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Aspen History Week

Brandon Wenerd's picture

In 1890, as silver mining boomed in the snowy footholds of the Elk Mountains, Aspen’s population ballooned and a rustic mining camp became the third-largest city in the state of Colorado. Boasting a population of 13,000, only Denver and Leadville were bigger. The Aspen area was the single largest silver producer in the country until the mine-town era came crumbling to a halt. Amidst fears of a devastating economic depression, the US Government stopped buying silver bullion by repealing the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. America’s western silver mines were glutted, abandoned, and left for sagebrush, tumbleweed, and cattle ranching.

During the so-called “Panic of 1893,” the national economy collapsed, unemployment reached an all time high, railroads were crippled under a credit crunch, weary investors frantically pulled out of American markets, the stock market hit an all time low, and 600 banks failed.

Hmm. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

In these weary and woeful economic times, the pages of history–even on the microcosmic local level–provide an eerie and striking insight into the struggles of the present. Glimpsing back into Aspen’s colorful boom-and-bust past can provide a clichéd light at the end of the tunnel : a glimpse of healthy optimism, even when accompanied by a whirlwind blur of ominous national headlines, stock market plunges, and the financial doom and gloom of bleak times.

In the meantime, the economic struggles dominating the international news cycle provide a poignant and coincidental backdrop for The Aspen Historical Society’s annual Celebrate History Week.

On Monday March 9th, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland and the city council will officially proclaim March 10th – 13th as the Aspen’s Celebrate History Week, kick-starting a week of performances, free open houses, and guided tours. The week boasts a healthy dose of unique marquee events, including a free guided snowshoe tour of the ghost town of Ashcroft, open houses at the Wheeler-Stallard museum and the Holden-Marolt Barn, a one-person presentation of the play “Bully - An Adventure with Teddy Roosevelt” by rough riding presidential impersonator Bob Moore at the Wheeler Opera House, and two free après ski parties hosted in conjunction with Aspen Ski Company at the base of Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands. Each party, one on Thursday afternoon at Buttermilk and the other on Friday afternoon at Highland, is being held in honor of the ski area’s 50th anniversary. Take note: these events include free beer and cake! What better way to whisk away the March recession blues than free beer, compliments of Aspen Ski Company.

Celebrate Aspen History week will educate and enthrall visitors and residents feverishly nostalgic for Aspen’s bygone days. Even if you’re in town to ski in blissful ignorance over spring break, the week is a worthwhile opportunity to acknowledge the hard-working folks at the Aspen Historical Society. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Society, many structures from the pre-ski town era are preserved from the overzealous wrecking balls of lusty real estate developers seeking to Disney-fy Aspen with strip-malls, more Franco-Italian luxury boutiques, absentee landlordism, and fractional ownership condo time-shares.

For more information on tickets and events, contact the Aspen Historical Society at