Peering into the past through the eyes of native Aspenites
December 24, 2003
Aspen was born in the late 19th century as a mining town and enjoyed a few spectacular years as miners gouged silver ore from the mountains and the town swelled to 11,000 people. When silver was demonetized in 1893, the town died to all but a few hundred people who hung on through decades of relative inactivity, ranching cattle, growing potatoes and hay, and paying the bills however they could.
The town was reborn after World War II and has become a world-renowned resort that bears little resemblance to its former self. Still, there are threads of continuity: Mining-era architecture, the immovable mountains and a handful of families who have remained through all the changes.
Since the holidays are a time to cherish and celebrate family, we decided to shine a light this week on some of the Roaring Fork Valley’s longstanding families, the people who over the generations have watched Aspen evolve from a ramshackle mining settlement to a posh vacation destination. They’re still here, in greater numbers than one might expect, and most still love this place as much as ever.
We didn’t have time or space for all of the mining-era descendants from the city or the valley, so this is not an exhaustive collection. Still, through the people we have been able to include, a picture emerges of a town and a valley with authentic roots and a compelling human story.
Here’s our small tribute to the individuals and families who have stayed the course in Aspen, even as their property taxes have jumped by three or more digits. They of all people understand why this is still a fantastic place to live.
As a counterpoint to our cover story, we also spoke with a collection of seasonal workers, who are spending the holidays in Aspen with their newfound “families” of fellow employees.
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Happy holidays to all!