Eye of the Archives: Vaulted Up

I’m a three-level building. With my renovation, the main floor, aka my torso, will be the community and education space and that’s where most people will spend their time. My top floor, or head, is going to be office space. But sometimes I think what’s happening downstairs in my basement is the coolest. That’s where thousands and thousands of artifacts, objects and photographs will be safely stored. The goal is that people won’t really spend any time down there, sort of like a not-below-the-waist policy.

To make sure that everything is protected, the construction crew is adding technology to prevent against fire and flood. The space will the climate-controlled in order to maintain optimal levels for preservation. Things like wiring will be isolated so that there aren’t any ignition sources in the basement archive area. Essentially, it’s a vault — one that protects all of Aspen’s treasures.


(Archive Building)

Eye of the Archives: Buttoning Up

Brrrr. Does anyone else feel a draft in here? Recently my doors have been wide open and my walls exposed. During this extended summer called fall, it’s been pleasant but the recent temperature drop has me all sorts of happy for my new insulation. Recently the G.F. Woods construction guys have buttoned me up to make sure I’m ready for Colorado’s cold winters.

That means a couple of things. First, I got all new Pella windows. I don’t know much about them, but I hear they’re the best kind. Like they’re the windows the Queen of England would get if she was renovating her castle. Second, they put new siding on me and a thing called the VaproShield, which is a water-resistant, vapor-permeable insulated wall.  That sounds pretty cool, and by cool, I mean warm.

We’re trucking along on schedule just in time for the arrival of winter.


(Archives Building)

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Eye of the Archives: Building Walls

It’s election season and everyone is putting up walls, including the G.F. Woods Construction guys. But unlike the metaphorical walls going up around the country, mine are the good kind. And I don’t discriminate either, I like all types of walls! The wall with the cinderblocks is called a Concrete Masonry Unit wall — CMU for those in the biz, or “magic shield” to me. This particular shield is going up my basement, where all of the tens of thousands of artifacts, documents and images will be kept, and its job is to be a firewall. All of the precious stuff will go inside the concrete box, and that protective shield will keep everything safe in case of the worst, like a fire or flood. Basically, if I’m in “Star Wars,” this is my force field.


(Archives Building)

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Click here for more information on the campaign and the renovation process.

Eye of the Archives: Party Time

I basically won the popularity contest of archives buildings last week when nearly 75 people showed up for our “groundbreaking” ceremony. It actually should have been called a wall-breaking ceremony, since my shell isn’t going anywhere, but my insides are getting the makeover.  People walked all over my floor, drew on my paint and took hammers to my walls — and I thought it was fun!

That means construction has officially begun. I’m feeling a little drafty these days without any insulation and a lot of open doors. But, hopefully I will be all buttoned up by the time snow stays on the ground. Then the construction crew can pay attention to the all the important upgrades that will happen inside me.


A. B.
(Archive Building)



Eye of the Archive: A Giant Move

movingday_9-20-16You know that feeling after Thanksgiving dinner when you’ve eaten five helpings of food but then can’t really move off of the couch? It was all worth it, and delicious, but things are … tight. That’s how I felt at the Aspen Historical Society, until recently. See, I’m the archive building. I sit behind that giant brick mansion in the West End (which isn’t so giant anymore compared to a lot of our neighbors), and I hold most of the town’s collection of photographs, documents and objects, plus some offices and storage. Because history keeps happening, I am getting stuffed.

movingday1_9-20-16Thankfully the fine folks at the Historical Society have decided to do something about it. We’re renovating! For the past month, dedicated staff have been methodically boxing up materials to store for the next eight months while I’m gutted. On the other end of the project, you’re going to see a sweet, new me. I’ll be energy-efficient, have more room for storage and will even feature a community meeting space so you can visit me more often. This is seriously wonderful news for the community, but it’s best for me. It feels like my belt just loosened and by spring I’ll be able to eat as much as I want.




Click here for more information on the campaign.

Aspen in Objects: A Madam’s Corset

Aspen’s first tax-generating business was not mining, freighting, dry goods or even saloons; it was prostitution. The City of Aspen ordinances adopted in 1880 set aside a special area near the railroad depot for cribs and “female lodging” in order to confine the “trade” to a few blocks and to keep tabs on the disreputable businesses for tax collection. The ladies of the night only accepted cash, unlike most of the other businesses in town so they were the first “businesses” able to pay their taxes.


Corset, circa 1890.

Bests, Firsts & Worsts: Aspen in Objects explores the area’s unique history told through more than 90 artifacts, each with its own tale that sheds light on the Aspen valley’s bright — and dark — times. The exhibition is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum, 620 W. Bleeker St.

100 Years of Aspen High School Yearbooks

Go back in time to figure out who was Aspen’s biggest flirt in 1998 or what graduating seniors had to say about each other in 1910, all from the comfort of your computer. We recently digitized Aspen High School yearbooks from 1909 to 2010 (with some years missing), and anyone can browse them here. That means decades of real local history — stories and images about the kids who grew up here — is available at your fingertips. Look for embarrassing photographs of mom and dad, or even yourself. It should be great fodder for many Throwback Thursdays to come.





Make it a Sweet Pea Summer

So it gets to the end of summer and you have a beautiful garden full of sweet peas that look like this:


Now you can show them off. Tag your garden with #sweetpeasummer on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or email your photos directly to [email protected], and you’ll be entered in our contest for a sweet award.

Sweet peas are the official flower of Aspen. Ramona Markalunas, dubbed the sweet pea of Aspen, used to encourage locals to plant them in their yards and nurture them all summer so that the town would be a burst of colorful flowers. We’re honoring her spirit and doing the same. We mailed out sweet peas to our members early in May, and they were available for pickup at The Aspen Times and Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Aspen Snowmass, so neighbors should be well armed. Now that they’re in the ground — hopefully — it’s time to grow for glory.


A sweet pea bush in the early 1900s.


Ready to Wear: Aztech Mountain & Aspen Historical Society

bayerposterHeifara Rutgers was born and raised in Aspen, and his Aztech Mountain menswear reflects that. Take, for example, the Italian-made Caribou Club down-fill jacket, which has a print of the historic Thunderbowl lift lining its inside. Each year, he partners with the Aspen Historical Society archives team to find a singular, striking image to be included in his  high-performance outerwear line.aztech_highlands

AHS recently collaborated with Aztech on another project, releasing a limited-edition, long-sleeved T-shirt featuring a classic Herbert Bayer skiing poster designed for the Aspen Chamber in 1950. It puts the fun in functional. These debuted at an in-store event held at Performance Ski in March, with generous proceeds benefiting AHS.







The remaining shirts (limited sizes available) sell for $22 and can be purchased by visiting the Aspen Historical Society gift shop (620 W. Bleeker St.) or by calling (970)925-3721. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit the Aspen Historical Society Campaign to renovate the archives.

Aztech Mountain wear is sold exclusively at Performance Ski in Aspen, as well as Barneys New York and a number of European ski boutiques. Be on the lookout for next year’s line, and another debut image showcasing Aspen’s rich ski history.

Remembering Ralph Melville in His Own Words

Longtime Aspenite and founder of the Mountain Chalet Ralph Melville passed away Feb. 15 at 90 years old. He has been remembered by the community as a dedicated hotelier and host to his guests at the historic Mountain Chalet, which opened in 1954. Even as the town changed around him, most obviously with the development of the St. Regis between his property and Aspen Mountain, Melville stayed true to the casual, family-style lodge.

Melville had eight children, two of who were foster children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His family will continue to run the lodge with the same business model they have maintained for years.

Marian and Ralph Melville in 1997.

Marian and Ralph Melville in 1997.

The Aspen Historical Society had the privilege of recording an oral history with Ralph Melville in 1994. You can listen to a portion of that interview here or make an appointment with the Archives department to listen to the entire interview. For more information, please call (970)925-3721 ext. 103.

“Swiss-style architecture. I suppose doesn’t fit that well into Colorado but with the large overhangs and the Swiss style of design, those building were designed for areas that had a lot of snow.” – Ralph Melville, on the Mountain Chalet