Leadville, Colorado

We left Wyoming, and the beautiful Wind River Range, after our hike to the Cirque of the towers ,and decided to drive south into Colorado. After an overnight in Fort Collins, we set out with no particular plan in mind, except to drive towards Aspen.

In 2019, Shannon went on a solo hiking trip to the Four Pass Loop, which he began near Aspen. As we’d be flying out of Denver, he thought it would be fun to show me some of the places he’d seen during his trip. We first made a stop in the town of Nederland, Colorado. According to Wikipedia: “Nederland is a statutory town located near Barker Meadow Reservoir in the foothills of southwest Boulder County, Colorado, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census it had a population of 1,445.”

Shops in Nederland
We spent most of our time in Nederland in this store, and left with a Jade mortar and Pestle!

We drove through town after town, beautiful mountains, and incredible scenery.

The drive looked like this most of the day.
The Eisenhower tunnel carries I-70 underneath the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains, near Loveland Pass.

After about 2 hours we arrived in Leadville!

Leadville is the highest elevation “incorporated city” in the US! It is a former silver mining town, that is situated in the Rocky mountains
Main Street, Leadville

One of the neatest things in Leadville, is the Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon. Ive linked it there if you want to read more, but Ill summarize it here; It was designed back in the late 1800’s as a drinking establishment for men, as it wasn’t proper for women to go to bars. Many of the features inside are original structures, including the windbreaker wall in the front entrance which keeps out the blustery snow, but also obstructs the view inside, so that men could go out drinking and not be discovered by their women. There were many famous visitors to the Silver Dollar Saloon, including Doc Holliday (who is rumored to have bartended at times, and who’s piano is in the photo gallery below), The “unsinkable” Molly Brown, Oscar Wilde, and more recently, Jimmy Buffet. Buffet, after learning of the death of his friend John Wayne, wrote incommunicado in one of the two booths at the bar, and we’d like to think it was the one we got to sit in when we had lunch there, as one of his albums hung just above it. Also, the food was outstanding!

Now on the day that John Wayne died
I found myself on the continental divide
Tell me where do we go from here?
Think I’ll ride into Leadville and have a few beers
Think of “Red River”, “Liberty Valence” can’t believe
the old man’s gone
– From Incommunicado by Jimmy Buffet

The booths are from the train car that delivered the “3/4 inch thick diamond dust mirrors” over the bar from St Louis, MO
The entire bar, and mirror behind, are original except for the far right. mirror which was damaged in the 70’s in a Denver Broncos vs Buffalo Bills football game. A fan who’s team was losing, hurled his 7oz tumbler at the mirror and shattered it. In the 70’s it cost $5,000 to replace it, and now they’ve insured the entire back bar for over a million dollars.
We thought this was neat – this entrance, door, and walkway into the Silver Dollar Saloon, was warped and worn from the 143 years it’s been here.

The entire time we were eating lunch at the Silver Dollar Saloon, we were hosted by a tall gentleman named Jeb, who was a 6th generation resident of Leadville. He was personable and interesting, and was only too happy to tell us and show us about the Silver Dollar Saloon.

Jeb gave us permission to use his photo here. He is a wealth of information about the saloon and the town of Leadville.
  • Side note – we left the very first of our brand new headseasttailswest.com stickers in Leadville, Colorado, in company with many other stickers. You can find it because we have put “Shinin Brite”, the name of our sailboat, front and center
We were so proud to leave our sticker here!!

The Silver Dollar Saloon got it’s name from “Silver Dollar Tabor”, the second daughter of Horace and Baby Doe Tabor. From the printed pamphlet inside the Saloon ” In 1890 shortly after her birth, a politician and friend of the family said that the baby’s laughter had the ring of a silver dollar. As they’d not yet settled on a name for the baby, they then named her Rosemary Silver Dollar Echo Honeymoon Tabor.” Which brings me to the next part of our visit to Leadville, and The Matchless Mine and Baby Doe’s Cabin.

Purchased in 1879 by “Silver King” Horace Tabor, the Matchless Mine was one of the richest silver mines of the era. It is estimated to have produced almost 2 billion dollars(by today’s standards) during the time of it’s operation.

Horace Tabor was married to his first wife when he met and married his mistress-turned- second wife, Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor. It was quite the scandal. Horace and Baby Doe were extremely wealthy and lived in “high fashion”, with an outrageous lifestyle of jewels, lavish houses, and spoiled young children.

Photos of Baby Doe in her prime from the story boards at the mine
Above is Horace pictured with his first wife. Baby Doe is pictured here, in the middle, next to a blurb describing a scandalous love triangle.

Horace and Baby Doe also made a series of bad investments which eventually ruined them. By the mid to late 1880’s their fortune had dried up completely. Horace died in 1899 and Baby Doe and the children were left with nothing but the mine. She eventually moved into the one cabin located on the mine property, living more or less as a recluse. She died in 1935 of a heart attack at the age of 81, and was not discovered until days later, frozen, in her cabin. Today they are remembered fondly in Colorado as legends.

Baby Doe in her later years

Below are photos of Baby Doe’s cabin. There was a tour happening inside which we did not wish to join, but you can see her little bed beyond the folding chairs.

Although the story of the Matchless Mine, and the Tabors has a tragic ending, it is beautiful place. It may have been difficult for them to see it that way once they’d lost so much. My great-grandfather was a copper miner up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the early 1900’s, so I am always interested in seeing old mine sites like this one. It feels like a place that is frozen in time, and it is interesting to imagine what it may have been like in those days.

From Leadville, we made our way to Aspen and Snowmass. I’ll tell you about that next!

8 thoughts on “Leadville, Colorado

  1. Pingback: Summer in Snowmass, Colorado! | Heads East, Tails West

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