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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39 comments:

Angie said...

Pat - another terrific slice of Colorado history, with the pictures to match! I am glad your hubby has had the first dose of the vaccine; one step at a time! Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday!

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat,

Interesting information on the Opera House and Horace Tabor. I am glad you hubby was able to get the vaccine, I am hoping more doses become available for everyone. Take care, enjoy your day and happy new week ahead!

A Bit of the Blarney said...

Again, as always you’ve made my day. We were actually able to spend a little time in Leadville when we were home almost 2 years ago now. Hoping to be home again this summer! We’re scheduled for our vaccines in February. Take care and have a wonderful week!!

Reidland Family said...

Thanks for sharing. I'd love to visit there some day!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

That is really an amazing building and fascinating history of a complicated man.. I feel like a dopey gossip magazine reader because as I read your post I kept thinking I already knew something about Mr Tabor, but nothing rang a bell until I got to the part about Baby Doe. Sigh! I hope now the more important history will stay in my feeble mind instead (or at least besides). .... Oregon is even slower than you are re the vaccine and we continue the same as we have been, with hope and with fingers crossed.

Sandi Magle said...

This was all so terribly interesting. I've read a few books and sites having to do with Leadville. And occasionally it pops up in movies or old Western TV series. Great arictle...thanks, Sandi

Jeanie said...

When you started talking about Baby Doe, I thought "I remember hearing about her somewhere." And then I remembered it was from your post! This is fascinating and I love how you share history of your area with us. I'm really a sucker for vintage theatres/opera houses/movie palaces. This would be fun to see.

Lowcarb team member said...

Thank you for taking time to share your photographs, and the interesting information, on the Opera House and Horace Tabor.

Have a good week.

All the best Jan

stevebethere said...

What an interesting post as always loved the photos too :-)

Have an informativetastic safe week 👍 😷😷😷

ellen b. said...

Amazing history wrapped up in that town. What a sad ending for those two.

NCSue said...

You certainly find some treasures to share each week! Thank you for joining us at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-rest-of-indoor-herb-garden.html

Nellie said...

A very interesting story....with a tragic conclusion! Great to have that building restored! We are in our eighth decade and were able to have our first vaccine last Tuesday; second coming on February 9th. Stay well!

Gillena Cox said...

Thaks for your pictures and info of where you live
Happy you dropped by my blog
Have a nice week

Much💖love

Tom said...

...we have a several restored opera house that venues for live performances. I hope that pandemic can be brought under control.

Aletha Oglesby, M.D. said...

I visited Leadville many years ago and remember seeing the opera house, but didn't go inside. I wish I had known it had such a fascinating history.

Tanza Erlambang said...

interesting story and beautiful photos....
wish to visit some day

William Kendall said...

Distinctive architecture.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

You always share such interesting facts about your area, Pat. The Opera House is quite a surprise for such a time. All the noted actors that played there speaks to its importance!
Our area is quite slow, as most of the country is in the availability of the vaccine. I too, pray that production will improve soon! We are waiting our turn and hope it won't be too much longer before normalcy returns.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

I love the story of the opera house. Mining made and lost fortunes all through the west. My grandfather on my mother's side was a powderman and worked all over the west in various mines ending up in the copper mines of Butte, Montana.

I'm getting my first vaccine shot tomorrow, I don't know which of the two I am getting and don't much care. I am also hoping that they roll out rate increases.

Photo Cache said...

Beautiful facade. Can't wait to see the interior.

Worth a Thousand words

Linda said...

I've been there!! I used to visit Colorado four times a year and sometimes more. It was my favorite place to get away to. All seasons except spring. Only did that once. Messy and muddy in the spring.
We got our vaccine - first dose - on Saturday. We got the Pfizer one....
Life has been so strange the last year....I pray things get more normal soon.

Lady Fi said...

Lovely building - and a sad story.

Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening said...

I enjoyed learning about the history behind this old Opera House, but such a sad ending. It's nice to learn that the building was restored so that it can live on and be enjoyed by visitors.

Barb said...

We like visiting Leadville. It remains true to its mining history, even with tourism. Glad Vinny got his first dose. Summit County has been very organized with scheduling and administering vaccines. We continue to isolate. I said to Bob recently that I hope we can at least take a day trip in the spring...maybe....

XmasDolly said...

Love seeing these kind of places! Totally awesome! Ahhhh if the walls could talk right? I would love to go here! Thanks for sharing. Woo Hoo

Donna @ Modern on Monticello said...

So glad the Opera House will be renovated and restored. I love historical houses and buildings. Thanks for sharing a little bit of history with us this week. #HomeMattersParty

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

I'd love to make the drive from Denver to Leadville again!

Sharon Wagner said...

My mom loved all the cowboys like Buffalo Bill.

Jim said...

Wonderful.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

What an interesting history! Tabor was a smart man to be a grubstaker rather than a miner. It's great to hear the building is being refurbished.

Dixie @ Arranged Words said...

So inspiring to see such an historical building being brought back to life. In its day it looked like such a beautiful place.
Good news that your husband has been vaccinated.
I , too, hope things will be better at the end of the year.
Enjoy the weekend...

Joanne said...

What a neat little history lesson! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home. Pinned.

betty-NZ said...

What a glorious piece of history! Thanks for sharing, it was quite interesting!

It's so great to see your link at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I'm always amazed to read about these opera houses in towns where you would never find one today. It seems that many towns and small cities across the U.S. had an opera house in the early part of the 20th century. Interesting post about Leadville's, Pat.

Klara said...

very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it.

MarilynsTreats said...

Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

April J Harris said...

What a fascinating town, Pat, and I so enjoyed the story behind it.I'm so glad they are working to restore the opera house, it sure does have a colourful history with all those famous performers. I remember your post on Baby Doe, it's interesting how the posts both tie together. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Community. I'm really glad your husband has had first dose of the vaccine. I hope you will get yours soon. The UK are doing doses in order of need, so most of the over 80's have had their first dose, and some over 70's as well as many health workers. My husband and I are in the eighth group because of our age (55), so hopefully we will have the first dose by the end of April. Fingers crossed. I hope yours is soon too. Take care and stay well! Have a lovely week.

Rambling Woods said...

My husband has had both as a first responder and over the age of 70. This is a scary time...Michelle

Dawn said...

I love learning about other places and history. How awesome to be able to visit places that have kept the history in tack. Maybe soon we'll be traveling again.
Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade