Bennett Bramson decided 18 months ago that Basalt was big enough for another history book even though at least two popular works already exist.
Bramson decided he wouldn’t compete with the prior efforts. He would go heavy on pictures and light on text and dig for photos that hadn’t been published before. He researched at the Denver Public Library and the Library of Congress, but his real score was with the Basalt Heritage Society and a handful of longtime local families from the Basalt area. He was given access to a “treasure trove” of photos kept by families such as the Cerises, Gerbazes, Arbaneys and Durouxes.
“I felt there was a lot out there that people hadn’t seen before,” said Bramson, a Basalt businessman and former president of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
He estimated he gandered at more than 1,000 photos before paring it down to 200 pictures and images for the book. Some top contenders were eliminated because they wouldn’t reproduce very well. After that, it was just a judgment call on what to use.
Bramson introduces his chapters with a page of text but otherwise relies on picture captions to tell Basalt’s story. The majority of photos are of farms and ranches from the turn of the 20th century and the families that worked them. He used several shots of buildings that show how sparsely developed Basalt was in its early decades. A priceless shot is a 1945 postcard looking down on the town from “B” Hill and showing a nearly deserted Midland Avenue, the kilns at what is know Arbaney Park and the scattered cottages in the Hill District.
Bramson’s book, “Images of America — Basalt,” will be officially released Sept. 9 by Arcadia Publishing. Arcadia’s “Images of America” series celebrates the history of towns across America. The softcover book has 128 pages and sells for $21.99. Advance orders at a discount can be made at www.arcadiapublishing.com.
Bramson acknowledged he has some favorite images in the book.
“In some ways, I’m partial to the railroad pictures,” he said.
The ranching heritage of the Roaring Fork Valley is-well known and the mining history is well-preserved, he said. Less visible is the railroad history, particularly in Basalt, which was the hub for both the Colorado Midland Railroad and the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.
While most of the book focuses on history, it also takes a glimpse “at the Basalt that is and the Basalt that’s going to be,” Bramson said.
Several book signings are being planned. Bramson attended an all-class Basalt High School reunion Saturday to inform the attendees about his endeavor. Despite the exposure, the effort was a labor of love, in large part to promote the town he loves so much. Bramson said sales potential is limited.
“It’s not going to be Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code,’” he said. “I didn’t do it because I was going to make any money off of it.”
That said, he’s proud of the result and believes it will be a fun read for people who like Basalt.