In this month's article, I would like to visit Woodland Park, Colorado. This town is so steeped in forgotten history that I will likely revisit it a few times. That said; today's tale is about a piece of property that barely missed Wal-Mart's wrecking ball and housed some of the world's earliest skiing enthusiasts.
I am focusing on land that was sold; in 2005, to Roger Thompson of the Wal-Mart real estate corporation. His intention was to develop a low-end department store combined with a grocery store. This news sparked community outrage over fears the store would eclipse main street businesses, damage historical property, and destroy the city's small-town quality of life. That April, town hall meetings were a roar with accusations, conflicts of interests, and preservation concerns
They pointed to the fact that city voters had already voted; in 1988, to not allow the town council to build city-funded infrastructure. This infrastructure was designed to entice Wal-Mart into opening a store in Woodland Park. The difference between 1988 and 2005 is that Teller County's population nearly doubled in those 17 years. With so much growth Wal-Mart no longer needed incentives to be interested in opening up shop.
Arguably Wal-Mart did not wreak all of the havoc that people feared, but the list of businesses that closed, opened, and closed again since the Wal-Mart opened is too large to keep up with. It’s a safe bet to say that the small retail-business market in Woodland Park became more volatile, but as a whole, the town seems to be better off with Wal-Mart and its tax revenue.
The town hall discussions concerning Wal-Mart was where we learned of the land’s historic significance. In response to these (and other) concerns Wal-Mart assured the people of Woodland Park that they would; preserve historic buildings, set aside 37% of the land for open space, pave the Crystola trail, and create a bronze sculpture of a local hero. As soon as the development was approved by the city council the land was transferred to “private developers” and no one heard from Roger Thompson again. These private developers only followed through with two of Rodgers’ promises; they preserved the historic buildings on the land and paved less than a mile of the Crystola trail.
The buildings that were spared served many uses during its time. The most obvious is that it was used as a cattle ranch in the 1800s. What is not so obvious is it was once the hub of Southern-Colorado Skiing and was the home to one of the first “ski clubs” west of the Mississippi River, The Silver Spruce Ski Club. This area was one of three ski areas developed by Don Lawrie and the buildings that remain were once used as a warming house for Don’s crew. Don was a pioneer of the sport of skiing and eventually became the president of the Silver Spruce Ski Club
Don developed ski areas with the help of volunteers and he funded this with the little donations they could put together. This was demanding physical labor that was done during the heat of summer.
Lawrie was quoted in the book “Lost Ski Areas of Colorado” saying; “Back then, the ski club built all their areas with donations and with volunteer labor. We never had any money, and we had to improvise and make do. We worked hard, we skied hard and we had a wonderful time.”
At this time skiing was considered somewhat barbaric and was not widely accepted in the United States. None-the-less Don encouraged people to try the sport and coached people to enter tournaments around Colorado. In addition to being a mentor to new skiers, he also participated as a competitor in cross-country and jumping events. Some of these events were said to have drawn up to 800 people. The competitions evolved into a great fundraising opportunity for many of the local ski clubs.
In 1929 Don implemented a plan to reduce the club membership fees in order to make skiing available to more people. Also at that time, he merged his club with the US Western Amature Ski Association. This incorporation literally brought busloads of people who were interested in skiing to the Edlow course in Woodland Park.
By 1936 Don’s incorporation of local ski clubs had grown out of its cross-country skiing roots and evolved into a club that was more focused on downhill and slalom skiing. The new focus of the club and the larger group brought with it a new name, “The Pikes Peak Ski Club''. That same year he adapted an old Whippet automobile engine into a mechanical tow rope, to help people up the hills. This made it so people could get up the hill without using busses or hiking. More interestingly this was a first of a kind tow rope that was widely mimicked in the Western United States
In 1948, Don Lawrie had become the Pikes Peak Highway administrator. He decided to find a new ski area that would be less windy and have more shade. With his army Weasel, he scouted a north-facing slope on Pikes Peak. This slope would later become the “Elk Park Winter Sports Area”, but it was better known as the “Pikes Peak Ski Area”. The ski run was originally cleared by the Highway Road crew, but only when they could take time away from their normal responsibilities. The area was completed by volunteers including Soldiers from Fort Carson and students from Colorado College. These hearty volunteers spent most summer weekends working on the ski runs. By night they would sleep under the stars with just a sleeping bag. Similar to the Woodland Park Ski run, a warming house was used however; in this instance, it was an old CCC building that was moved to the base of the new ski area.
In 1954, skiing was finally authorized at Elk Park. Don had created a fun and affordable ski destination. All people needed was skis, a $1 toll for the highway, and an additional fee for using the tow rope. People flocked from the nearby cities to enjoy an affordable afternoon skiing.
Don then went on to be influential in the formation of the non-profit “Pikes Peak Ski Corporation”. This charity was used to finance improvements to the ski areas for many years. Don served on the Board of Directors of the organization until the mid-sixties.
Pikes Peak became the major ski area for Colorado Springs for many years. The ski area was very small compared to runs in places like Vail Colorado or Keystone Colorado. In the early 1980’s they added a $700,000 triple chair made by Poma-USA. The Poma provided new terrain above the timberline, but snow is really hard to come by in this area. The trails were often wind-blown and packed. After the lift was put in the ski area had a terrible season, with very little turnout. Subsequently, it was not able to pay its taxes or pay Poma-USA for their newly installed lift.
Skiing on Pikes Peak or “Americas Mountain” continued until the mid-1980s. By this time the operation was becoming increasingly expensive to maintain. This is because all of the snow was man-made or shipped down from higher elevations. The city of Colorado Springs purchased the property for a brief period. But it was promptly determined to be too expensive and was sold again to Vail Resorts. The lack of snow and increased costs made it a bad investment. Vail Resorts took the opportunity to close the ski area after the 1984 season. Not only did they close down their competition, but they also closed the chapter of U.S. history about Skiing in Southern Colorado.
The heyday of Pikes Peak’s organized skiing took place near the Glen Cove area and Woodland Park. These were the sites that Don Lawrie and his friends chose before Elk Park grew into a skiing destination. Heck, it was even before Colorado was considered a ski destination. Don’s grand ideas never wavered and he was fortunate to have seen many of them become a reality. Lawrie died in 2000 and was long retired by then. But it was his dreams and ambitions that helped to create the ski scene in Colorado. He brought the skiing industry to life before it boomed in higher elevations and in well-known towns like Aspen, Vail, or Telluride.
Don’s grandson; Don Sanborn, was quoted in Colorado Springs, in regards to his Grandfather saying: “Even in his 90s, he still harbored a dream of starting a ski area, like at some hill behind the Wal-Mart in Woodland Park. We told him, ‘You need to see what ski hills and areas are really like now!'”. While Don was well aware of what modern ski resorts had become, he longed for a more simple and pure version of his sport. And to some degree, we can all understand that. To Don, this wasn’t an unreasonable idea, especially when we consider that behind this Wal-Mart was where he helped to make one of the first ski runs in Colorado. This is why I propose that the Woodland Park Wal-Mart follow through with its promise of building a bronze statue, by erecting a statue of Don Lawrence and the Silver Spring Ski Club.
Photos From The Day:
W.C. Davis and G.C McGee first purchased the Ida L. and Dauntless mining claims in 1888. By 1893 Davis sold his interest in these and other claims to W.F. Abrams of San Diego, California. McGee kept his interest until selling it to A.G. Bruner in 1910. Beginning in 1917 Bruner fell behind in tax payments and Charles L. Larson of Denver purchased the Ida L and Dauntless mines, in 1933 for only $200. Charles and family were the last few prospects in the town of Ironton Colorado. This became evident to the Larsons' when in 1920, only 3 years after purchasing their mine; the Ironton post office closed. The next year the railway stopped all service to Ironton.
Despite the closure of the post office, lack of rail service, and dwindling population Charles and his sons continued to build on their property for 4 years. During this time they constructed a small flotation mill, a bunkhouse, blacksmith shop, and a snow shed over the mine adit (or mine opening). The concrete foundation from the mill is still visible today, behind the adit. The mine eventually had a 180-foot tunnel and a two-compartment mine shaft. In 1937 the Larsons' shipped out 25-tons of concentrated ore at a rate of $100 per ton. Which would be $2,500, but in today's currency (that would be equal to $44,811. The same year the Larson mine began to turn a profit, Charles Larson passed away. Leaving behind his two sons Milton and Harry Larson; later the duo became locally known as “The Larson Brothers”.
Despite their recent financial success, the Larson Brothers were in debt. Which limited further development on the property. They struggled to get their mine off the ground for three years. In 1940 a man named Kenneth Gerard offered to partner with the Larson Brothers and bought out W.F. Abrams. By 1951 Gerard started a diamond-drilling program. He wanted to use the flotation mill once more; however, this never came to be. Very few leases worked the mine off- and-on up until the 1960s.
In the late 1950s, the nearby Beaver and Belfast Mines owed back taxes. Kenneth Gerard and the Larson Brothers took this opportunity to buy the mines. Milton and Harry Larson operated their original mine for an additional 9 years. People who visited the brothers said that no one left without sharing a bowl of soup with the brothers. They were said to have only mined enough minerals to have what they needed. They traded their findings in town for basic supplies and trundled back up the mountain once a month. The pair shared this humble existence until Harry died in 1959
Milton continued to live in Ironton alone. In-fact Milton (Milt) Larson was best known as Ironton’s last resident. His friends and the locals dubbed him “Ironton’s mayor”. In 1964 he was given an all-expense-paid trip to New York to appear on the television show “I’ve got a secret” where his secret was; “I am the entire population of Ironton, Colorado.” Milton may have been alone; however, he was reported to be in good spirits. He was known for his detailed stories that he entertained the occasional tourist with his tales. And he allowed children to take small pieces of galena ore from his mine, as a memento. Milton continued the remainder of his days this way, until his death in 1964.
With Milton gone the property-ownership and the mining-claim went to the Gerard family. The property remained in the family for 41 years. Like the rest of Ironton, it fell into abandonment and ruin. Thankfully in 2005, Ouray County purchased the mining-claim from the Gerard family with a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado.
The property sat for another 13 years before minimum preservation began. Fortunately, the boarding house and office building were re-roofed in 2005 and the building's structure was repaired in 2018. Today The Larson Brothers Mine is an important historic site and is listed as a Ouray County Historic Landmark. A conservation easement on the property was given to the Trust for Land Restoration and this ensures the protection of the historic site from inappropriate development.
Charles, Milt, and Harry lived and died on this land. It was an important part of their lives that almost was lost to time. Thanks to the money generated by Great Outdoors Colorado we will be able to experience their home for years to come.
Milton Larson on "I've Got A Secret":
The Million Dollar Highway is a spur of U.S. Highway 50, Also known as U.S. 550. The stretch from Silverton to Ouray is frequently called the Million Dollar Highway, but it goes by other names; such as the “Scenic Byway”. If you are being dramatic it’s referred to as the “Highway to Hell”.
The road has made its way to several large publications and most dangerous lists. Popular Mechanics ranked it Number 3 of 10of the “Most Dangerous Roadways”. It is the only road in the continental US ranked by USA Today’s list of the “World's Most Dangerous Roads”. The automotive blog RoadCrazed and the DangerousRoads.org Rank the Million Dollar Highway as the most dangerous road worldwide. If you are measuring how dangerous a road is by the number of fatal accidents that happened on it the Million Dollar Highway is the winner, with no contest. This is especially astonishing when we consider war zone roads, such as; Kabul-Jalalabad Highway (Afghanistan) and Nanga Parbat Pass (Pakistan) were included in most publications, considerations, and lists. Perhaps, the “Highway to Hell” isn’t such a bad name after all?
While the highway we see today was built in the 1880s, the original trail that it was built upon is one of the roads on the “Trails of the Ancients Byway”. In other words, this passageway dates back to the start of recorded history and then some. It provides insight into the lives and migration habits of the Ancestral Puebloans and the Navajo, Ute, and Apache people. With this much history, it has a big head start on the total death count and continues to add to its total each year.
he first time you drive it, you’ll have sweaty palms. Expect sheer drops; over 2,000 feet, along the entire road and enough hairpins to make anyone seasick. This road claimed over 412 lives since 1992 and is nothing to be toyed with. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) spends an average of $2 million per year, maintaining the 24-mile (38.6 km) section of highway. In an interview with the Telluride Times newspaper a CDOT representative; Nancy Shanks gave a few simple tips for surviving the Million Dollar Highway. Shanks said, “Know the conditions, (obey) the speed limit and, if you’re a truck driver, put your chains on.” But Seriously, if you decide to visits drive with care as this is a mountain road with hairpin curves, dangerous drop-offs, and no guardrails. If you are driving south you'll be on the outside with the “no guardrails view”. Do use caution and enjoy the majestic scenery. But leave the marveling to your passengers. This road requires 100% concentration and limited distractions. So passengers, please be considerate of your drivers' nerves (and perhaps be concerned for their sanity).
In other words, if guardrails aren’t your thing; this road is for you. The Million Dollar Highway also sports some seasonal hazards. In winter this ribbon of asphalt snakes through over 100 named avalanche paths and countless unnamed snow-runs. In the spring it is easily overcome by waterfalls and crumbling rock.
This winter blasted Colorado with its third-largest snowpack to date (since the National Resource Conservation Service started recording data in 1987). The highway had 500 torrents of snow down its slopes that killed three people, fully buried two, and nearly overtook a snowplow. According to data from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center the highway only saw 54 slides in 2018 and 140 in 2017. Meaning we saw a 72% increase in avalanches in the last year. Due to the increased amount of snow, The Million Dollar Highway can expect an increase in falling rock and waterfalls until fall.
The origin of the name “Million Dollar Highway” is very disputed. There are several legends and myths associated with its name. One of the more popular myths believes that the fill dirt used to widen the original trail had over $1 million of gold ore within it. This has been proven possible; however, it would be more like $100 million of ore under this road.
Nancy Shanks weighed in on the topic of the name and pointed to the story of Otto Mears as the most likely origin of the name. Otto was an Estonian immigrant who had become locally famous for building the Galloping railroads and Rio Grande Southern railroads. Otto began dynamiting for a basic toll road above Ouray. At the time it was said that Mears spent $1,000 per foot to construct this road. When it’s all put together this equates to a road the cost a million dollars a mile to build. Shortly after, word of Otto's expensive engineering marvel spread and the small tollway became nationally known as the “Million Dollar Highway”.
While the road has been updated over the years it still holds its old world charm and real world danger. It is an honest rollercoaster of a ride and will weigh on your nerves. People with vertigo, seasickness, or prone to panic attacks should not attempt to drive the Million Dollar Highway. It is a real treat to see, given that you have the right weather conditions, you have an experienced driver, and nerves of steel.
Raw Footage of Rain on the Million Dollar Highway:
Photos From the Day:
Lower Columbine Trail is a 2.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Broadmoor, Colorado that features waterfalls and trails that suit all skill levels. The trail offers a stroll along a peaceful stream. It’s best used from April until September; however, I visited to find some of the less obvious structures that become more visible in winter.
The land where the video was shot was once General William Jackson Palmers. He donated the land in order to establish a local park system in 1870. This particular portion of the park is called “North Cheyenne Cañon”.
The home featured early in the video was moved brick-by-brick In the late 1990s. However, in the early 1900s, two cottages were built at the entrance of the park to house the caretaker’s residence and storage for the park’s maintenance equipment. These two buildings burned down in the 1960s. I gave it an honest effort to find the foundations of these structures, but could not. I did, however, stumble on some very interesting spillway controls.
The Cañon has many tales to tell. It has a sorted history that includes a burnt hotel and an odd little structure called “the Cub”. Author and Native American advocate; Helen Hunt Jackson had a big role in the formation of the park. Please stay tuned for the next four installments to hear it all!
Photos from the Day:
Music From the Video:
In the late 19th and early 20th century, tuberculosis hospitals became common in the United States. Over 1.3 Million hospitals were constructed during this period. In the early 1900s, Colorado’s sunny days and dry evenings attracted many people (commonly called "lungers") suffering from tuberculosis. Wealthier people chose to recuperate in exclusive tuberculosis resorts, in Colorado Springs. While others used their savings to make the journey to Arizona or New Mexico. Some formed tuberculosis camps in the desert. They were formed by pitching tents and building simple cabins. During the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic, cities in Colorado advertised the state as the premier place for treatment of TB. Many tuberculosis hospitals in the state were modeled after European away-from-city resorts of the time, boasting courtyards and individual rooms. Each tuberculosis hospitals was equipped to take care of about 120 people
The first public tuberculosis hospitals in the was in the Pacific Northwest opened; in Milwaukie Heights, Oregon in 1905. Followed soon after by the first state-owned TB hospital in Salem, Oregon, in 1910. Oregon was the first state on the West Coast to set forth legislation stating that the state was to supply suitable housing for people with TB who are not able to receive suitable care at home. The West Coast became the most popular spot for TB Hospitals
The greatest area for tuberculosis hospitals was in Colorado Springs, CO with over 13 resort-style facilities in the city. By 1920, Colorado Springs had 9,000 people who had come for treatment of tuberculosis. Too many people came to the West, in-fact not enough housing was available for them all. By 1910, more tent cities began to pop up in Arizona and New Mexico; many described as a place of squalor and shunned by most citizens. Most of the TB infected slept in the open desert with no housing. The area adjacent to what was then central Phoenix, called Sunnyslope, was home to another large tuberculosis encampment, with its residents only living in tents pitched along the hillside of the mountains north of Phoenix. Several tuberculosis hospitals opened in southern California in the early party of the 20th century due to the dry, warm climate.
The first tuberculosis hospital for blacks was ironically in the segregated South. It was called the “Piedmont Sanatorium” in Burkeville, Virginia. Although locally it was referred to it as the “pigeon sanatorium” the most famous non-segregated tuberculosis hospitals is the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, a Louisville, Kentucky, tuberculosis sanatorium, from 1911. It is a mecca for curiosity seekers who believe it is haunted. Because of its dry climate, Colorado Springs was home to the most sanatoria and tuberculosis hospitals. A. G. Holley Hospital in Lantana, Florida, was the last remaining freestanding tuberculosis sanatorium in the United States, fortunately, it closed on July 2, 2012.
The closures were and are welcomed by the American people. It closes a horrific chapter in our history. The decline of tuberculosis started in 1943, when Albert Schatz, a graduate student at Rutgers University, discovered an antibiotic and the cure for TB, tuberculosis hospitals began to close rapidly. As in the case of the Paimio Sanatorium, many were transformed into general hospitals, jails, or schools. However, over 1 million tuberculosis hospitals were simply abandoned. Half of these were demolished by 1949. By the 1950s, tuberculosis was not a large public health threat; it was controlled by medicine rather than extended rest. Most tuberculosis hospitals were demolished years before.
Some, however, have been adapted for new medical uses. The Tambaram Sanatorium in south Indiana is now a hospital for AIDS patients. The state hospital in tuberculosis hospitals, Mississippi, is now a regional center for programs for treatment and occupational therapy associated with intellectual disability.
Photo's from the trip:
Music from the video:
Robert Wadlow, was known as the Alton Giant, or the Giant of Illinois, and Bob, was an American who became famous as the tallest person in recorded history for which there is irrefutable evidence. He was born and raised in Alton, Illinois.
Wadlow reached 8' 11.1" in height and was 439 lbs when he died, at the age of only 22. His growth continued into adulthood and showed no signs of stopping. His height was due to, hyperplasia; of his pituitary gland, which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone.
Not only was he the world's largest boy scout, but he still holds the Guinness Book World record for being the tallest man. He was taller than his father by the age of 8, and in elementary school, they had to make a special desk for him due to his size. As an adult, he was a member of the Freemasons and his Freemason ring was the largest ever made.
Wadlow became a celebrity after his 1936 U.S. tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus. He appeared with Ringling Brothers at Madison Square Garden and the Boston Garden in the center ring, never in the sideshow. In 1938, he did a promotional tour with the International Shoe Company. They provided him his shoes free of charge. Wadlow figured that he was working in advertising, not being exhibited as a freak.
Wadlow's massive size began to take a toll: he required leg braces to walk and had little feeling in his legs and feet. Despite these difficulties, he never used a wheelchair. He possessed great physical strength but was known as a “gentle giant” until the last year of his life, when his strength and his health, in general, began to deteriorate rapidly. In July of 1940, during a professional appearance at a Forest Festival, a faulty brace irritated his ankle, causing a blister and subsequent infection. his condition worsened due to an autoimmune disorder, and 11 days after contracting the infection, he died.
His coffin measured 10' 9" long by 2' 8" wide by 2' 6" deep, weighed 1000 lbs and was carried by 12 pallbearers and eight assistants. Setting on final record, for the world's largest coffin His body was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Upper Alton.
Thank you for visiting! This is a collection of media from the lost and abandoned corners of the world. Please have a look around, I hope you enjoy.