Sunday, February 24, 2019

Smoldering heap before the water system worked

Progress didn't arrive quite soon enough. 

Or the fires, beat it to town.

By Rob Carrigan,

Within an eight-week span, in early 1907, the Northern Colorado town of Ault suffered devastating fires that left three-quarters of the growing community's business district a smoldering heap.  The king-sized fires in the still-small town destroyed at least 13 businesses in three separate, but successive fires.
 "How fire number one started is still a mystery, as matter of fact, so are the second and third fires," wrote historian Dean Krakel in a 1961 paper for the Denver Westerners' Roundup. "All were discovered after midnight. Shots and terrifying shouts for help brought half-dressed, B.V.D. wearing citizens with water pails in hand."
But it wasn't necessarily a surprise.
"After the turn of the century, Ault grew like Topsy. Flimsy buildings flanked by creaking windmills were scattered along 'Main Street,'" asserts Krakel.
"The town had a social problem too, since a group of unshaven outcasts from Missouri took over, finding its law slightly unnerved. Honky-tonks, bootleg whiskey, and poker games were in high style, until the decent element banded together in a charter of incorporation. After the election of May of 1904, things were never quite the same," Krakel wrote.
One of the first items on the town board's agenda was the re-organization of the hose company and laying plans to bolster the water works.
"As months whizzed by, various improvements were made to entice newcomers. Business places even boasted small-watted electric light bulbs — the latest thing in conveniences."
But 1906 came and went, and still no pressure in the water pipes.
"Next year," recorded the board clerk in the town's minutes. "We'll have regular fire hydrants with new water lines to hook up."
Shortly after New Years Day in 1907, taxpayers in town voted to bond the community and expand the water system. But not soon enough.
"None was more concerned with the increasing incendiary hazards than Night Watchman William Fry. He warned merchants that workers on spud sorting crews needed watching because of their careless 'Saturday Night' habits. "Another thing' he pointed out was the constant threat of freight trains posed. 'Sometimes,' he cautioned. 'Engines on sidetracks puff sparks clean across town.'"
And there were other reasons for the work. The Ault Advertiser editorial called attention to the problems as early as September 17, 1904, noting that “First of all, we want a water system for our town. Several methods are now being investigated and discussed. We want water and must have it, as our business houses are suffering for lack of a proper supply.”
September 30, 1904, an article says: “The irrigating ditch crossing Main Street has washed the side of the ditch beyond its plank covering and causing a hole to cave in the surface of the street.” Water was already a significant issue for this plains town.
But progress didn't arrive quite soon enough. Or the fires, beat it to town.
"Pence's Hotel was the initial loss. It went up like a tinder box in the wee hours of January 23. It was small consolation to R. Lincoln Pence that the adjacent structures were saved. However, the next time the alarm was given, things were different," wrote Krakel. "While men worked frantically thaw out pumps, a bitter February wind fanned spreading flames white hot and within an hour, five buildings in the heart of downtown became a blazing inferno. Windows cracked and exploded from the intense heat like it was the Fourth of July, and nearby structures smouldered tottering on the brink of ignition.
In two more hours, Gilchrest Lumber Company was engulfed lock, stock and barrel and more building added to the conflagration.
"Flames skyrocketed hundreds of feet in the air, and in Greeley, twelve miles away, crowds gazed from vantage points thinking Eaton, four mile closer, was for sure in a bad fix," says Krakel.
"Citizens form cordons near the end of streets and at openings between buildings to prevent foolishness. Merchants entering buildings from the rear worked feverishly to salvage what they could, while each home and outbuilding had its own roof-top spark stompper."
When the wind stopped, the firefighters finally made headway, and by morning, the town's people were sorting through the ashes.
Then, the third and last fire broke out.
By this time, the community had as seasoned a crew of fire fighters as existed anywhere in the region.
Only one building and part of another was destroyed. As the town's sage reportedly put it, however. "Hell, there ain't nothin' left to burn."
Tales circulated on the cause of the fires for years.
Like ... the phantom night rider, or the laughing hobo. Yet, Night Watchman Fry is said to have maintained to his dying day, that things might have been different, "if only them fellers in the Town Hall had listened to his plan and acted sooner."
Finally in 1907,  a well was dug, two 17,000 gallon storage tanks put into place and pumping equipment purchased. The brickyard was adjacent to the site chosen for the waterworks, so the source of building material was native brick. The Ault Pump House was then erected to cover the well, tanks and equipment, as well as the Fire Department’s equipment. This included two hose carts with 600 feet of 2½ inch cotton hose each and 600 feet of hose at the pumping station, all new. The church bell or the night watchman firing his revolver served as the fire alarm. When a new municipal building was constructed in 1909, the Fire Department moved into the space set aside for them after occupying the Pump House from 1907 to 1909. The building continued in its use as the municipal water storage and supply facility. The Sanborn Map of 1908 shows that Ault, population 900, established a functional water system, according to the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties application for the Ault Pumphouse.
Listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties since 2007, the historic brick pump house sits atop what was once the town’s first well.  Through this History Colorado State Historical Fund grant from 2014, community members construct plans to transform the historic pump house into the site of the Ault Area History Museum through window, masonry and roof rehabilitation. 

Additional information about the Ault Pump House:

"Ault lies in the path of the once traveled Trappers Trail being located north of Forts St. Vrain, Lupton and Vasquez and south of Fort Laramie. During this era horses and wagons, traders and trappers, explorers, travelers and miners used the Trail. The grasslands brought cattlemen and the rich soil attracted farmers. The Water Supply and Storage Company was incorporated to supply water via a ditch system for these newly arrived farmers raising potatoes and sugar beets.The Union Pacific Railroad arrived in Colorado in 1869, and on November 11, 1869, the tracks reached the present location of Ault," says grant applications for nearly $137,000 of work provide by History Colorado.
During the 1880s, ranchers had to drive their cattle to Eaton for shipment. Difficulties arose with fences and farmers; the solution brought a railroad spur to Ault. During the Panic of 1893, Alexander M. Ault, a grain buyer, installed platform scales and agreed to buy and ship wheat and cattle. The community was first called McCallister and then Burgdorf, but the citizens voted to name the town Ault. Mail reached the town by train in 1898, though the first depot wasn’t built until 1903. The community grew out of the existence of the Union Pacific Railroad, making it a crossroads for rural farms and ranches. Ault became a hub to market agricultural products at the turn of the twentieth century.
"The exact pathways of distribution to the bustling businesses and residences defines the existence of a healthy, economically sound community. On September 27, 1909, 5,000 people attended the Third Annual Ault Harvest Carnival, Potato Roast and Free Barbecue. There were barrels of water with cups attached," according to the Grant application to History Colorado.
Over the years, the Pump House site is remembered as a place where Boy Scouts camped and the town allowed travelers to use the rest stop and camp. Groups of gypsies were also welcome. Children used the Pump House as a place to “hang out” and parents used the “give you to the gypsies” threat as child behavior control. The initial water system sufficed for several decades but the supply could not meet the ever-increasing demands. In 1937-38, the well could not be made deeper because of shale. Two new wells were dug and water tunneled to the original well at the Pump House. The town again upgraded the water system in 1952 with new water mains and sewer lines.
Residents wanted softer, better quality water, so in February 1965, Ault started buying water from the North Weld Water District. A 500,000 gallon storage tank was ordered and erected in 1976 at the rear of the Pump House property. At the same time, a concrete block equipment building was added at the northeastern portion of the Pump House.
During recent years, progress in transportation and communication has caused much of the business to shift to urban areas and Ault has become a bedroom community. "In agreement with the town trustees, the Ault Area Historical Museum has been organized to create a museum and preserve this building as a place of local pride. The goal is to eventually light the well and provide a transparent cover so it can be viewed as an attraction. This is the appropriate building for a community museum and a permanent marker of the area’s early development."

 Photo Information:
1. Ault, in August of 1906, prior to the fires.
2. Ault, after the second fire of 1907.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Colorado's finest 20th Century building

In harmony with the natural surroundings, the outdoor theater is an architectural and acoustical triumph

By Rob Carrigan,

Red Rocks Park, purchased by the city of Denver in 1928, contains a remarkable landscape of red sandstone monoliths that has been a regional attraction since the 1870s— at least.
The current amphitheater, completed in 1941 by workers from the nearby Civilian Conservation Corps camp, Red Rocks began its iconic rise to star-graced stardom early in the twentieth century, as owner John Brisben Walker had a vision of artists performing on a stage nestled in the perfect acoustic surroundings of Red Rocks, which likely were used by the Ute tribe in earlier times.
Walker produced a number of concerts between 1906 and 1910 on a temporary platform; and from his dream, the history of Red Rocks as an entertainment venue began.
The city of Denver bought the 728-acre property from Walker for $54,133.
In addition to the platform, Walker also built the Mount Morrison Cable Incline funicular railway which carried tourists from a base at what is today the parking lot of the amphitheater up to the top of Mount Morrison; the incline operated for about five years beginning in 1909.
Originally the place was known as the "Garden of the Angels" (1870s-1906), and then as "Garden of the Titans" during the Walker years (1906–1928). The park, however, had always been known by the folk name of "Red Rocks," which became its formal name when Denver acquired it in 1928.
"This theater was the dream of George Cranmer, a wealthy ex-stockbroker, who had liquidated his firm a year before the stock market crash. He had long been fascinated by the  large rocks jutting up at the base of the mountains west of Denver. While traveling in Sicily, he saw the Greek outdoor theater at Taormina and envisioned a Denver counterpart," wrote Denver historian (Dr. Colorado) Thomas J. Noel.
In 1927, George Cranmer, Manager of Denver Parks, convinced the City of Denver to purchase the area of Red Rocks from Walker for $54,133 ($789,859 today). Cranmer convinced Benjamin Franklin Stapleton, the Mayor of Denver, Colorado, to build on the foundation laid by Walker.
"Mayor Stapleton in 1935 appointed Cranmer as manager of Improvements and Parks, giving him a chance to realize his Red Rocks dream. Stapleton regarded Denver's Red Rock Mountain Park as a giant rock garden. Cranmer conversely, wanted to make it the giant outdoor theater by leveling the boulder-strewn area between two massive outcropping for seating. He convinced CCC officials to proceed quietly with plans to clear the area. Workers took several days to set all the dynamite charges. Then they blew up all the baby boulders at once — pulverizing Stapleton's rock garden," according to Noel.
By enlisting the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and Works Progress Administration (WPA), labor and materials were provided for the venture. Construction of the amphitheater began in 1936 and was opened to the public in June 1941. Red Rocks Amphitheater was designed by Denver architect Burnham Hoyt, in harmony with the natural surroundings, making the theater an architectural and acoustical triumph.
 The walls of the amphitheater contain records dating back to the Jurassic period of 160 million years ago as nearby dinosaur tracks have been discovered as well as fossil fragments of the 40-foot sea serpent Plesiosaur.
The earliest notable rock-and-roll performance at Red Rocks was by The Beatles on August 26, 1964, the only concert not sold out during their US-tour.
Since then, legendary concerts from the likes of U2, The Grateful Dead, Phish, Blues Traveler, Steve Martin, John Denver, Willie Nelson and almost everything in between, has graced the hallowed stage there.

Photo Information:
Top photo: Red Rocks during construction of the seating area by Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Center photo: Early day musicians before construction of the amphitheater.
Bottom photo: Beatles and their publicist Derek Taylor at Red Rocks. Photo by Ken Mausolf, courtesy of Denver Theatres and Arenas.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Denver's Auto Bandit Chaser helps local police tackle advanced criminal elements

Unit designed to counter an epidemic of bank robberies

No major technological change has ever been instituted by mankind without an array of negative consequences. The motor car has meant liberation for millions, but it has also caused congestion, environmental damage, and a disturbing death toll on the roads. Theo Paphitis
Read more at:
No major technological change has ever been instituted by mankind without an array of negative consequences. The motor car has meant liberation for millions, but it has also caused congestion, environmental damage, and a disturbing death toll on the roads. Theo Paphitis
Read more at:
"No major technological change has ever been instituted by without an array of negative consequences. The motor car had meant liberation for millions, but it has also caused congestion, environmental damage, and a disturbing death toll on the roads." __ Theo Paphitis

By Rob Carrigan,

If you are a police officer, or even a private crime fighter, it can be hell trying to keep up with the crooks. Evidence: the Batmobile, Starsky and Hutch's Gran Torino, Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine, or even Magnum P.I.'s Ferrari GTS 308. Nothing illustrated that idea more that advent of Denver's Auto Bandit Chaser.
 "With the widespread use of the automobile, the motor bandit has come into existence as the modern successor of the old-time Knight of the road. The auto bandit is the most daring, ingenious, and swiftly moving hold up of all time, and payroll messengers, banks and trains are his prey," says the February, 1921, edition of Popular Mechanics in an article by E.C MacMechen.
"The city of Denver has made special provision for the construction of an auto bandit chaser, a 90-hp, armored car with racing ability. The car is under construction now. The manager of safety procured a standard chassis and engine, and the special body is being built by city shops."
Listed as features of the car were as follows:
• It has no windshield.
• Three tiers of seats, holding officers armed with trench guns.
• On the wide running boards, just in front of the rear fenders, are single chairs with shoulder rests, each holding an officer with a trench gun.
• The wheels are protected by armor-plated fenders, reaching well around the axle, so that the bandit chaser may run against a fleeing car and force it into the ditch.
• The radiator is guarded with steel plates, and the car has a steel ram, capable of knocking down a board fence, or breaking through a barbed wire fence, if the bandits take to the open prairies to the east of Denver.
• The tiers of seats — each enabling its occupants to shoot over the heads of those in the seat before them —and side seats , allow eight officer to shoot at the car ahead with high-power rifles.
• The car has no top to obstruct vision.
MacMechen writes that, "The idea of the car germinated after numerous auto bandits had escaped pursuing officers because the latter had to lean around the windshield to shoot."
According to MacMechen:
"The car will come into the greatest use after robberies of unusual magnitude, the bandits in such cases usually leaving the city in high-power cars and taking to the prairie or mountain roads. Nearly always it is possible to get trace of their route from filing stations."
Other publications also weighed in, at the time.
"Crime in varying phases, which has recently swept over the country, is tasking the resourcefulness of the several police departments to frustrate the lawless element and to capture the criminals. New methods employed by the law breakers are being met by new methods of detection and arrest, one of the latest being the auto bandit chaser which the city of Denver intends to install as a unit of its police equipment," said a 1921 edition of The Modern City.
"Police methods of apprehending criminals must change with the times. Instead of the mounted highway men of the cross roads and bands of desperate horsemen that held up trains a dozen years ago, police officers are now called upon to check a type of bandit more resourceful and swifter in flight than the world has ever known. The automobile is responsible for the development of the motor bandit. Not only have highwaymen taken to automobiles, but the whiskey runner, who has started operations in all parts of the country since the advent of prohibition, is as daring an outlaw as the train bandit and will shoot to kill just as quickly," noted The Modern City.
Kansas Banker noted also the changes in the supposed demographic makeup of the the new outlaws.
"The modern bandit appears to mostly young men in their early twenties, of the wise-'cracking' 'gun-flashing' silk-shirted, cake-eater type, each the proud possessor of a supposed-to-be smart 'Broad.'
According to Elizabeth Victoria Wallace in her book Hidden History of Denver at least some parts of the elaborate plan of an Auto Bandit Chaser to wreak havoc on crime was a bit of a pipe dream.
"It is reported that when a policeman fired the machine gun during a demonstration, it rocked loose from its base and was ineffective," she wrote.

Photo Information: Denver police officers pose with Denver's Auto Bandit Chaser in Civic Center Park in the Civic Center Neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. The car is a Cadillac modified by the Izett Auto Body Company to include bullet-proof armor plate, a bullet-proof windshield, spot lights, and a machine gun. Captain George Merritt aims the machine gun from the front passenger seat. Men of the riot squad occupy the other seats and hold bayonets, trench guns, and high powered rifles. Officials from city government and the police department stand nearby. Prominent individuals include from left to right: Manager of Safety and Excise, Frank M. Downer; Chief of Police, Herbert R. Williams; and Acting Deputy Chief, Robert Carter. The Voorhies Memorial is in the distance.

Western History and Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Colorado dude ranch turned into top-flight recording studio

'Cause the Rocky Mountain Way is better than the way we had

By Rob Carrigan,

The first true radio hit recorded at Caribou Ranch was Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way." In addition to Chicago (starting with Chicago VI), the studio has been used by numerous other artists: Elton John (for his Caribou album as well as Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies), Dan Fogelberg, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Carole King, Stephen Stills, Waylon Jennings, Amy Grant, Supertramp, Badfinger and The Beach Boys. Unfortunately, the studio complex was shut down and never used again after a March 1985 fire destroyed the control room and caused about $3 million in damage.
James William Guercio, an American music producer, musician and songwriter, built the recording studio in the early 1970s.
"What Walsh ended up discovering was the soon-to-be-famous Caribou Ranch. Built on 4,000 acres of land outside Nederland, Colorado, Caribou Ranch was the improbable home of a budding recording studio. In time, it would become one of the finest studios in the world, recording legendary musicians such as Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, U2, Chicago, and Billy Joel, among others. Elton John recorded his 2x platinum album Caribou there," wrote Jeff Suwak, a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest.
"But when Walsh arrived at Caribou Ranch in 1972, it was little more than a partially renovated barn, with only one room fully completed. During the recording of Barnstorm, the eponymous first album made by Walsh’s new band, the band members had to urinate down an elevator shaft. But James William Guercio, Caribou Ranch owner, had hired Tom Hidley, ex-Beach Boy and now one of the top designers in the world, to transform the ranch into a world-class recording locale. Guercio's association with the Boys stemmed from filling in on a few of their tours in the early '70s, Suwak said.
Joe Walsh's Barnstorm album Barnstorm was only moderately successful. But the albums following, 1973's The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, which featured "Rocky Mountain Way." Walsh had his first major commercial hit.
"Jim Guercio got his start in the '60s band The Buckinghams before producing Blood Sweat & Tears and most famously Chicago. He took his riches from those and started a variety of projects, most notably Caribou Studios. Located in the mountains near Nederland, Caribou was a 19th-century dude ranch turned into a state-of-the-art recording studio that made Colorado the middle of the music universe in the '70s. It was secluded behind two gates for privacy and very few people ever saw it, despite more than 170 artists recording there from the early '70s to the mid-'80s, when a fire shut it down. Musicians lived in bunkhouses on site while recording albums, the first "destination" studio. John Lennon, Elton John, Joe Walsh, Supertramp, Waylon Jennings, the Beach Boys, America, Jeff Beck, Earth Wind & Fire, Rod Stewart, Stephen Stills, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder and dozens more recorded there at their peak of popularity. Elton named an album Caribou in its honor, and his massive selling Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was recorded entirely there. Walsh's Rocky Mountain Way was written and recorded there. Due to the ranch's secluded nature (far enough off the beaten path that they actually let Stevie Wonder drive a jeep around) and Guercio's reclusiveness not much has been written about the place," wrote Javier Manzono, in a pitch for Rocky Mountain News Story, before the paper closed. The photo archive of the News, ended up in Denver Public Library's Digital Collection.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Buffalo Bill Cody contrasts the celebration of expansion

Poster child for duality of Western Reality

By Rob Carrigan,

Buffalo Bill has widely swung from one end of the popularity spectrum,  to the other, and back a few times, in my lifetime.
He is the poster child for the duality of the Western reality.
When I was a young buck, his tall buckskin-clad persona epitomized the American Western hero. When we realized he killed so many buffalo, and Native Americans, that he was written off as "a white male chauvinist, and violent bigot who slaughtered animals and native Americans," we struggled a bit, but he liked to party, and he always came across as one the best-looking, and coolest hippie-like characters we could imagine.
"Western history without Buffalo Bill would have astonished 20-Century Americans," notes Thomas J. Noel, (Dr. Colorado) in "Mile High City,  An Illustrated History of Denver."
"Cody's career began when he ran away from home at age 13 to join the Colorado Gold Rush. A year later he became a Pony Express rider who boasted he covered 322 miles in 21 hours and 40 minutes using 21 horses."
"Bill killed, according to his own account, 4,280 buffalo," says Noel.
"Cody also hunted Indians. He slew Yellow Hand, a Cheyenne leader, in 1876 and boasted, "Jerking his war bonnet off, I scientifically scalped in about five seconds ...  As the soldiers came up, I swung the Indian chief's top-knot and bonnet in the air, and shouted "The first scalp for Custer!"
Despite that,fame as an Indian fighter, "He later befriended many of his former foes," says Noel. "Ironically, the Indians he helped put on the reservations found some of their better-paying and more gratifying jobs with Cody, traveling the U.S. and Europe as performers with the Wild West Show."
 "Kings, queens and presidents attended Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and it is estimated that more than 25 million words were written about the famous scout during his lifetime, making his silver goatee, buckskin jacket and wide Stetson hat more recognizable and famous than anyone in the world at the time. When he died in 1917, while visiting his sister in Denver, his body was put on view in the state capitol," says the City of Golden's site.
"And there began the controversy. He died in January, but could not be buried on a frozen mountain top, at his request, until June. The body was stored in what is now Lola’s Restaurant in Denver (then a mortuary). In the early 1900s, some people from Wyoming claimed they snuck down, took Buffalo Bill’s body, and replaced him with another body from the mortuary. Unfortunately for this legend, their story is undone by the fact that Bill had an open casket at his burial on top of Lookout Mountain in 1917, with thousands of witnesses paying tribute to the famous scout who they certainly recognized,"  says the Golden site.
 William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father's hometown in Toronto Township, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory.
Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father's death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872.
One of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill's legend began to spread when he was only twenty-three. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe. He became the rough equivalent of a rock star.
Larry McMurtry, along with historians such as R.L. Wilson, asserted that at the turn of the 20th century, Cody was the most recognizable celebrity on Earth.
"While Cody's show brought appreciation for the Western and American Indian cultures, he saw the American West change dramatically during his life. Bison herds, which had once numbered in the millions, were threatened with extinction. Railroads crossed the plains, barbed wire and other types of fences divided the land for farmers and ranchers, and the once-threatening Indian tribes were confined to reservations," according to McMurtry.

1: Buffalo Bill with Sitting Bull (center) and others.
2: William Cody.
3. The original Wild West Show staff .