Amous Bourquin 1857 to 1943


Amous Bourquin 18571943

Letter from Aspen, Colo., April 17, 1881

Dear Jule:

I have been here a couple weeks so I will try to let you know what little I can of Aspen. I will begin at Denver. I left there in the morning about half sick. Reached Leadville 7:30 pm. I had intended to stop in Leadville one day to look around the City but a couple of hours the next morning satisfied me as it was a cloudy day and very muddy and cold. I then took the stage for Independence 35 miles but the snow got so soft before night that we had to stop at the foot of the range 10 miles from Independence. We started again at three o’clock in the morning in order to cross the range while the snow was frozen. We reached Independence for breakfast, and it was a hard old breakfast for a fellow that had a hard days walk to do here the less. I left my baggage for the jack train fitted on my gum boots and prepared for a snowey tussel for Aspen. Reached here about five o’clock and found the boys all well.

A. D. Bourquin


(letter is edited full letter on file at Aspen Historical Society.)

Al S. Lamb – 1855 to 1940


Al S. Lamb 18551940 by Buzz Cooper and Larry Fredrick

In late 1886 or early 1887, Al Lamb, a pharmacist, decided to cast his lot with the new silver boom at Aspen. The Lamb Drug Store became the center of community affairs, and Lamb himself became a powerful influence in local government.

He won high regard for his integrity, enterprise and good citizenship. A good businessman, Lamb became well-known all over the state and his store was a genuine landmark. Many remember his old-fashioned soda fountain. To this day, there are old-timers who would have no remedies other than old “Doc” Lamb’s prescriptions.

Lamb was an active and early member of the Benevolent Order of Elks and the Lions Club, and a member of the State Board of Pharmacy. His active public spirit served not only Aspen, but the county and the state.

He loved the mountains, fishing and hunting, and he loved horses and dogs. It is said that his favorite spaniel died within 15 minutes after his beloved master. Lamb was so fond of his champion hunting dog Max that when Max died, Lamb had him stuffed. His granddaughter Peggy (Rowland) recalls that when she visited her grandfather, her errand was to dust off Max.

Crystal Palace Not Always So Palatial

Crystal Palace Not Always So Palatial

Yore Aspen

The Crystal Palace in 1962, with the Owl Cigars
advertisement on the side. Aspen Laundry was in the one-story white building to
the left. (Frank Willoughby/Willoughby collection)

Click to

Tim Willoughby
September 22,

Imagine dump trucks inside the Crystal Palace, staying warm so they
could start on cold winter days to haul miners up the backside of Aspen
Mountain. Before Mead Metcalf started his dinner theater there, the Midnight
Mine had its headquarters in the building. It reeked of old timber molds,
carbide lantern fumes, rock dust and machine lubricants rather than today’s
captivating aromas of broiling prime rib and uncorked merlot.

Owned by the Midnight Mine, this
Coleman truck in 1927 used to park in the Crystal Palace. (Willoughby

Click to Enlarge

The pending change in ownership of
the Crystal Palace may alter more than names on the title, especially if Mead
Metcalf takes the stained glass and crystal chandeliers with him. His colorful
remodel in 1960 made the building more Victorian than it was in 1891 when it was
built. Victorian structures in Aspen, with the exception of St. Mary’s and the
Community Church, had simple windows of small squares of colored glass
surrounding plain glass rectangles. Most colorful and elaborate stained glass
was imported from New Orleans and Denver during the ’60s – the 1960s. The Palace
and other buildings were reinvented more than restored.

The Palace from
the mid-1930s to 1951 was the company office of the Midnight Mine, Aspen’s major
employer. It was the ideal building for three reasons. Like most commercial
buildings in the downtown core, it had a second-floor office area where the
company could accomplish its paperwork. It had a very large ground floor, big
enough to park and service its trucks and store equipment and materials.
Finally, it was just one block from general manager Fred D. Willoughby’s home.
He lived at the corner of Hyman Avenue and Aspen Street in the white house that
looks today like it looked back then.

In its
Victorian heyday the Crystal Palace was a commission house much like today’s
wholesale distribution warehouses. Goods traded hands on the ground floor where
ice cut from Hallam Lake cooled a walk-in meat storage box. E.M Cooper was the
proprietor in the early 1900s and in addition to White Owl cigars, as advertised
on the exterior wall, he sold produce grown in the agricultural boom areas of
Delta and Mesa counties.

The Midnight Mine acquired the building after
it had been abandoned for a number of years. The older roof was flat and in
desperate need of repair. The Midnight changed the pitch to shed snow, giving
the building the odd shape it has today.

The Midnight office accommodated
55 employees in the 1940s. Miners and mill operators worked both day and night
shifts, plus the building was the center of business activities and vehicle
repair. As Willoughby served as mayor of Aspen through many of those years, it
also doubled as an unofficial city hall office.

Aspen’s elevation is too
high for most fruit trees. Crabapples are one of the few species to prosper. The
Monarch side of the building provides great sun exposure with the brick wall
holding enough heat to incubate trees. Begun with an apparent toss of a plum
seed, a tree still grows there. The Midnight staff marveled at the seedling’s
survival and gauged the passing of years by the growth of the

Other than The Aspen Times and a few
lodges, it’s unusual for commercial buildings in Aspen to retain the same use
over the long term. Metcalf’s nearly half-century as the occupant of this
building has provided countless visitors with a unique Aspen experience. Old
buildings, especially the brick commercial-core buildings of Aspen, are hard to
maintain and to adapt to modern uses but their historical soul is a major
ingredient in the Aspen ambiance.

May the next occupant make the most of
the legacy.

Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels Aspen’s. He began
sharing folklore while a teacher for Aspen Country Day School and Colorado
Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical
perspective. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Made In Aspen

Made In Aspen

The Durant Mine fabrication shop could make almost
anything. (Willoughby photo collection)

Click to

Tim Willoughby
October 6,

Fifty years ago you would often encounter abandoned mining and
milling equipment around Aspen’s periphery. Many items had manufacturer’s names
and “New York, N.Y.” stamped into the thick cast iron with dates from
pre-railroad times.

How could heavy and often
large pieces of machinery have been moved so far? Although Columbia University
was a major mining and engineering school and its students did summer
internships in Aspen’s mines, that connection does not explain the mystery.

The explanation was a common practice in the earliest years. Aspen mines
made some of the equipment in Aspen using plans they bought from companies
headquartered in New York.

An example was the Durant Mine machine shop.
In its prime it could build almost anything. The blacksmiths and machinists
created from scratch, repaired, modified and assembled equipment delivered by

Mining and milling equipment was manufactured from very thick,
but brittle, cast iron that was prone to rapid destruction. In the clash of
metal against rock, rock often won. Mine machine shops battled to keep up with
repairs. Steam-driven equipment required boilers that developed leaks whenever a
rivet worked loose. Rock drills vibrated like present-day jackhammers, expanding
any metal weakness into fissures. Any metal part fractures under constant use
and the extreme weights that mining imposes.

Blacksmiths turned out everything from hinges to intricate fixtures.
Even today in former mining locations you can find locally forged square nails.
In a few places you may see metal pipe that was made by curling longs strips of
thick metal and riveting it every half-foot to hold the edges together.

Until about 1890, San Francisco foundries were the major manufacturers
of mining equipment. With the advent of the continental railroad, eastern
companies began shipping equipment westward. Closer to western mines, Denver,
Salt Lake City and Butte, Mont., dominated the business. After trains reached
Aspen in 1887, and in 1888 when standard-gauge trains could haul heavy loads,
most equipment came from out of town. Cheap shipping methods, and the
development of steel for building, shifted many Aspen mine structures, like
hoisting head frames, from wood to steel.

Aspen was the first mining
town to replace steam power with electricity. One consequence was that there was
less boiler repair, but electric motors became the new shop activity. Aspen
Novelty Works, operated by the Blackburn brothers, on the corner of Hyman Avenue
and Mill Street, offered rewinding for dynamos and motors and other electrical
repairs. At another location they sold and repaired traditional mining

The 1890s were the height of American machinery. There seemed
to be no end to how powerful an engine could be or how huge a drive wheel could
be forged. Aspen used the biggest and best and manufactured some of its

Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels
Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while a teacher for Aspen Country Day School
and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it
with historical perspective. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Clearing the grizzly – mining’s most dangerous job

Clearing the grizzly – mining’s most dangerous

Click to

Tim Willoughby
October 20,

Blasting required careful handling of explosives. Drilling was a
silent killer from rock dust cutting up your lungs. But the really dangerous job
was tending to the “grizzly” – and that didn’t mean chasing bears

Mining is the business of moving quantities of heavy rock, and the
more mineral content the heavier the load. A pile of mineral-bearing ore the
size of a hay bale weighs about a ton. For this reason miners prefer to work
using gravity rather than against it.

mines drive tunnels below ore deposits and then work their way up. Using this
“caving” method, miners easily move tons of material from the ore source to
waiting mine cars for transportation out of the tunnel. The connection is like a
laundry chute, usually about 3 to 5 feet in diameter, and sometimes more than
100 feet long.

Ore dumped into the chute from above, because it was
basically in free fall, could do great damage if left to fall all the way to the
waiting mine car below. The grizzly was a large grate, made of logs or steel,
placed near the end of the fall to slow the flow.

Because the grizzly was
a grid of squares about a foot wide, larger rocks would get caught and
eventually block the flow of ore. Men were employed to keep the grizzly free and
to dislodge rocks stuck in the chute.

My father,
20 years old in 1926, decided to leave Aspen to “experience the world.” The
Depression had already begun in the West. He was a skilled miner, having worked
in Aspen’s mines in the summers and on weekends since he was 14, and he talked
his way into a job at the copper mine in Miami, Ariz. It was a swing shift
clearing the grizzlies, but he was lucky to find any work at all.

work, at first, was not too strenuous because the copper ore was soft compared
to Aspen’s silver-lead-zinc ore. It was easy to break up the rock using a
sledgehammer. It was hazardous because someone far above might push ore into the
chute to fall on the unsuspecting workers below. In earlier years ore was sent
down continuously; workers moved back and forth at the side of the grizzly,
dodging rocks. It was not unusual to have teens doing this work, and injuries
and fatalities were common.

Clearing the chutes was even more of a
challenge. The usual method was to climb up the chute, like bouldering today,
wedging between the sides, carrying an explosive attached on the end of a
10-foot pole. Once under the snag you could push the charges between the lodged
boulders. The explosive was 40 percent nitroglycerine in a gelatin stick form.
You set it off using electric primer wires. A day of blasting would fill the
tight air spaces with blasting fumes. At the end of the shift, pills were issued
to deal with the headaches from the explosive smoke.

Being young with no fear of death, my father’s partner was placing
the charges without using the pole. He would climb right into the tangled rocks.
No matter how you did this job, there was always the chance that while setting
the charges you might dislodge the rocks above you, many weighing much more than
you did, and they would fall on top of you and force you down the

One day his partner went up the chute to free a stuck chute door
from below. The door was in the middle, so after he opened it an unexpected
amount of material rushed past him and then got stuck on the grizzly below him.
There was no way for him to make his way up to the top of the chute, so he was
stuck there for 10 hours until the grizzly could be freed and the material
pulled out.

Fortunately, after a few anxious days working the grizzly, my
father was moved to tunnel timbering, a much safer and more skilled position.
Miners at the time worked six days a week and were paid $5 a shift. There was a
medical benefit, though: The mine had an unmanned underground medical station.
Your chances were not much better than if you had been attacked by a grizzly