Sunday, January 24, 2021

Horace Tabor and the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado

The Tabor Opera House. Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, Colorado, is the highest elevation city in North America at 10,152 feet (3094.3 m). It lies among the headwaters of the Arkansas River in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It was a rough and tumble mining town when the district started out as a gold placer mining settlement during the Colorado Gold Rush, and was first called Slabtown. When large amounts of silver were discovered in the 1870s it became one of the world's largest and richest silver producer and its name was changed to Leadville.

 In February of 1878, an election was held in Leadville and Vermont native Horace Austin Warner Tabor (often referred to as H. A. W. Tabor) became the first mayor of the town. Tabor was a local storekeeper in Leadville and was one of the original pioneers of the area in 1860.  As a shopkeeper, Horace Tabor made a habit of grubstaking prospectors that were newly arrived in Leadville (grubstaking was the practice of supplying prospectors with tools and supplies in exchange for a percentage of any discoveries they make). 

Two young German immigrants that Tabor had grubstaked made a fabulous silver strike on Fryer Hill which would become known as the Little Pittsburg mine. Almost two million dollars in silver would be taken from the mine in just two years. Tabor's one-third interest in the Little Pittsburg made him a rich man. He invested his returns in additional claims which often proved just as rich. Tabor would ultimately become the leading tycoon of the district and a prominent figure in both Leadville and all of Colorado.

Tabor wanted to bring arts and culture to Leadville so he had the Tabor Opera House constructed in 1879 in just 100 days at a price of $40,000--an exorbitant price at that time. The building materials he wanted weren’t available in Leadville, so he had them brought by wagon over Colorado’s highest mountain passes. Sparing no expenses, the massive three-story opera house was made of stone, brick and iron, trimmed with Portland cement. Its solid brick walls stand 16 inches thick!  The opera house's ornate interior had richly painted walls and ceiling frescoes, custom carpets, and hand-painted stage curtains and the first gas lights in Leadville.  

Eventually, the Tabor Opera House became known as the finest opera house west of the Mississippi. Luminaries such as Oscar Wilde, John Philip Sousa, Buffalo Bill, actress Sarah Bernhardt, performer Anna Held, and more celebrities appeared at the Tabor.

Tabor lost ownership of the opera house because of the Silver Crash of 1893, as he lost his fortune. In 1893, Judge A.S. Weston bought the Tabor Opera House for $32,000 when the Tabors defaulted on a note to A.V. Hunter.  It has other names and owners through the years--a full history can be read on this link.  The City of Leadville bought the building in 2016, and is making progress on a rehabilitation project estimated to cost $10 million. Leadville's nonprofit Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation, and dedicated community members are finding all possible resources to save the grande dame of Leadville.

Tours of the Tabor Opera House are expected to return in the spring of 2021.  If you watch the Yourtube video below you can see some of the interior and learn more about this beautiful opera house.

Due to his wealth and popularity in Leadville, Tabor was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Colorado in 1878, and served as interim U.S. senator in 1883-1884. Tabor, a married man, had an affair with a young woman, Elizabeth McCourt, who was nicknamed "Baby Doe." He divorced his wife Augusta, and married Baby Doe in March of 1883. The entire affair was considered scandalous. Subsequent attempts to run for governor in the 1880's were unsuccessful as Tabor's status among Denver's elite soured, and he lost support for his reelection.  HoraceTabor died penniless, of appendicitis, in 1899. Baby Doe moved back to Leadville to live on one of Tabor's last holdings, the Matchless Mine. She lived alone, in a cabin at the mine, for over 35 years. During the winter of 1935, Baby Doe was found frozen to death in her cabin.  You can see Baby Doe's cabin and the Matcheless Mine on my blog on this link.

Leadville is certainly an interesting place to visit, full of rich mining history and legends of the wild west that once walked it streets, such as Horace Tabor, Baby Doe, Doc Holiday and Molly Brown.

To see more photos and attractions of Leadville on my blog click on this link. To see a beautiful scenic train ride my husband and I took with friends on the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad click on this link.

News around here...
My husband was able to get the first dose of the Moderna covid vaccine this month and has an appointment for the second dose. In Colorado, one has to be 70 and over to qualify to get the vaccine right now. I am not that age as yet so I have to wait. The whole process seems to be slow right now and I am hoping that with the new administration it will improve. Time will tell. So I am continuing to be cautious, but I'm optimistic that life will begin to have more normalcy by the end of the year.  In the meantime...
Spread kindness and stay happy, safe, and healthy!

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Some Kind of Heaven Film Review

Are you retired? Do you, or people you know, live in 55 and over retirement communities where the golden years of life are projected to be "fun under the sun" and full of carefree leisure time activities and fellow aged camaraderie?  For many, retirement is a time of fulfilling one's desires to enjoy life and accomplish the dream one has put aside when work requirements and raising a family were priorities. I know as retirees, my husband and I have been enjoying our life in our new location in the state of Colorado.  We have relished living close to our children and grandchildren, to be able to volunteer in our community in many interesting ways, and being able to have the time to travel to some far off places we always dreamed about.

 I was recently offered a chance to review a new one-hour twenty-one-minute documentary called  Some Kind of Heaven, directed by Lance Oppenheim and produced by Darren Aronofsky, The New York Times, and Los Angeles Media Fund. The film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. The film was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and was released on January 15, 2021. It follows a few people that live in what is thought of as a fairy tale retirement community in Florida called The Villages.  Created as a "Disneyworld for retirees" by developer Howard S. Schwartz in Central Florida in the '80s, in what was, at first, a trailer park. With housing and commercial development, it became a 30 square mile self-contained Active Adult Retirement Community.  It now houses over 120,000 residents and offers around 3,000 activities and clubs, 42 free fee golf courses, pools, walking trails, shopping, restaurants, health facilities, etc. All are a golf cart ride away for residents. 

Here is the documentary's official trailer:

Life in The Villages certainly sounds very idyllic, and for many residents, it is! This documentary, however, while showing many of the pleasures of The Villages, also focuses on four people within the communities whose experiences are not as happy one would expect. One is a widow, whose move to The Villages did not bring her the love and friendship she desired. Another, is a couple almost married 50 years who find their marriage strained under the husband's discontent and depression, which led to his use of illegal drugs.  Finally, we meet a drifter who is homeless, living in his van, and who is hoping to find a rich widow living in The Villages who will support him in his last years.  

The film is a fascinating look into some of the aspects of aging and retirement and its expectations. It shows the fact that happiness does not come from living in a place, or from a time in life, but from what makes us happy our whole life. Happiness and contentment are within--a state of mind and purpose that no sunny weather or unlimited golf or pickleball can bring us. This documentary is a candid look into four lives that have to learn that lesson and how to change their expectations.

Full disclosure: I was provided with a preview link to the film "Some Kind of Heaven" and no further compensation. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

A local view that makes me happy!

Spread kindness and stay happy, safe, and healthy!
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