1960: Aspen Idea man Paepcke dies
July 10, 2006
In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society.Aspen Idea man Paepcke diesThe Steak Pit restaurant opened in 1960. Hunter S. Thompson rolled into town for the first time that year. Max Marolt competed in the Olympics, becoming the first Aspen native to compete at that level.But one event marked Aspen more than any other, the death of Walter Paepcke.Paepcke, of course, is the father of modern Aspen. Born in 1896, educated at Yale of America, Paepcke, chairman of the board at the Container Corporation of America, first visited Aspen in 1945. The town was still in the throes of the Great Depression, occupied by a few hundred people. The next year he helped finance the construction of a chairlift on Aspen Mountain.In 1949, Paepcke hosted the Goethe Bicentennial, a celebration of the 18th Century German philosopher’s birth. He brought Albert Schweitzer and a handful of other intellectuals to an Aspen that had little to offer but intense natural beauty and Paepcke’s enthusiasm. The Goethe Bicentennial proved a shock both to its visitors and the locals of the time, who had little in common with the artisans and intellectuals who trekked here. But the event proved successful enough to spawn the creation of the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School. Paepcke took over the Aspen Skiing Corp. a year or so after it was formed and was one of the principals who helped the company through its early years. Also in the late 1940s, Paepcke and a partner purchased the Biggs-Kurtz ranch northwest of Aspen.The Aspen Times in 1948 reported: “Mr. Paepcke stated that the purchase of this property was solely to protect the preliminary negotiations now in the mill for the establishment of an Aspen Airport.”Following his death by “natural causes” in 1960, Paepcke’s legacy was carried on by his wife, Elizabeth. If there is one man who defined modern Aspen, it was Walter Paepcke.