Newman’s ‘charming lawn fete’
July 9, 2009
Contemporary Aspen’s society parties may define elegance and opulence, but today’s guests seldom arrive by train, as did attendees of a garden party hosted by mine mogul George Newman in 1905.
Newman was an early owner of and investor in Aspen’s mines. He organized the Percy-LaSalle Consolidated Mining Company and the Castle Creek Tunnel and Power Company that extracted millions of dollars worth of silver ore from Aspen Mountain. One of his projects, “The Newman,” occupied the site of today’s Aspen Music School/Aspen Country Day School campus.
Newman chose that Castle Creek site to begin a 3,800-foot tunnel under Aspen Mountain’s ore bodies. The entry was at the top of the mine dump that one can still see on the campus. It surfaced in Tourtelotte Park, near where Bonnie’s restaurant is today. He constructed a dam on Castle Creek near the Midnight Mine Road to divert water into a flume that ran alongside the valley. Just above the campus, the water cascaded down the hillside to power an electrical plant. The falling water fed the two ponds that are still there.
Newman’s power plant, one of the first used for mining, wasn’t the only local operation. The Roaring Fork Light and Power Company, owned by Cowenhoven and Brown, serviced the city. Newman had previously purchased that company’s electricity for his operations on Aspen Mountain above town. When Cowenhoven refused his request for a rate reduction, Newman ran his own power line from his Castle Creek plant into town and challenged The Roaring Fork Light and Power Company. Cowenhoven immediately reduced rates.
The Victorian building that still graces the campus, at that time known to locals as the Newman Bungalow, was the centerpiece of what Newman envisioned as an English country estate. Newman superimposed lawns and flowerbeds, stables and riding paths, plus ponds on a working mine. The bungalow, an architectural copy of an English club, served as an office complete with a large safe, and as a building his employees used for entertainment.
In 1905 Newman, who often entertained at the Bungalow, hosted an extravaganza for 150 guests. He requested that his mine manager, Mr. Woodward, arrange to have the Colorado Midland Railroad pick up his precious guests at the Midland Depot in town and transport them up Castle Creek on the spur line that was used for ore shipments. Lunch was served. There were games on the lawns. Mrs. Woodward entertained the guests with music.
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Newman enjoyed his riches by indulging in travel to Japan and China. On his journeys he collected many treasures. After an afternoon of festivities, his Aspen society guests each carried home a personal gift from Newman’s souvenir collection. The Aspen Democrat Times headlined the day as “Newman’s charming lawn fete.”