Walking history in Eagle | VailDaily.com

Walking history in Eagle

Kathy Heicher
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyThis undated photo shows Broadway on a busy day.

EAGLE, Colorado ” Many people are under the vague impression that the town of Eagle got its start when some visionary developers launched a ski resort up valley.

That would be wrong.

Eagle has a rich history, starting when Henry Hernage settled a ranch at the mouth of Brush Creek in 1882. (Yes, that’s the same man whose name survives on Hernage Gulch.) From that point the settlement grew into a bustling town that served the miners who were seeking their fortunes in the Fulford mining district.

By the time the local economy had turned to ranching, Eagle was a thriving town that succeeded in wresting the county seat status away from Red Cliff, its older, up-valley neighbor. That historic event happened in 1921.

Many of the historical structures that characterized early day Eagle have disappeared. But some remain and have a history to share.

The Eagle County Historical Society has designed a walking tour of Eagle that takes participants back through time. All that’s needed is a comfortable pair of shoes, one or two hours of spare time and the printed tour guide ” which may be picked up for $1 at the Everything Store, Eagle Visitor Center, Eagle County Historical Society Museum, Hitching Post Bed and Breakfast, and the Mountain Peddler. Enjoy this sneak preview of some of the sites featured in the walking tour, along with a few history “bonuses.”

This undated photo depicts the west side of Broadway on a busy day. The large building on the left (now the site of the Brush Creek Saloon construction project) is the Woodman Hall, built in 1898. The building was used for lodge purposes for a fraternal organization known as the “Woodman of the World.”

Over the years, the street level portion of the building has been used for various purposes, including a dry goods store, a temporary county courthouse, and a movie theater from 1940 to the early 1970s.

The second floor of the building was a community gathering place, serving as the largest dance hall between Leadville and Grand Junction (1910); and as the Eagle Opera House (1913). In the 1930s, the Eagle High School team played basketball upstairs. The floor was so small that the four circles intersected with the center jump circle. Players also had to negotiate their way around a center pillar and heating stove in the middle of the room. The windows of the “gym” were protected with potato-sorting screens, borrowed from local farmers.

The lumber company was located on Second and Broadway, where the Eagle Town Hall now stands. The business moved out to a Chambers Avenue location in the late 1970s. Prior to the construction of the lumber company, the Buchholz Livery Stable was located on the site. The livery barn was torn down in 1929.

There was a time when Eagle residents could buy a car from dealers in town. This photo shows the Koonce Chevrolet Company, circa 1934. The former Koonce auto dealership building now serves as Red Canyon High School. The Koonce family played a prominent role in Eagle history. Businessman Art Koonce moved to the area in 1901. His son, Harold, a prominent local businessman, was instrumental in the creation of Colorado Mountain College, the Eagle County Airport and the hospital at Vail.

Now the home of the Broadway Cafe, the Dice building (named for the brothers who constructed it) was built in 1904, at a cost of $1,505.

A saloon and pool room, know as the “Pony Resort” was the original tenant of the building. By 1907, the building had been expanded to the back, in order to accommodate the Silver Eagle Tonsorial Parlor which offered haircuts and 25-cent baths.

In 1909, a drug store replaced the saloon. The drugstore owner, Doctor Wiley, installed a circulating library and a soda fountain in the space.

At one time, the Eagle Post Office was located in the building (see photo).

The upper floors of the building have housed a variety of business offices over the years. Brother-lawyers Bill and Gene Luby operated their offices out of the building, as did attorney Hume White. The space was also occupied by a doctor’s office.

Many locals still remember when the bottom floor was occupied by Ira Bindley’s barbershop, featuring hydraulic chairs, a wooden back bar and a taxidermy golden eagle on the wall. The cigar case in the corner of the store included a display of three taxidermy beaver cubs.

This general mercantile store was located on the corner of Third and Broadway, in the brick building that now houses the Wells Fargo Bank. Originally known as the Lewis-Kluge store, the business was started by Tom Lewis and his wife, Rose. They were known for handing out a sack of candy to the kids, when ranchers came in to pay their bills. The store was later taken over by brothers John and Harry Lewis. The bank took over the store space in the late 1970s.

The brick building on the right side is the old Eagle Town Hall, located at 108 W. Second St.

This was the first brick building in Eagle, constructed in 1904. It started out as the “Eagle Club” saloon.

In 1918, the building was used as a hospital during the influenza epidemic.

During the 1930s a local women’s study group, the Delphian Society, purchased the building for use as a public meeting place and town offices. The building also housed the town library.

The new Town Hall, on the corner of Second and Broadway, was constructed in 2002.

The aging Ping Hotel still stands at 104 Capitol St. (the corner of Highway 6 and Capitol).

The hotel was originally built in 1893 by C.F. “Charley” Nogel. The hotel featured 13 rooms, including eight bedrooms. At peak capacity, the Nogal family had 25 boarders. Water was hauled up from the Eagle River; and fuel wood was cut by hand.

Otis Ping, a mechanic from Ireland, bought the property in 1923. The Ping family expanded the building by adding two wings out back, and building some stucco cabins along Capitol Street. The Pings operated a gas station and a photography business at the site.

The last boarder in the hotel was in the early 1940s; although members of the Ping family continued to live on the property until about 2000.

The property is currently for sale.

Cramp’s store, located on the southwest corner of Second and Broadway (where the Brush Creek Saloon is temporarily quartered) featured a retail store on the bottom floor, and residences up above. The first building on the site was the Duncan House Hotel and Saloon, built in 1887. The original building burned in 1894.

At one time one of Eagle’s early auto dealers had a show room on the site, offering autos with such names as Graham -Paige, Jewett, and Hudson.

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