Eye of the Archive: Entrance to Aspen, Gone to the Votes

Looking towards Aspen from Red Butte, circa 1900. Aspen Historical Society, Cooper Collection

Ahh September…the crisp air, the warm sun, the glorious colors, the TRAFFIC. Wait, wait…traffic? That’s not what September is about? But alas, yes, the dreaded Castle Creek Bridge detour traffic is once again disturbing my tranquil off season. The annoyance! I’m trying to channel my frustrations Edward Holden’s way, again, but to little avail. This time around, I can’t help but think it’s not just Mr. Holden that has ruined my tranquil fall months…really, it’s all of you and the failures of democracy!! Generations of Aspenites and Pitkin Countians who have voted and re-voted on the Entrance to Aspen a whopping TWENTY SIX TIMES in just four decades. Why can’t you agree? To find the answer and calm down from this traffic-induced rage, I dug into myself with the help of the knowledgeable AHS archive techs, to try to understand the votes and what is the darn problem here?

As I discovered doing similar research this spring, the location of the entrance to Aspen is Mr. Holden’s fault. But the original bridge over Castle Creek was built in 1891. Yeah, that’s almost 130 years ago! So what’s happened since then to leave us with the now legendary controversial Aspen “S curve?” 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. And then came the votes. Buckle your seat belts folks, this might take awhile:

The first vote on the Entrance to Aspen was in 1975 on a City of Aspen ballot. It asked whether to secure federal funding for a partnership with Pitkin County to build a light rail system. It passed.

The second vote in 1982, another City of Aspen ballot question, asked about converting open land to expand Highway 82 into a two- or four-lane highway with a straight shot to 7th and Main according to the City Council’s purview. It failed.

The third and fourth votes were 1983 Pitkin County questions, asking for a sales tax increase and a $1.8 million bond for public transportation services and facilities for Pitkin County. Both passed.

The fifth and sixth votes were City of Aspen question in August of 1986, asking if Council was authorized to build a 4-lane highway over existing open space to connect at 7th and Main, with various caveats. Both failed.

The seventh vote in November of 1986 was City of Aspen and asked about converting land into a train terminal that would affect the Rio Grande Trail. It passed.

The eighth and ninth votes in February of 1990 were City of Aspen asking again about the 4-lane highway with two options for alignment – over open space to 7th and Main or along the existing alignment, that passed and the ninth vote asked which alignment was preferred, the straight shot to 7th and Main prevailed.

The tenth and eleventh votes in 1994 were Pitkin County. 2C asked if Aspen City Council should be authorized to convert the land, including open space, to build the highway. It failed (by 53 votes). 2D was conditional on 2C passing (it didn’t) but asked about realigning highway 82 if a survey identified the new route as preferred.

The twelfth vote in 1996 was back to City of Aspen, asking for authorization to convert the open space land for a 2-lane parkway and light rail corridor, with strict conditions. It passed.

The thirteenth vote in August of 1998 was City of Aspen, asking if the City should adopt a ¼-penny sales tax for a parking garage at Rio Grande Place, and issue a $6.5 million, 20-year bond. It passed overwhelmingly.

The fourteenth vote came in November of 1998 was Pitkin County asking about financing timing: if all financing is not approved through public votes by the City of Aspen or Pitkin County before November 1999, shall Pitkin County stop spending funds on rail studies until the expansion of 82 between Basalt and Aspen is completed? It passed.

The fifteenth and sixteenth votes were also November of 1998, from both City of Aspen and Pitkin County, asking if citizens supported the concept of a valley wide rail system linking Glenwood and Aspen. The City of Aspen question passed, the Pitkin County question failed.

The seventeenth vote the following year (1999) was City of Aspen, asking for a $20 million bond to construct the light rail system, with strict conditions. It failed.

The eighteenth vote, happening the same year on the City of Aspen ballot, asked if the City should bond for $16 million for an exclusive bus way from Buttermilk to 7th and Main with conditions. This approval would have allowed the City to convey right of way for the bus corridor. It failed.

The nineteenth vote was also 1999 on the same City of Aspen ballot but was a non-binding question. It outlined population growth and asked what limits on travel citizens preferred? Limiting to the current level failed. Limit to 2% growth failed, as did 4% growth and unlimited growth.

The twentieth vote, also a non-binding question on the same City of Aspen ballot, passed and directed City Council to work with other valley governments to develop a transit plan comparing bus-only with a bus-to-rail concept for a bonding vote no later than November 2000.

The twenty-first vote, also 1999 City of Aspen, asked about parking options. A garage proposed at Wagner or Paepcke park failed. Increased neighborhood parking failed overwhelmingly. The option for valley-wide transit system including park n rides throughout the valley with no increase to in-town parking passed.

The twenty-second vote was a Pitkin County question in 2000 asking to establish the Regional Transit Authority, with Pitkin County contributing .7215% of existing 1.5% transportation sales tax annually. It passed.

In the twenty-third vote that same year Pitkin County asked if it should bond $10.2 million to 1. realign Highway 82 to 7th and Main with bridges and a tunnel; 2. $7million for Snowmass Village transit; 3. $1.5 million for bus stops in Pitkin County;  4.  $7.5 million for new buses, maintenance facility and affordable housing for RFTA. It passed.

The twenty-fourth vote in 2001 was City of Aspen asking again if Council should be authorized to convert the open space land for a 2-lane high way, but this time with exclusive bus lanes until the community supports rail funding, with conditions. It failed.

The twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth votes in 2002 were both City of Aspen and Pitkin County asking which voters preferred, S-curves or a modified direct route? S-curves won both.

Whew, that was exhausting, but those are the votes! Can you even believe the varying decisions, from City to County and year-to-year? Oh there was also a 1999 lawsuit opposing the realignment that went all the way to Federal Court of Appeals and then the Federal Highway Administration, who ruled that the Entrance to Aspen Final Environmental Impact Statement of 1997 had to be reevaluated before any alternative could move forward. This reevaluation was completed in November of 2006, but the federal court has yet to resolve the appeal case without a local vote for approval and funding.

Ten years later in 2016, the Aspen City Council, Pitkin Board of County Commissioners and the Snowmass Village Town Council voted to spend nearly $500,000 to study how much it would cost to build light rail across Marolt versus building dedicated bus lanes across the open space. That apparently went by the wayside, but the angst-ridden conversations on the issue continue, and now we have the $2.6 million Mobility Lab…but we also still have the “S curves!” I’m amazed by the history of this issue, but the time is running out on the question. Despite the repairs causing my headaches this year, CDOT recommends the Castle Creek bridge will have to be replaced in its entirety in just twenty years. And CDOT can do just about anything they want, including condemn the open space land for a new alignment when it comes to replacing the bridge. So are these past 40 years of working through this issue in vain? Only time, and likely more votes, will tell.

My head hurts slightly more than when I started this research, but luckily there’s a lull in the traffic outside, so I’m off to take a nap. But I’ll leave you with one final thought. That annoying detour traffic, you have no one to blame it on but yourselves!

Until next time,
A.B.
Archive Building

The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tid-bits, news around town, and more.

Eye of the Archive: Notes from the Exhibit Guest Book

Summer is right around the corner in Aspen and boy am I EXCITED! There’s a lot to be excited about, you see, with a guest exhibition being installed next door at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum this very minute! And then there’s also the matter of me, the Archive Building, winning TWO AWARDS for last year’s remodel! I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Before I gush about my awards and the new exhibit, I wanted to look back at the previous exhibit, “Bests, Firsts & Worsts: Aspen In Objects,” which just came down after almost three years on display.

Over 4,000 people visited the popular exhibition, which explored Aspen’s quirky history through 120 objects, each with its own story that shed light on Aspen’s bright – and dark – times. From archaic Ute Indian tools to Steve Job’s personal mouse for his Lisa computer, the exhibit offered an intimate glimpse at the stories and events that make Aspen such an exceptional place. With a focus on superlatives, the AHS staff invited visitors to decide for themselves whether the artifacts represent a “best,” “first,” or “worst” and to choose their favorite artifact. My favorites (because who can choose just one) included a chunk of the largest silver nugget ever mined in the United States; Aspen’s first female mayor’s gavel; a rare edition of the Aspen Times printed on the back of old maps when exceptionally heavy snows stopped the trains from delivering paper; and a single chair from Aspen Mountain’s first chair lift, Lift One. But really, I could go on and on about the highlights of this wonderful exhibit.

And I’m not alone…my oh my did people love this exhibition! The AHS staff and I got a kick out of reading the notes visitors left in the guest book, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites, written by visitors from near and far, with you here:

  • “Chock full of “quirky” electric paraphernalia I fit rite in 😊” – unnamed, circa 2015
  • “Many memories brought back to life.  Had Aspen cologne as a youngster, never tying it to this area.” – unnamed, circa 2015
  • “Fascinating – wish I had more time and a bigger brain capacity to remember it all.” – Jay & Jan F, Thornton, CO, circa 2015
  • “Wonderful walk through time!! My favorite artifacts were the 1890s divers and ballot box.  Never know Aspen was so progressive….Women’s suffrage in the 1890s! Wow! Davis Waite lived on the same street as my great, great, great, aunt from Sweden!! – Tanya S, October 15, 2015
  • “Wow this exhibit is amazing! Brings me back to childhood! What an amazing town we live in! 😊” – Jill P, February 2016
  • “We came from Leipzig Germany to see the history of Aspen. Favorite object for me was the mouse and recording of Steve Jobs.  Bob’s favorite was the banning of furs.” – Bob & Marty M, April 12, 2016
  • “It was pretty nice and had a couple of cool things.” – K.A. T, OK, May 26, 2016
  • “Bravo! Tre belle expositien! Thanks.” – Francoise R, Paris, France, 9 Juin 2017
  • “We’ve been coming to Aspen/Snowmass to ski in winter and hike in summer since the late 1970s but learned so much about the area on this trip, thanks to the Smuggler Mine tour and this excellent museum. Thank you!” – Ivan D, July 25, 2017
  • “Thank you for preserving this building and history, true or not…enjoyed the detail.” – Betsy H, Norfolk, VA, September 28, 2017
  • “What an eye opener.  It’s completely overwhelmed my impression (from the UK) of Aspen and its culture.  I’ve learned so much. Thank you.” – MD Wales, UK, January 30, 2018
  • “My wife Malika and I visited this wonderful historic town, such an experience, received good information from the staff on duty, certainly appreciated. – Saiyed Rahim W from Afghanistan residing in New York, April 26, 2018

On behalf of the entire AHS staff and board, thank you to everyone who visited the exhibit. If you missed out on seeing it, you’re in luck! Due to its popularity, AHS released an updated exhibition catalog in 2017. The evergreen literary exhibition is available for purchase at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum store as well as at Explore Booksellers in Aspen.

Until next time (when I will get back to talking about myself…),

A.B.
Archive Building

The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for off-the-cuff posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tid-bits, news around town, and more.

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,
A.B.
Archive Building

The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tid-bits, news around town, and more.

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…

A.B.
(Archive Building)

The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tid-bits, news around town, and more.

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!

A.B.
(Archive Building)

The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tid-bits, news around town, and more.

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 A.B. 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.

A.B.
(Archive Building)

The “Eye of the Archive” blog post series, authored by A.B. (personified AHS Archive Building), offers an insider’s glimpse into the goings-on at Aspen Historical Society. Tune in for posts about the Collection, restoration projects, exhibit tid-bits, news around town, and more.

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.