Mission statement

To collect, preserve, and share history associated with Louis Dupuy's Hotel de Paris, and serve as a catalyst for heritage tourism in Georgetown, Colorado.

Monday, October 14, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Mines of Clear Creek County

 
Much like the photographers who captured panoramic and aerial views of gold and silver mining operations located within Colorado’s High Country, readers of Mines of Clear Creek County by Ben M. Dugan will be able to visualize the tremendous scale and development of underground mining operations district by district.  This bird’s eye perspective of the mines, mills, tunnel entrances, hustling mining camps and bustling mining towns is cleverly reinforced by an illustration of John Gast’s painting American Progress, in which a diaphanous figure of Columbia (an allegorical representation of the United States of America) floats through the air and contributes to Westward expansion.


American Progress, John Gast

Dugan aids readers by discussing historical events that set the stage for mining fever in the communities of Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Empire, Silver Plume, Dumont, and Lawson.  A catastrophic loss of approximately $2 million of U. S. gold when the side-wheel steamer SS Central America (also known as the Ship of Gold) sank in 1857 off the coast of North Carolina during a hurricane, in combination with the concepts of Manifest Destiny and National Enlightenment, drove people to the Western United States in search of wealth and possible reinvention of one’s self.  Results of this influx of people were quick growth and rapid changes in the development of mining and the establishment of the Colorado Central Railroad.  Seemingly before one’s eyes, mining camps became vibrant towns with civic services and cultural depth.  Under the protection of carefully planted and groomed shade trees, opera houses and dance halls enticed, hotels and boarding houses accommodated, stores and restaurants served, and churches and schools instructed .


The book is richly illustrated with imagery spanning a period of approximately 120 years.  In this amount of time, one is able to witness feverish building and, conversely, the brevity of many mining structures once they were deserted, dismantled, or destroyed.  In contrast to the distant views, some of the photographs offer details of human faces that disclose poverty as well as prosperity in these multi-ethnic mining communities.  It seems possible to detect boosterism and exuberance due to the belief that mining resources would provide limitless potential.  No matter one’s station in life, people shared a conviction that mining was important, and raised a monument at Idaho Springs, Colorado to commemorate the 1859 discovery of placer gold by George A. Jackson.  Even though it was moved from its original site, the monument presently stands a stone’s throw from Highway 103 in Idaho Springs.


Although not as plentiful as the distant views, Mr. Dugan provides some underground views of tunnels.  One cannot help but notice the dangerous and oftentimes life-threatening conditions surrounding hard rock miners.  It remains well-known that Clear Creek County resident Louis Dupuy was mangled in 1873 by a delayed “big powder” or dynamite charge at the Cold Stream Mine in Silver Plume.  The defective fuse caused life-threatening injuries that required his hospitalization and a period of recovery of nearly one and one half years.  Credited for saving fellow miners’ lives by calling out a warning, Dupuy emerged a local hero.  Townspeople rewarded his bravery with a small amount of cash, which he used to open his hotel and restaurant, described by the Georgetown Courier as “famous the wide world over.”  Due to this brush with death, Dupuy never returned to underground mining.  Yet, in spite of his misfortune, he later invested in mining claims within the Griffith Mining District of Clear Creek County. A Bausch & Lomb microscope, used for the inspection of ore, remains on display in Hotel de Paris to this day.  Clearly, the allure of riches was great.


Despite the abundance of abandoned tailings (dumps of ore residue) and derelict mining structures scattered throughout the landscape today, it would be wrong to assume mining has become a thing of the past in Clear Creek County.   Dugan completes his book with a chapter about the Climax, Henderson, and Uranium Research and Development Corporation mines.  The mining of molybdenum (a steel hardener) has largely replaced the extraction of silver and gold from the rugged mountainsides, and, at the same time, corporations have largely replaced single miners.


 

Clearly, Mines of Clear Creek County seeks to raise appreciation of mining history and society; however, some attention is also given to negative environmental impacts, such as polluted mine waste.  The book provides readers with a specific language that should encourage a deeper understanding of the picturesque mining towns that so often struggle to survive after their mines close and mining corporations move on to new locales.  Mr. Dugan should be commended for acknowledging failures and celebrating victories inherent to mining culture in the American West.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why Does an Off Season Exist?

Every year, the advisors and staff of Hotel de Paris Museum struggle with a seasonal dilemma.  However much we’d like the museum to remain open year round, there is simply not enough demand to support the costs of giving tours when few people show interest in the site from January to April. 

Research provided by the American Alliance of Museums has shown it costs museums an average of over $30 per person to serve a visitor.  Hotel de Paris Museum charges $5 general admission and offers discounts.  Clearly, there is a discrepancy between these amounts.  Nonetheless, based on what is charged at the other Sites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we don’t believe the public would pay more than what is presently being asked.




Compounding the problem is the trend of less discretionary spending on museums (down 9% from Q1 2007 - Q1 2011).  House museums have been struggling with drops in income much higher than this and are permanently closing at record rates.  Hotel de Paris Museum is not in danger of closing, but these facts are of concern.

Unfortunately, it is the casual visitor who we are not able to serve during our off season.  Yet, if casual visitors to Georgetown, Colorado contacted the museum ahead of time, they would find that we are really never closed. 

The good news is we want the museum to be open more.  The trick is how to do so without creating a financial strain from which it cannot recover.  In 2010, Hotel de Paris Museum was open 100 days; in 2011 and in 2012, it was open about 145 days each of those years, and in 2013 we plan on opening the museum approximately 160 days.  The other thing we’ve done is to open when there is a person interested enough to contact us a few days ahead in order to make a reservation and secure a guide (several times this past winter, tours were scheduled for people who made plans to visit). 

There is nothing we like more than to share the remarkable resource we have here at Louis Dupuy's Hotel de Paris.  Our challenge is not waiting for winter visitors who might or might not materialize, but to work towards increasing interest in the museum during the "off season" we ourselves perpetuate.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lounging About: Improved, Adjustable Folding Chairs Receive High Marks

 
Hotel de Paris Museum's collection of convertible furniture is a perennial favorite of visitors to the site.  With a history steeped in Napoleon Bonaparte's French Campaign in the Orient, and later adapted to the needs of railroads in the United States (as well as the style-conscious American middle class and space-constrained urban dwellers), it is no wonder proprietor Louis Dupuy furnished his world-famous hotel with these clever and inventive objects.



Country Living Magazine included in its June 2012 edition information about a late 19th Century chaise longue (seen above, without upholstery) by Cevedra Blake Sheldon, an inventor and architect from New York City.  Sheldon sold his idea to Marks Adjustable Folding Chair Company, which improved the design and patented the product in 1876.
The Marks Improved Adjustable Folding Chair came in a variety of styles that offered “solid comfort” and “luxurious ease.”  The mechanics of the chair allowed it to be adjusted by means of a lever located at the seat rail.  The manufacturer promoted its chairs for use in parlors and libraries.  It appears that by the end of 1900, Louis Dupuy had placed his Marks chair in Sample Room 2 (by this time, Louis had stopped renting his sample rooms to traveling salesmen and began using the space for reading and writing).


Several months after Louis' death in October 1900, an inventory for the sake of appraisement was taken; this document confirms the presence of an “iron folding chair and cushions” in the room where the chair remains to this day.

 
Louis, an avid cigar smoker, probably read the provocative question posed by Marks: “What thoroughbred American gentleman smoker can…not appreciate the luxury of an after-dinner Havana?  It [the folding chair] is the smoker’s paradise…”  Like many companies today, Marks used its catalogs to paint a picture of comfort, durability, style, and choice; therefore, sales were made by suggesting a desirable lifestyle.