Eye of the Archive: This Is All Mr. Holden’s Fault

There’s a thing called OFF-season in small destination mountain towns like Aspen, when the tourists leave and locals get to stretch out and have the place to themselves. In theory, it’s the most laid-back time of year! But in practice, it’s a yin- and -yang season. Some bad, some good, but mostly confused. Confused weather, confusing road construction projects, confusion about which outdoor activities to pursue (too muddy to bike or hike or golf, but too warm to ski…) And this spring OFF-season, in addition to being confusing, it’s LOUD.

You see, there’s a detour in place right outside my door, a change in the traffic patterns at the entrance to Aspen to accommodate for a road and trail improvement project on Hallam Street at the Castle Creek Bridge. So, my sleepy street block that’s usually so quiet you can hear people burping at Hickory House around the corner, might as well be in the middle of Times Square during rush-hour this OFF-season.

As controversial as this road and trail improvement project has become, I’m trying to channel the patience of a grateful citizen – I am looking forward to the improved pedestrian and bike access at the top of Hallam St. – but I can’t help but want to point a finger and find someone to blame for the annoying disturbance of my tranquil OFF-season! How yin of me. With the help of the knowledgeable AHS archive techs, I dug into my Archive to find a scapegoat from the past. Turns out…the entrance to Aspen issues…they’re all Mr. Holden’s fault.

historic view 1896

The City Sawmill, the Holden Lixiviation Plant across Castle Creek, and the Castle Creek Bridge, October 10, 1896. 

In 1891 the construction of the Holden Lixiviation Works, a short-lived but cutting-edge ore processing plant, blocked the obvious straight shot into Aspen. The road was forced to detour around the plant instead of crossing Castle Creek at Main Street. Who was responsible for this? Well, a gentleman named Mr. Edward Royal Holden.

Edward Royal Holden

Holden, a well-known name in the mineral reduction industry, had set out to revolutionize Aspen’s mining enterprises by building a plant that would enable mine owners to process their silver ore locally, saving time and money. A new process called lixiviation would “revolutionize old methods and a create a new era in the mining industry.” So Holden wheeled and dealed to buy 400 acres west of town from the Colorado Midland Railroad to build the facility, only to close it a few short years later during the “silver panic” of 1893. But his decisions about the location of the sprawling operation had already erased any chance for a straight-shot entrance to Aspen. Instead, the Castle Creek Bridge was built on Hallam Street, opening the same year as the plant in December 1891, and the “S” curves were born.

The old steel Castle Creek bridge is dismantled before being replaced in 1961,

Oh the “S” curves… Highway 82 was officially incorporated into the state highway system in 1911. It was paved to Aspen by 1938. The original bridge was replaced in 1961. In the last four decades, there have been 26 votes on the Entrance to Aspen and Highway 82. The debate over the fragmented gateway to town and its impact on Aspen is far from over. As for me, I find some relief in blaming Holden as I curse the temporary noise outside. My friends at the Aspen Historical Society, more forgiving souls, are trying to cheer drivers up with “punny” signs along our property. They even threatened to pass out treats in the traffic during particularly busy times… How yang of them.

Happy OFF-season,
Archive Building

Eye of the Archive: More Beautiful Than a Spring Day

Spring has teased us here in Aspen, with bright warm days and birds singing their thanks for sunshine. And then it gosh darn snowed last night and, despite my newly-insulated walls, I’m shivering in my foundation and feeling just plain grumpy. Thankfully, word (and photos!) came from Philadelphia yesterday about the progress thus far in restoring the portrait of my beloved history crush, Mrs. Ella Stallard! The news has positively cheered me up, despite the seasonal affective disorder that is so clearly messing with my mood.

The fine folks at Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) shared these images showing various techniques they are using to restore Ella’s crayon photograph portrait. Photograph Conservator Rachel Wetzel is treating the piece with blotter washing and inpainting.


In my eyes, she hardly needed beautification, but from the photos I can tell that she’ll return to Aspen more beautiful than a spring day! I know I’m not the only one anxious for her return, the AHS board and staff and the generous supporters of this project, First Western Trust and Denver Foundation Greenwood Fund and partners Art Forward, are eager to re-install Ella in the Wheeler/Stallard Museum, where her portrait will help tell the story of the house and the people who lived there, as well as the history of the “quiet years” in Aspen.

Signing off for now to return to reminding myself that spring is just around the corner…

(Archive Building)

AHS began raising the funds necessary to restore the artifact in 2017, and has received generous donations towards the project from First Western Trust and the Denver Foundation Greenwood Fund, as well as shipping support from Art Forward. For information about supporting this effort, contact Development Director Kelly May at 970.925.3721 or kmay@aspenhistory.org

Eye of the Archive: A Gold Medal Effort

All of this Olympic’s buzz is infectious! Wowie, those figure skaters! The Flying Tomato sent it out of the park to win America’s 100th gold medal; the local boys are looking good for their freestyle comps; and there’s not much more exciting than watching Michaela and Lindsey speeding down the slopes! I’m not sure I’ve quite figured out curling and bobsled speeds turn my stomach in knots, but the spirit and energy of the games reminded me of another gold-medal effort underway at AHS…

You may remember when I waxed poetic about my history crush, Mrs. Ella Stallard, and her portrait that AHS is raising funds to restore. Last week I had to part ways with the crayon photograph depiction (sniff), but not to fear, our extended separation is for good reason. Ella is on a journey headed to the fine folks at the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, PA! Her portrait will reverse the course of the real-life Ella’s 1890 pilgrimage West, though on a much quicker schedule. I was loathe to spend Valentine’s Day without my crush, but I know she went off in good hands, thanks to our friends at “Art Forward” who have partnered with AHS to support shipping the piece. Prior to her trip to the conservators, AHS archivists reunited the portrait with its original frame. May I say, she looks more beautiful than ever and I can’t image how perfect she’ll be once conservation is complete!

Ella Stallard Portrait

Ella in her original frame.

I know she’ll come back good as new and am in awe of the commitment on behalf of AHS to restore the artifact and the support from donors First Western Trust and Denver Foundation Greenwood Fund and partners Art Forward. From fundraising efforts (there’s still a bit more $ to raise, if you’re interested in supporting) to packaging and shipping to restoration work to come in PA, this project tops the podium in my eyes! The energy is palpable here in Aspen these days, with many local heroes participating in the Olympic games. Once it is restored, the portrait will help memorialize the legacy of a local heroine from another era, Ella Stallard!

(Archive Building)

AHS began raising the funds necessary to restore the artifact in 2017, and has already received generous donations towards the project from First Western Trust and the Denver Foundation Greenwood Fund, as well as shipping support from Art Forward. For information about supporting this effort, contact Development Director Kelly May at 970.925.3721 or kmay@aspenhistory.org

Remembering Carl Bergman

Aspen Historical Society mourns the loss of one of our own this week. Carl Bergman (April 16, 1932 – January 28, 2018) was a long-time volunteer and supporter of AHS and will be greatly missed.

Carl was a current Board Member (since 2004) and a lifetime Trustee, having served various terms including as Vice President (1986) and President (1987-1991). Among many contributions to AHS, Carl was instrumental in the creation of the Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum and spent much of his time there. His vision for the site and enthusiasm for area history helped establish the Museum as an invaluable asset to the community. Carl’s interest and support brought a richness to the history education programs hosted there. Our entire community is indebted to Carl and his ever-growing crew of fellow history fans, friends, and volunteers who have donated their time and talents over the years at the Holden/Marolt property.

When asked why he volunteered for AHS in a 2008 board interview, Carl said “I find the time and enjoy people and feel that educating school children is rewarding beyond any comparison.”

AHS is immensely grateful to Carl for his time and dedication over the years. We will miss his conversation and spirit as much as his unwavering commitment to sharing our communities’ remarkable past.

Carl Bergman,1972


Carl Bergman, Carol Farino, Ross Bolt, Carol Blomquist, Marcilla Wells, and Linda Vidal in the AHS Archive Office, 1986.


Sam Stapleton, Matt Oblock, Carl Bergmen, and Jens Christiansen on the Christiansen Ranch in 1981 standing with a thresher that now resides at Holden/Marolt.


Tim Mullikin, Larry Fredrick, Carl Bergman, Jay Parker, and David Walbert at Holden/Marolt in 2013.


Jay Parker, Tim Mullikin, Carl, Larry Frederick, and David Walbert at Holden/Marolt in 2013


Carl operates the Hit and Miss engine at Holden/Marolt in 2010

Eye of the Archive: Whoa, the Snow Screw

Hi again, it’s me AB just finally emerging from holiday hecticness, whew. But there’s not much cooler of an artifact to wake me up from my holidaze than the one I’m going to tell you about now…

This week the Aspen Historical Society staff left me behind to go to Buttermilk and check out progress with the Snow Screw. Yes, you read that right, the Snow Screw. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed to get left behind. To satiate my sadness, I decided to do some research about this Snow Screw that everyone is just sooooo excited about. Let me tell you, as soon as I saw this YouTube video I was HOOKED. So I dug deeper into my research. Here is what AHS knows about the Snow Screw:

In 1991, Steve Knowlton donated a Snow Screw to the Aspen Historical Society collection. The early snow machine was designed and built by Denver-area mechanic Marty Keller for DRC Brown Jr. in the late 1930s. With the onset of WWII, Darcy brought the machine to Aspen. It is unclear how the Snow Screw was used during that period, but Darcy ultimately gave it to Steve in the 1950s to display at his restaurant on the front range, Cafe Kandahar. When the restaurant closed, the Snow Screw ended up at Buttermilk circa 1990. Over the years, it has been stored in various locations in the Roaring Fork Valley. In 2017, Aspen Historical Society raised funds to purchase a trailer to transport the Snow Screw. After it was displayed in Wagner Park during the World Cup events in Aspen, the Snow Screw returned to Buttermilk in a collaboration between Aspen Ski Company and AHS to restore the artifact to working conditions.

snow screw

Marty & Florence Keller sit on the Snow Screw in 1983.

When the crew got back from Buttermilk they were buzzing. The “wonderful” team working on the machine had shown them progress thus far and explained more about the mechanics. I gather the Snow Screw measures 6 feet by 9 feet. It features a Ford flathead V8 engine and a gas tank from a Model T that dates back to 1918. The design allows the machine to move across snow using two large pontoons moving in spiral motion to propel the machine forward. Yes, they “screw” the snow. The vehicle is thought to be a first generation snow machine, likely one of very few that were produced. In my research I found a letter from DRC Brown to Keller’s daughter Annette: he explained that the Snow Screw worked well on flat terrain but wasn’t as successful as hoped on steep terrain. Also in the letter, Darcy explains he had applied for applied for a patent for the technology and learned that Henry Ford had already patented the idea. Shoot.

But the gang tells me the machine is really close to running! A launch party and regularly scheduled programs with the machine are in the works. I’m borderline obsessed at this point, it’s just an incredibly unique and curious artifact (not to mention I’m a closet gear-head)! I promise to keep you posted as the restoration nears completion.

(Archive Building)

Aspen Historical Society is grateful to the donors who have supported the Snow Screw: the Iselin Foundation, the Ruth H. Brown Foundation, an anonymous donor, and the Cerise and Beck families.Thanks also goes to Aspen Skiing Company, especially Donny Mushet, Jeff Jensen and their team at Buttermilk for restoring the Snow Screw.

Eye of the Archive: My History Crush, Mrs. Ella Stallard

Do you have a history crush? You know, that person or persons who make your heart skip a beat when you hear stories from the past of their bravery, or beauty, or brains, or even their bad ideas? Well I’ve been spending this off-season day dreaming about (one of) my history crush(es): the girl next door, wonder woman former proprietress of the Wheeler/Stallard house, Mrs. Ella Stallard.

Ella Stallard Portrait

Let me explain…my crush started when I overheard the AHS archive team discussing their hopes to restore a portrait in the AHS collection. The portrait features Mary Ella Stallard, called Ella, who was the former owner of what is now my friend next door the Wheeler/Stallard Museum. Here’s what the archives gals said about her:

Mary Ella Pattison[1] was born in New York in 1866. She travelled to Aspen by train in 1890. Ella was a talented seamstress and by 1892 she had opened “Pattison’s Dress Shop” in a rented frame house near Fifth and Main. In 1895, Ella married her neighbor, Edgar Stallard. Edgar sold insurance, acted as Clerk and Recorder for a period, and was employed to manage the Wheeler Opera house and the Hotel Jerome. In 1905, the Stallard family was invited to rent an unoccupied home on an entire block on West Bleeker Street. The Stallards rented and ultimately purchased the house, where Ella lived with her family from 1905 to the early 1940s. Edgar, who was 15 years older than Ella, passed away in 1925 leaving her alone with three sons in a sprawling home during the depths of the great recession, or the “quiet years” in Aspen. Ella’s grandniece Louiva moved to Aspen to live with her, helping with household chores. Ella sustained her family on any seamstress work she could bring in and with help from Louiva, they maintained a vegetable garden, a flock of chickens, and had a cow, which Louiva regularly rode to school. Louiva married William Stapleton in 1933. After her sons and Louiva left the Stallard home, Ella lived in the house alone until she sold it to William Tagert in 1945, who almost immediately sold it to Walter Paepcke’s Aspen company. Ella died in Pitkin County hospital in 1951.

Ever since I first over heard the facts of Ella’s life, I’ve listened in on stories about her too. Ella was a strong, dedicated lady! She had a terrible time of things providing for her family after her husband died, and suffered a broken heart when one of her sons perished at age 12. But with persistence, resourcefulness, and will she prevailed in the massive house next door! She kept chickens and a cow and tended a large garden, canning and preserving as much as she could to last winters. She took in work as a seamstress throughout her life here. She also took in and cared for two sets of relatives’ children, in addition to her own three boys. She was a trendsetter photography hobbyist, and even set up a dark room in a closet in the house. In my eyes, she defines the resilience and community-minded spirit of the “quiet years” in Aspen. And did I mention she was quite a beautiful lady?

So back to the portrait, which I’ve had the opportunity to stare at for the past few weeks. Happily, AHS has been working to raise funds to restore the crayon photograph portrait, which is one of only two images of the prominent Aspen resident and is the only depiction of Ella in the AHS collection. Damage to Ella’s portrait includes water stains, tears in the paper, discoloration, and the frame is missing glass and proper backing. This summer, the AHS archivists consulted with several conservationists and were recommended to work with Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA). The conservation treatment process sounds extensive, which of course my beloved Ella deserves! I’ll report back on the restoration project when CCAHA gets underway – they’ve promised to send photos of the process, thank goodness, because I am going to miss her!

(Archive Building)

AHS began raising the funds necessary to restore the artifact this summer, and has already received a generous donation from First Western Trust towards the project. For information about supporting this effort, contact Development Director Kelly May at 970.925.3721 or kmay@aspenhistory.org

[1] Some historical documents note Ella’s last name as “Patterson,” but the majority use “Pattinson.”

Eye of the Archive: Art Inspired by History

I made a very talented and sweet friend recently, local artist Lara Whitley, when she came to visit me, the Archive Building, at Aspen Historical Society. Okay, maybe she wasn’t visiting just me… Lara came to Aspen Historical Society’s public archive to research and find inspiration for her latest art project, which was going to feature glass shards she found in the dirt near her home. Bright and shiny things often capture my attention too, so we hit it off right off the bat. I love new friends! As Lara told her story, I knew we’d get along famously:

While walking her dog through a meadow in her neighborhood, pieces of glass embedded in the soil piqued Lara’s curiosity and she began to wonder about the history of the land near her home and the origins of the discarded glass. Lara turned to me (okay, okay, us) here Aspen Historical Society for help. Together with the wonderful archivists team Lisa Hancock and Anna Scott, Lara embarked on a guided research effort to understand the histories of the people who may have lived or worked in the area and the land itself. The lovely ladies of the archive looked at photos, maps, BLM records, land patents, and other historical information to determine the previous owners of the land and hypothesize about the discards that Lara had discovered.

My new BFF says the research and resulting discoveries framed her artistic process. “I love the way this project connects me to the land and the stories of the locals who preceded us,” Lara said. “Lisa and Anna helped me make that connection, and ‘Homecoming’ wouldn’t be the same without their invaluable assistance and enthusiasm.”

The resulting piece, which Lara called “Homecoming” features the glass bits strung together, like birds on a wire, in a 3-D outline in the shape of a house. It’s…it’s just WOW. That BFF of mine is creative! Lara describes it as a “site-specific installation of foraged glass,” saying the piece “digs into both the history of our community and the zeitgeist of our time: throwaway culture.”


The piece is on display just down the road in at the Launchpad in Carbondale in the month of September, so you can see it for yourself!

With admiration for my new friend and her creative use of my archives,
(Archive Building)

Eye of the Archives: Quali-tea Artifacts

Now that my building renovation is complete, I’m working on being less self-centered….gulp. Moving forward, I’m going to turn my attention away from myself…gulp…and to items in the very impressive collection that I house. Did you know that the Aspen Historical Society (AHS) operates the largest public archive of images, historical papers, maps, and artifact collections in the region? That’s the reason I feel (am) so important! A big portion of those artifacts are kept safe in my vault, when they’re not out on display that is. Which is always hard for me. I get separation anxiety and miss them terribly. Maybe I should work on being less selfish too… But in the interest of turning over a new leaf and spreading the love, let me tell you about a few brand new artifacts that I’m especially exited about right now.

AHS recently accessioned an antique Gorham repoussé coffee and tea service, a.k.a. a swanky Victorian-era silver tea set, accompanied by an even older silver tray. The new artifacts are so fancy in fact, that they’re going to display them next door in the Wheeler Stallard Museum! I have to say I’m a little jealous of my Victorian neighbor, who will get to admire the beautifully crafted tea set night and day.

The tea and coffee service was made in Providence, Rhode Island in 1887. It’s the whole kit and caboodle: sugar dish, creamer, coffee pot, tea pot, and even a “waste bowl.” The ornate Butler’s Tray is from what the appraisers call a “very desirable period, George III.” Oooooh, classy.

The artifacts were owned by a notable Colorado family, Colonel & Mrs. Channing Meek and their monogram is imprinted on the tea set pieces. Col. Meek was president of Colorado Yule and Marble Company, which provided local marble for many Colorado and U.S. monuments – cool! He lived in Redstone with his wife but died tragically in a hair-raising train accident in 1912. The items were purchased together from a Redstone antique store by Patricia Flug in 1985. Pat recently donated the set to AHS in consideration of the original owner’s connection to the Roaring Fork Valley. Thanks Pat!

Stop in at the Wheeler/Stallard museum soon to view these quali-tea artifacts for yourself. If you want to while you’re here, you can come say hi to me in my fancy new digs next door…

(Archives Building)

Eye of the Archives: Just Call Me A.B. 2.0

Apologies for my absence, I’ve been completely preoccupied basking in the glory of my new and improved self! I’m tempted to bust open the packaging of the 1983 Magnum P.I. whistle from the Aspen Institute time-capsule just so that I can catcall myself… Or maybe I’ll use the 1895 fireman’s trumpet to shout my excitement from the rooftops!

The fan-fair around my completion has been fabulous and really kept me busy. I thought I was popular when a crowd of 75 turned out for my groundbreaking last year, but when over 400 community members showed up for the July party to celebrate my opening I was FLOORED (and they happened to love my new floors, too). There was music, snacks and drinks, and even a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of my new digs. Guests toured “the Vault,” my underground fortress where thousands and thousands of artifacts, documents, photographs and objects are stored, and were as excited about the security features and improved storage as I am.

Since the party, I’ve hosted several archive appointments, visitors, supporters, and even the press! I feel quite famous. And it’s summer in Aspen so… did I already say busy? I don’t mind though, I’m shiny and new and I’m proud.

Speaking of proud, I’m beaming with pride and gratitude at the hard work and dedication of the Aspen Historical Society staff, the contractors, and you! The generous support of community members like you helped me modernize and beautify. Besides my crowning-glory vault, I’m most excited about the energy-efficient features and the community gallery space. If you ask me, the “Aspen’s Storied History” opening display in the new gallery perfectly encapsulates the spirit of this area. Its community-curated stories are an inspiring reflection of the many treasures I hold within my walls. When octogenarian Ellie Spence came for the opening celebrations and stood next to her picture as the first Winterskol Queen in 1951 I just about sobbed. My cup runeth over!

Whew, it’s been quite a whirlwind of a spring and summer and I have to say, I’m looking forward to the quieter days of fall. But as I know best, history keeps happening so I’ll never rest!

I hope you’ll come visit me soon – you can tour my re-stocked archives during one of my free tours, tomorrow August 9 and again on September 13. Or book an archive appointment to find out the answers to your burning history questions. I have so much to show off after this renovation but the AHS collection is, and always has been, the real star.

With gratitude,
(Archives Building)