BALARAT OUTDOOR EDUCATION CENTER by Keith Kirby
I thought that the GTC Members might be interested in an update about the Denver Public Schools Balarat Outdoor Education Center. In the 1990s the Ghost Town Club made several trips to the Denver Public School’s Balarat Outdoor Education Center. Located northwest of Jamestown, Colorado, the Balarat site comprises about 700 acres of land just east of the Cal-Wood Education Center.
In addition to the tours of the Balarat Site, the Ghost Town Club had a work day to help clean the debris from around the historic Assay Office. The GTC Preservation Fund also donated money to Balarat around this same time.
Sadly in 2003 the Overland fire swept through the southeast portion of the Balarat site and destroyed each and every one of historic mining structures, including the one the GTC had cleaned up. This Overland Fire caused some excitement as there were students in residence at the time. The school buses evacuated them passing by smoke and some flame.
In 2013 disaster struck again. This time it was flood. Again students had to be evacuated from the site. But it took National Guard helicopters to do it.
In October of 2020 this area was once again heavily impacted by a disaster. The Cal-Wood Fire burned thousands of acres of mountain forestland. The Cal-Wood Education Center and portions of the Balarat site were affected. Here is a link to the Cal-Wood site with a short video describing the fire’s impact. https://www.calwood.org.
In addition to the heavy damage at Cal-Wood, the northeast portion of Balarat also suffered damage. As was the case in the Overland Fire earlier, the Cal-Wood Fire did not damage the Balarat dormitories or commons buildings.
So now if we can just get a handle on COVID-19 and open the schools again, Balarat will be ready to provide the fifth grade students of the Denver Public Schools with hands on lessons in environmental education.
LEADVILLE OPERA HOUSE by Sally Alt
Most of us know that the Tabor Opera House in Leadville was once known as the finest opera house west of the Mississippi. But a recent story by Nancy Lofholm of Colorado Public Radio, reprinted in the October 10, 2020 Denver Post, says it has recently been discovered to have the finest collection of old stage scenery on the continent.
The stage scenery has been moldering in the Tabor Opera House attic under layers of coal and bat guano dust for more than a century. Wendy Rae Wasznut-Barrett, the owner of a Minnesota-based company called Historic Stage Services LLC, says the collection could be a real showcase and includes hundreds of pieces including screens, roll drops, wings and shutters. Her company is the only one of its kind in the country, and Waszut-Barrett said it was amazing that these pieces had never burned up, been water-damaged by leaking roofs or been pitched into the trash, as happened at many other historic theaters.
Evelyn Furman, a Leadville businesswoman, purchased the Opera House from the Elks in 1954, and she and her family ran it until 2016, when the city of Leadville bought it. The Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation is doing a $10 million renovation on the outside of the Tabor. Mary Ann Graham, President of the Foundation, said unearthing the scenery treasures inside is a good complement to the architectural work. “I think we are going to be deciding what to do because we are just finding out what we actually have”, she said. The Foundation hopes to use them and display them in some manner.
Sounds as if another trip to Leadville needs to be in our future.
FIELD TRIP DREAMS
For many of us, field trips are a highlight of GTC membership. The office of GTC Vice President carries the responsibility for coordinating certain aspects of field trips. Even though many of our traditional field trips are not looking possible right now, we want to preserve the spirit of field trips and encourage planning and dreaming about field trips for the future.
What kind of field trip captures your imagination…could it be one of the trips on the list in the Gazette, a recent Club newsletter…a trip to a ghost town you have never visited…or maybe a favorite GTC trip from the past that is worth doing again? Also, even though we can’t visit a particular place in person, we might be able to visit it online, participate in an online event, or read information about a particular ghost town or related subject. In this spirit, we hope members will choose to share online event notices and other links about ghost towns as well as your field trip dreams or ideas.
We have enjoyed the many things that members have submitted to the Gazette the last few months and look forward to other interesting written articles, or email submissions, especially those about ghost towns. Contact us via email if you have suggestions.
We all know that Colorado is a magnificent place to live. But, did you know that there are 25 National Historic Landmark sites in Colorado?
Plus, 3 historic areas within the National Parks in Colorado. Take a look at these amazing historic places right in our backyard! List of National Historic Landmarks in Colorado.
Also, discover Colorado through History Colorado!
Through a network of museums, History Colorado shares the stories of Colorado’s past—its people, its places, and the events that have shaped the sweep of human history. Click to see the list of museums.
Tell us about the places you’ve explored! Send us an email and with your permission, we’ll share your suggestions and experiences on this webpage for other members to enjoy.