By Vickie McDonough
A few years ago, I visited Leadville, Colorado, and was impressed with it’s quaint and colorful Victorian homes, majestic scenery, it’s historic buildings, and fascinating history. At an elevation of 10,430 feet, Leadville was often called “The Two Mile High City” or “Cloud City,” both fitting names. Located at the foot of two of Colorado's highest peaks, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, Leadville is one of America's last remaining authentic mining towns.
|Colorfully painted house|
Leadville was founded in 1877 by mine owners Horace Austin, Warner Tabor, and August Meyer, setting off the Colorado Silver Boom. By 1880, Leadville was one of the world's largest silver camps, with a population of over 40,000, and the second most populated town in Colorado.
In 1881, some of the richest mines began to play out. Miners started to leave, stores and banks failed, and the town was consumed by fires that devoured rows of wooden structures. The depression of 1893 and the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act further depressed the economy of Leadville and ended the silver era.
|A Leadville church with mountains in the background.|
The desperate townspeople proposed a mammoth ice castle with the hopes it would draw sightseers, create jobs, and rescue the town's sagging economy. Charles E. Jay, an architect who had designed an ice palace in St. Paul, Minnesota, was hired as the designer, and Tingley S. Wood was hired to build the ice palace. The Leadville Ice Company won the contract to produce the ice.
|Leadville's Crystal Palace|
Construction began November 1, 1895 with a crew of 250 men working round the clock. The finished palace was more than 58,000 square feet—as big as a football field, and made of 180,000 board feet of lumber and 5,000 tons of ice. The palace was supported by a complex frame work of trusses, girders and timber, with the ice for appearance only. The ice was trimmed to size and placed in forms, then sprayed with water, which served as mortar to bind the blocks together. The towers reached 90 feet high by 40 feet wide.
Over 250,000 people visited the Ice Palace, which boasted a skating rink, a restaurant, a ballroom, a dance floor, gaming rooms, and a carousel house. Admission was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. But despite all, the Ice Palace was a financial disaster for its investors, so they abandoned plans to build one each winter, but it remains a fascinating part of Leadville's history.
Beth Ruskin, an Orphan Train agent, has one more child to find a home for, then she and her father will travel to Arizona, where he plans to set up a doctor’s office. But a freak storm causes an unexpected delay in Texas. Beth prays she can find a home for sweet Lizzie, who has been rejected by more than one set of potential parents because she wears glasses. Beth problems magnify when a big blacksmith gives her his three-year-daughter after she is injured in his smithy. Can Beth get Cade Maddox to see how much his daughter needs him and find a home for Lizzy, all before Christmas?
Vickie McDonough is the best selling author of 34 books and novellas. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and the 3rd & 6th books in the Texas Trails series. Her novel, Long Trail Home, won the Inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Awards. Song of the Prairie, the final book in her Pioneer Promises series, set in 1870s Kansas, recently released. Vickie had three Christmas novellas in collections releasing this fall: Westward Christmas Brides, The Christmas Brides Collection, and The 12 Brides of Christmas. To learn more about Vickie, visit her website: www.vickiemcdonough.com