-the-book or even postal delivery. Back then, if you wanted to find someone in this busting-at-the-seams mining town, these directories were your first point of reference. Of course, it’s a far cry from today’s people finder: Google. In fact, initially, there were no specific numbered addresses given to businesses or people, the location was simply listed as “one door west of the barn!”
Did you know that Chestnut Street was Leadville’s first main road, dividing the south and north sections of the town? In addition, it was Pine Street, not Harrison Avenue that divided the east side of town from the west. Early in 1878, there were five east-west running streets designated: Front (the first street located directly north of the original Oro City and California Gulch area), then Elm, Chestnut, State, and Main. The north-south running streets were Harrison, Pine, Spruce, and Leiter.
Many folks wonder how Harrison Avenue got its name. No, it wasn’t after the 9th US President, William Henry Harrison but rather Leadville’s pioneer smelter entrepreneur Edwin Harrison. As Harrison’s wealth and influence grew, so did the buildings along the street that bore his name. It was a bit of a behind-the-scenes power play for its day but it didn’t take long before a historic shift took place that had tongues wagging back in the spring of 1879. Traffic shifted to the street which bore the successful entrepreneur’s name and Leadville’s gridiron has never been the same.
Of course, this change meant that the numbered addresses on all of the cross streets had to change because the east-west dividing line had been moved. If you compare city directories from 1879 and 1880, addresses of the same business vary. But remember, none of these businesses moved, only the addresses were changed!
Historic Harrison Avenue in Winter
Eventually, Leadville grew north, and then east and more streets were added. Many times city maps had streets on them with no names. Other times they were given names, often presidential, like Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln. But just as often they were known among locals by a different name, referring to some geological feature, or perhaps a local character who lived on the block.
Eventually, it was deemed advisable to the town’s existence, to abandon the names of the east-west running streets in favor of numbered street names. City council took action and all east-west thoroughfares were given numbers.
For the most part, the idea worked. But mountain folks are funny when it comes to change. Chestnut Street was “grandfathered” and has never changed. State Street was changed to 2nd Street but the old name hung on well into the middle of the 20th century, except for the block between Harrison and Pine Streets where it continues to be referred to as old State Street.
Even as Leadville and Lake County continue to grow, new streets are made and named. There are the more recent ones down off of County Road 4, where you can find Ranch Road and Alpine Cirque (a cirque in Leadville?!)
Of course, most of the West Park streets are named after 14ers. And then there’s the Gem Valley subdivision with Ruby Lane and Turquoise Street.
Over the years, old-timers have referred to Harrison Avenue as a real dividing line between the east and westsiders. Leadville children were often given strict instructions not to venture to one side or the other. One life-long resident stated: “I knew that my family had made it when we moved to the west side.”
But whether you’re an eastsider, a westsider, a West Parker or even as far south as the Villagers of Twin Lakes, there is a road project which began this week that will significantly impact how you use the streets in Leadville Today. It’s the long-awaited and planned-for “demolition and reconstruction” of two miles of roadway on Highway 24 from Mountain View Drive to Elm Street. Or as the Colorado Department of Transportation is calling it: “US 24 Leadville Overlay & ADA Ramps” project.
Yes, it’s true, in the day-to-day Coronavirus present-day living situation, perhaps everyone would like to forget about the Summer of 2020 downtown demolition project? Maybe you forgot that Leadville was going to have that big re-paving project from-one-end-to-the-other in the Summer of 2020? Perhaps in the shadows of COVID-19, hard-working Harrison Avenue entrepreneurs pushed aside the fact that stores or restaurants located anywhere along this two mile-stretch of the resurfacing project will be interrupted, it’s just a question of when and for how long. Yes, sorry to remind you that this is the summer for Leadville’s turn on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) calendar, and alas the return of the discussions about the lanes on historic Harrison Avenue!
Fortunately, Leadville Today has got you covered with its upcoming Utility Update series. From the CDOT project, to the return of Xcel’s “Leadville Natural Gas Project,” to upgrades recently completed at Parkville’s Water District treatment facility to some little known facts about a situation at the Leadville Sanitation District. If you’re going to have to shelter-in-place, this is the best city to be safer-at-home! So it’s good to know that there are some timely house-cleaning and upgrades already scheduled for the local roads, water, electric, and sanitation systems.
So heads up, as LT brings you the latest info, including who is involved, who is in charge and most importantly how you can have your voice heard. The silver lining of this new reality is that it has opened up new virtual realities, portals of communication where you can Zoom in on city and county meetings or attend a virtual town hall to connect directly to the decision-makers. LT will be bringing you all of that info, the links, websites and contact numbers in the upcoming series, beginning this week.
Until then, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay tuned as the gears shift to the future in Leadville Today: With the history of Leadville in our hearts and the future of Leadville in our hands!
Fire Ban? Depends on Where You Are.
Effective May 1 Lake County Sheriff Amy Reyes lifted the Stage Two Fire Ban which was put in place on April 9, echoing the order put into place by Acting USFS Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien the day prior. In Monday’s press release, Lake County’s top law enforcement officer stated:
“The Lake County Sheriff is Not reinstating the existing fire ban for Lake County. The Fire Ban, however, remains in effect for BLM and Forest Service Properties and will be enforced. Please know the area you are recreating on.”
In the initial Stage Two Fire ban order, Sheriff Reyes stated that “The ban is not due to fire conditions. The ban is due to possible inability to get mutual aid resources during the COVID-19 incident, in the event of a large fire.” Monday’s press release did not include an update as to how the initial shared-response issue was resolved nor were there other details concerning enforcement, nor a map to let residents where you can burn and where you can’t bar-be-que.
The US Forest Service order remains in effect until May 31, 2020, or until rescinded, whichever occurs first. If you’re still not sure or have questions about certain activities, you can always call the Leadville Fire Department at 719-486-2990 or the Sheriff at 719-486-1249.
Cruise Down Historic Harrison Avenue during the LT100