We are in Leadville, Colorado, also known as the highest incorporated city in North America. Denver is known as the "Mile High" city, Leadville is known as the city in the "clouds". It is almost two miles high. It is located in the geographic center of Colorado and is part of the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway.
Once one of America’s richest, longest-lived and bawdiest mining boomtowns, 70 square blocks of the downtown area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark of Victorian architecture. Leadville is a charming, historic mountain town nestled among the highest peaks in Colorado, surrounded by high alpine forests, pristine streams and glacial lakes. Leadville has a rich history with infamous characters such as Baby Doe, Horace Tabor and Doc Holliday.
Leadville's Annual Boom Days, which takes place the first weekend in August, has been honored by the United States Congress as a Local Legacy Event. This three-day celebration of the area’s mining heritage offers entertainment for people of all ages and interests, from mining competitions, motorcycle games and a rod and gun show, to live music, a craft fair and parade. The 21-mile Leadville Boom Days International Pack Burro Race — the second leg of Pack Burro Racing’s Triple Crown — is always a crowd favorite. We missed the Boom Days celebration. We did enjoy seeing the huge rocks leftover from previous celebrations. (see photos)
We enjoyed the quaint specialty shops, antique stores and our soup and sandwich lunch in the infamous 1980’s Silver Dollar Saloon. John Henry “Doc” Holliday, dentist by profession but gambler and gunfighter by reputation, was a resident of Leadville from 1883 to May 1887. It is said, and most probably true, that “Doc” spent many days on end gambling in “The Board of Trade.” Now known as the Silver Dollar Saloon. Doc was as notorious with cards as he was with a gun. Because of his reputation with a gun, gamblers he owed money rarely collected. His last gun fight in a bar and his last killing of a police officer in Leadville has given “Doc” Holiday a unique page in Leadville history.
Another notable visitor to the Silver Dollar was Oscar Wilde. It is said that the legendary writer, after lecturing at the Tabor Opera House on the “Practical Application of the Aesthetic Theory of Exterior and Interior House Decoration, with Observations on Dress and Personal Ornament” crossed the street and put down shots at the Dollar with the best of them.
The Silver Dollar Saloon is now into its third century, and has survived the trials of a town that started with a couple of gold panners and grew to 50 thousand silver miners, shop keepers and speculators. The saloon has endured the crash of silver and has risen again to the tune of tourism.
Right across the street from the saloon is the famous Tabor Opera House. Along with the rough life of the town, an upper class developed alongside the silver boom. Horace Tabor, who owned a general mercantile store with his wife Augusta, invested in mining with incredible success. Making millions from silver mining, he built and opened the famous Opera House in 1879, as well as the Bank of Leadville and the Tabor Grand Hotel. Along the way, he infamously left his wife and married the young Baby Doe. He rose from local to state to national political figure, built a mansion in Denver, Colorado, and lived a very wealthy lifestyle.
His Tabor Opera House presented an astounding variety of talent. The world-famous magician Harry Houdini, John Philip Sousa, the British wit Oscar Wilde, the great actress Sarah Bernhardt and many wonderful operatic performers "trod the boards" of The Tabor during its heyday. You never know what you will find while visiting small towns in America. :-) Another "wowser" day in Colorado, check back later for more.