But wait! There's more! I shall attempt to add to this thread as I am able.
Leadville is a town whose party was over some time ago. It grew up around mining, but that plug has long since been pulled. Most of the town has now been designated a National Historic Landmark. I consider it a jewel in the rough. It definitely has a small tourist following, but due to the fact that it’s not easily accessible and there are no ski slopes in its immediate vicinity, most tourists divert to nearby Vail or Aspen which are charming, kept up, and offer more in the way of activities and accessibility. As we discovered, there are very few places (like two) to sit down and have a nice dinner in Leadville. There are quite a number of bars (pubs) in operation, some very historic as I shall reveal in a future post, but they primarily serve greasy burgers and fries type fare. Odd, considering that Leadville was once second only to Denver for size and amenities.
Most exteriors of Leadville buildings have been preserved through no special effort. They are as they always have been. It seems like most people didn’t bother changing them save for maybe a few coats of paint over the years, so they stayed as is. Some of the old miner's houses have their original, weather beaten wooden slat siding with no paint at all - and yet are still lived in! Interiors have definitely changed, but you’ll still see the occasional, ornate tin ceiling or interior wooden moulding work. There have been efforts by some, like early Colorado historian Caroline Bancroft, to deliberately preserve a few of the buildings. However, to illustrate an example of “bright and shiny”, “better than new” restoration work, let us read about poor Augusta Tabor.
To very briefly sum up, Augusta Tabor (née Pierce) married poor stone-cutter (as is in rock quarry worker) Horace Tabor in 1857 at the age of 24. She moved from her comfortable East coast life out West with Horace to Kansas, and then together with their new baby son to prospect for ore in Colorado. In 1860, Augusta is considered to be the first woman in the remote mining camps of the mountains near Leadville. She was very prudent and thrifty, cooking, serving as camp banker, postmistress, and camp laundress. It was she who managed what little money Horace did have carefully ~ enabling them to survive. After several unsuccessful mining attempts, Horace and Augusta began to supply provisions for other miners, served as gold and silver essayers, and eventually, Horace became the first mayor of Leadville, building a small house on Harrison Avenue in 1877.
Upon ‘grubstaking’ some German prospectors on a new claim, and several subsequent shrewd business moves later, the Tabors became very wealthy almost overnight from the mines of Leadville. Despite this new fantastic wealth visited upon her in mid-life, Augusta was not happy. She preferred a simple lifestyle, and when Horace, now serving as Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor, built her a magnificent mansion in Denver, she refused to sleep in the master bedroom preferring instead to sleep in the servant’s quarters and milking their cow herself. Horace did not understand Augusta’s dislike for wealth and excess, and he soon took solace in the arms of beautiful divorcée Elizabeth McCourt ‘Baby’ Doe, who was only too happy to receive his lavish attention.
Horace filed for divorce from Augusta, but she refused. A very public divorce battle ensued wherein Augusta, not being stupid, fought tooth and nail for a piece of Horace’s fortune as consolation for his infidelity. Horace was eventually granted the divorce, and married the much younger ‘Baby Doe’ in 1882. Augusta was granted a very considerable monthly allowance (even by today’s standards), several pieces of property, and the house in Denver. Augusta moved to Pasadena, California where she died unhappy, lonely, broken-hearted, but still socially respected (unlike her husband) in 1895 ~ leaving her son by Horace a considerable fortune.
Horace lost all his money to bad investments and the silver bust of 1893. He died a pauper shortly thereafter in 1899, leaving ‘Baby Doe’ and his two young daughters by her with nothing. ‘Baby Doe’ took her daughters and moved into a small, one-room cabin on Fryer Hill above Leadville that had formerly served as the tool shed for her husband’s “Matchless Mine”. While she did not own it because Horace had long since lost it, the new owners were gracious enough to let her live there for the rest of her life. Her older daughter borrowed some money and ran away to live with her grandmother in Wisconsin. The other daughter stayed with her at the mine for a time, but then went on to have quite a series of adventures that ultimately led to her grizzly murder in Chicago some years later.
‘Baby Doe’ was a proud woman, and lived alone at the decaying mine, trying to work it by herself. She lived on the mountain for 35 years, her famed beauty fading away, gradually growing delirious and only able to survive through the charity of friends and neighbors. She was found dead in her filthy cabin in 1935. Photos were immediately taken when her body was removed:
Baby Doe walking from her cabin:
Interior of her cabin right after she was found:
Her rotting bed:
By 1953, ‘Baby Doe’s’ cabin had been cleaned of trash and preserved pretty much as it was when she lived in it. It is now a museum.
By 1930, the original, modest 1877 Tabor home Horace had built for himself and Augusta in Leadville had definitely seen better days:
The 1877 house was moved back away from Harrison Avenue by the Tabors in 1879 when the land it occupied became valuable for commerce. Here is the Tabor home as it stands in Leadville today at 116 East 5th Street:
Note the front porch has now been enclosed, it has been added to, and it is considerably more doctored-up from what it once was when new.