Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Leadville 1879

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1879 is of particular interest to me, being that this is when the tale of Silver Lies begins. According to The History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado, the Tabor Opera House, newly opened but a short while before, was clipping along with performances of The Long Branch, The Rich of New York, The Two Orphans, and more. In addition, Thomas Kemp’s new variety theater, the Grand Central, opened on December 10th. The December 11, 1879, edition of the Leadville Chronicle had this to say:
Although this immense building yet lacks much of completion both outside and in, it was thrown open to the public last evening as announced. Hundreds of our citizens visited it for the first time on this occasion . . . . it is without doubt the largest and best arranged variety theatre in the entire West . . . . The place is already brilliantly lighted with gas, and we are informed by Mr. Kemp that only about one-half of the number of jets have been put in. Although well lighted, the heating of the place was a miserable failure. It was simply bitter cold in the boxes, on the stage and every nook and corner, save within a few feet of the stoves in front, and audience, actors and management shivered and trembled as if with ague. Many left the house before the entertainment was over solely on this account. It was simply a huge game of “freeze out,” in which the clerk of the weather held the winning hand. Mr. Kemp promises to remedy this by putting in more stoves to-day.
I found a number of things intriguing in this passage: The numbers of people (!hundreds!) that showed up on opening night (a Wednesday). The gaslights, already installed. The intense cold. The description of the cold is a reminder to me that, even in those public places crammed with people, the chill of a Leadville winter was difficult to overcome.

More about the Grand Central in my next post.


Sharon said...

Yikes! I'm shivering just reading about it...oh...on second thought, I'm shivering because it's cold in my house! Enjoyed the post.

Ann Parker said...

Hi Sharon!
Yep, I've got a little heater going near my feet. I'm such a wimp! I'd never last through a Leadville winter back then, I'm afraid. Not enough wool in the world to keep my toes warm.

andrew christian said...

Great mystery resource.