Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Leadville's Ice Palace

I was browsing the Western History and Genealogy images on the Denver Library website and stumbled on this fascinating late-nineteenth century wonder from Leadville, CO. All images and written content following the images is quoted from the Denver Public Library Western History Department/website:

"Leadville, Lake County, Colorado, Ice Palace under construction. Men work among blocks of ice; wooden poles rise in the background, 1896"



"Exterior view of the main entrance of Leadville's Ice Palace built for the 1896 Winter Crystal Carnival in Colorado. The site is known as Capitol Hill and is between West Seventh and West Eighth Streets from Spruce to Leiter. Architect C.E. Joy and Director General Wood designed the 320 x 450 foot Norman style medieval ice castle which was constructed of twenty-two deep ice blocks cut from local lakes and rivers. The entrance features an ice archway with turnstiles flanked by octagonal turrets, 90 feet high, with panelling and imitation battlements. A nineteen foot tall allegorical ice sculpture of a maiden in gown and crown, with her right arm pointing toward mines east of town, stands on a twelve foot high pedestal at the main entrance. She holds a scroll with gold letters $200,000,000 representing mining revenue produced through 1894."

"Interior view of the east entrance (Seventh Street) to Leadville's Ice Palace, which was built for the 1896 Winter Crystal Carnival in Colorado. The east entrance archway includes the Colorado Midland Railroad exhibit with painted logo of a standing American Indian on a glass plate and scenic photographs of their route frozen in colored ice blocks. A person squats outside the archway. There is a small wooden seat to the right of the entrance. Flag poles are braced in the corners of the ice wall. Wooden structures in Leadville can be seen in the distance."

"Exterior front view of Leadville's Ice Palace built for the 1896 Winter Crystal Carnival in Colorado. Features include octagonal turrets, 90 feet high, with panelling and imitation battlements. A nineteen foot tall allegorical ice sculpture of a maiden pointing her right arm toward the mines east of town sits on a twelve foot high pedestal at the main entrance. United States and Colorado state flags fly from poles on top of the turrets. Inside the castle was a skating rink, ballroom, restaurants, reception rooms, and museum exhibits."

Can you believe this? It must have been amazing in person - it had prismatic search lights outside that reflected off the ice and made the interior glow . The Ice Palace was intended to bring throngs of tourists to Leadville to create jobs, and rescue a dwindling economy. According to an article from Legends of America, "
The Ice Palace entertained over 250,000 visitors during it's three month life. But, it was a financial disaster for the investors who built it, so another ice palace of its magnitude has never been built again." Its unfortunate that the Ice Palace didn't achieve all it intended to, but it is admirable for a community to propose such a grand dream.

2 comments:

scott said...

Great article. The Ice Palace has been an interest of mine since I was a child growing up in Denver. A friend of my mother's named Eunice West grew up herself as a child in Leadville, and lived there during those years. She would recount stories of Baby Doe and Silver Dollar living in poverty at the Matchless Mine, and walking into town to join the West family at Sunday Dinner. Eunice had in her possession some original negatives of both the Ice Palace and an image of Silver Dollar with Teddy Roosevelt from which she allowed me to make prints. In any event, experiencing the Ice Palace in person must have been truly amazing!

Nathan said...

That's fascinating Scott! Thanks for sharing.

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