Between Interstate 70 and Aspen, there isn’t a whole lot of civilization. That’s just one reason why it’s so nice to spend a little time in charming, historic Leadville, Colorado.
Leadville’s central business district lines up along Harrison Avenue. US 24 makes the curve onto Harrison (that’s the turn at the bottom of this small hill), then it takes you past the town’s collection of historic buildings. Find a parking spot and stroll around for a while — there are plenty of stores and restaurants to enjoy.
Leadville has some great Victorian homes…
… and brick buildings, along with “the old church”, as the Presbyterian Church is known. The church was dedicated in 1889.
I’m not sure exactly what was happening with this place. A sign on the front porch declared it to be a “museum”…
… and there was a lot of, well, stuff in the front yard.
If you love to admire old neon signs, Leadville will keep you busy. The Golden Burro Cafe, and its alternate ego, the Brass Ass Saloon…
… is topped by an appropriately-colored neon donkey.
A block away, the Manhattan Bar serves up more lighted glass tubes…
… as does the Sayer & McKee pharmacy, across the street.
The Delaware Hotel dates back to 1886. Even if you’re not spending the night…
… you should still wander briefly through the hotel’s lobby, which feels a lot like a museum.
The Tabor Grand Hotel opened a year before the Delaware. Now, it has stores on the first floor, and apartments upstairs.
The Lake County Courthouse doesn’t fit in with its historic surroundings. It’s a relatively new addition to the town, built in 1955.
On the corner of 5th and Harrison, you’ll find the old Western Hardware building. It dates back to 1881, and it now houses an excellent antique mall. The first floor still features a long counter, and walls covered with drawers and cabinets stuffed with items for sale. Wander up to the second floor, and you’ll find a long, wide hallway, with rooms (apparently old hotel rooms) off to the side.
Pardon me just for a moment, while I tell a personal story. As I was walking around Leadville, I really needed a restroom. I found one in the Western Hardware building, but it wasn’t much of a relief. You see, the bathroom was obviously added a very long time ago, around the time when indoor plumbing became a necessity. Probably a hundred years ago, the builders added bathrooms in part of that wide hallway, by building three stalls — two for toilets, and one for a sink. Picture three indoor outhouses, and you’ll get the idea.
So, I stepped inside one of the stalls. As I was… well… doing what one does in a bathroom, I noticed that my stall didn’t have a ceiling! In other words, there was nothing stopping any sounds from drifting into the hallway (where people were shopping, and no doubt, listening). Talk about awkward! As I left, I struggled not to make eye contact with anyone.
Continuing my walk around town, I was tempted to eat lunch at the Silver Dollar Saloon, which dates back to 1879, and appears to be popular with bikers.
The Quincy Block building dates back to 1879. In its early days, it housed Leadville’s telephone company.
You’ll also find the world’s highest Shrine Club, at the Masonic lodge along Harrison Avenue in Leadville.
You might have some luck finding a parking spot underneath this mural, on the side of the Leadville Chronicle building, at Harrison and 3rd. Directly across the street…
… is yet another historic building, the Tabor Opera House.
I’m always looking for interesting alleyway doors. I found this one on the side of the Tabor Opera House.
On the edge of downtown, the Mountain Peaks Motel may have seen some better days…
… but it still offers some nice neon — and I’m sure that the steam heat is appreciated in wintertime.
… I spotted this old, abandoned house at the side of the road. Behind it, you’re seeing the Mount Massive Wilderness Area, which includes some of Colorado’s tallest mountains, including Mount Massive (the state’s second highest peak, at 14,421 feet) and Mount Elbert (the highest, just 12 feet taller).