A living history
LEADVILLE – Leadville is a town that lives with its past.The past might be forgotten, but in Lake County, it’s saved and preserved.During a period of immense innovation and profound change, the American Victorian Era entered the top of the Rockies at 10,200 feet from 1867-1913 during the boom days of Leadville. While America’s Victorian Era only lasted 46 years, the remains of that time continue to thrive in the town rich with history. And that history will come alive Dec. 2-4 for the 22nd annual Victorian Days, a weekend celebration of Leadville’s past.What started as a tree lighting and walking tour of Leadville’s Victorian homes has turned into a weekend of activities merging homes and businesses, afternoon tea, shady “brothel” ladies, poker and past into one whopping holiday celebration.”It’s refreshing … a community like Leadville,” said Heather Latvala, communications director for the Leadville Lake County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s one of the only places where you can see the past – actually live with the past – and taste it in your mouth.”
This year, the festival begins Dec. 2 with a Victorian fashion show and wine tasting reception. Poker players also can try their hands at a free poker tournament at the Golden Burro Restaurant and Bar. Dec. 3, guests can tour several building and homes, including an 1800s’ saloon, a modern Victorian, a historic hotel and a print shop whose turn-of-the-century presses stopped time. The tour has expanded this year, including several businesses, to a total of 10 stops in town to encompass the entire feel of the Victorian era. City Hall, just one of the stops on the map, was home to the post office in the 1880s.”After researching the building, we discovered that the post master used to climb up to the highest window and spy on his carriers,” said Raychel Bashor, event coordinator. “Imagine if they did that now.”The tour goes from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Each year, the Victorian committee chooses homes for their beauty and history. The 2005 tour includes homes that originated during the Victorian period, decorated vintage hallways, kitchens and bathrooms, but it also includes modern homes with Victorian flare.”Each home has been through extensive remodeling and lots of history,” Bashor said. The original deeds, Bashor discovered, was signed and sealed by women, something that was uncommon for the time period.
Women of the Victorian Era were raised to become wives, if they were born into a wealthy family, and were trained to be the dutiful wife, the caregiver and homemaker.”This is one of the only communities that catered to women,” Latvala said. Leadville had a strong female orientation – even 100 years ago – compared to the southern regions, where the women were seen but not heard. Here, women owned business and homes and were self-sufficient.”But why?”It’s the altitude,” Latvala said, laughing.Traditional Victorian afternoon tea will be served from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 4, while guests have Ol’ Tyme photos printed as souvenirs. Throughout the weekend, historical re-enactors will flood Harrison Avenue, in homes and buildings, at restaurants and shops, showcasing Leadville’s colorful western history of mining, gunmen and the frontier West. A silent auction for antiques and collectibles will be hosted in each of the tour sites. Free ballroom and country-western lessons will be offered Dec. 3 during the afternoon, allowing guests a head-start to the ballroom gala that night.For more information, call (719) 486-3900 or (800) 933-3901.
===========What: 22nd annual Victorian Days, “Real fun, real people, real Colorado”When: Dec. 2-4; Victorian business and home tour from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3; Victorian Afternoon Tea Dec. 4 Where: LeadvilleLodging packages and group discounts availableFor more information, call (719) 486-3900 or (800) 933-3901.
===========Leadville Chronicle Editor Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado