Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mile High Thrills

Magnet # 399:  Denver Skyline

Material:  Pewter

Purchased By:  Dad

Located a full mile above sea level, Colorado's capital and most populated city, Denver, tends to dwarf much of its competition.  The gold rush played a major role in its development, as prospectors flooded into the area.  The first American settlement established there, Montana City, didn't last very long before its prospectors abandoned it.  But tomorrow marks the anniversary of the day in 1858 when General William Larimer, a land developer who came from Kansas, staked his claim on the area.  He named it Denver City in honor of James Denver, the governor of the Kansas Territory.  Larimer had hoped to gain political power with this move, but he was unaware that Denver had retired from the position by then.  Years later, he paid a couple of visits to the city, but was disappointed that its residents didn't pay much attention to their city's namesake.  As for Larimer, he worked hard to develop Denver City and bring in new citizens, selling tracts of land throughout the Rocky Mountains.  Of course, quite a few of them were acquired at gambling tables around the region, which brought in a rather rowdy crowd.  While very little gold was found in Denver City itself, discoveries in nearby areas kept the settlement alive.  Eventually, it was combined with nearby Auraria and Highland and incorporated.  And by 1861, the Territory of Colorado had been formed.  It would take another four years until Denver City was named Territorial Capitol, and when that finally occurred, its name was shortened to Denver.  And when Colorado became the 38th state in 1876, Denver remained its capitol.  By that point, the city had taken on a somewhat rough crowd, but thanks to a silver rush, it was also experiencing an economic boom.  Lavish buildings were springing up all over town, and many were so overdone that they were simply gaudy.  And sin was also bringing in a considerable deal of commerce.  Gambling halls and bordellos ranging from the elegant to the seedy were hard at work to separate the hard-working, but gullible, miners from their findings.  And the authorities were paid off by the crime bosses to ignore most of these enterprises.  It became so out of control that Denver earned the reputation of having one of the most tawdry areas in the nation.  But when the Silver Market collapsed, resulting in the Denver Depression of 1893, all of the vice came to an end.  The city entered a time during which it struggled to survive, but a discovery of gold nearby helped them to recover.  But the leaders of Denver were careful to no longer solely rely on mining to support their economy, and built up other industries as well.  And while Denver is once again a place of prosperity is no longer associated with gaming and prostitution, it has not remained completely scandal free.  It has the dubious reputation of being the only Olympic host site to go back on its word after being selected.  In 1970, it was chosen as the site for the Winter Games to coincide with the state's centennial celebration and the nation's bicentennial anniversary.  But Colorado voters, some of whom were concerned with environmental issues, refused to allocate public funds to underwrite the pricey event and Denver's leaders were forced to tell the International Olympic Committee they would have to go elsewhere.  The 1976 games were held at Innsbruck, Austria after Whistler in British Colombia also turned them down.  Ever since, Denver has experienced some backlash when attempting to make another Olympic host bid.  Regardless, it has become one of the most prosperous cities in the West and draws in crowds of visitors and new residents every year.

Even though I've never been to Denver, I do know of a few places I'd like to check out if I ever make it there.  Obviously, I'd like to tour the Colorado State Capitol.  From what I can tell, it's one of the few state capitols that offers tours of its Dome on a regular basis.  I have yet to make it up to one of the domes and would really like to do so.  I bet the views from there would be fantastic!  And the nearby Denver Art Museum has an extensive collection from impressive artists that includes one of my favorites, William-Adolpe Bouguereau.  I love getting to see his work in person and am always eager to view another.  And Denver also has a spot that's supposedly one of the more haunted places in the country - Cheesman Park.  In the city's earlier days, it started out as a graveyard, but all of the bodies were moved to make room for a more palatable attraction.  And if that didn't upset the ghosts that are said to now frequent the spot, an unscrupulous undertaker who divided bodies into multiple children's caskets after digging them up to increase his pay certainly must have.  The park is now said to be more than a little creepy after dark, but it is free to the public.  It would be great to get a spooky magnet from there.  And when I get hungry in the Mile High City, I'll be sure to head over to the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver's oldest restaurant.  It opened back in 1893 and served many of the city's most famous figures and even President Theodore Roosevelt when he visited the area.  Despite their long history, they're on the cutting edge of the food industry, offering unusual game like elk, buffalo, and sometimes ostrich and yak on their menu along with more traditional beef and fish dishes.  I'd certainly be curious to try one of those out and have a look at their rustic decor.  It certainly sounds like Denver has plenty of fun attractions to check out and given that it's a capitol city, it's definitely on my list of places to visit, so I guess it's just a matter of time until I make it there.

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