Aspen Historical Society walking tours up and running |

Aspen Historical Society walking tours up and running

The Aspen Historical Society this week launched a slate of new outdoor guided tours for summer 2020, adapting to the restrictions of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Due to public health restrictions, the Historical Society will not host some its standard tours of summers past, including walking tours of the Hotel Jerome and Wheeler Opera House and will not host its Historic Pub Crawl or the History Coach Tour. Its museums also remain closed.

But the nonprofit has added tour offerings that allow for socially distant, outdoor experiences with its costumed tour guides.

“We’ve focused on summer operations that we’re sure we can pull off, like the walking tours, and we have a robust offering of tours for this summer,” said Historical Society president and CEO Kelly Murphy.

Additions for 2020 include a new Midland Railbed Tour, which goes from Gondola Plaza to the Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum along the historic railroad corridor. It runs Fridays at 1:30 p.m.

Historical Society guides also are offering new weekly tours of Red Butte Cemetery (Wednesdays, 1:30 p.m.) and Independence Ghost Town (Fridays, 10:30 a.m.), which also is open for self-guided visits.

The nonprofit also is reviving its popular Bauhaus Architectural Walking Tour, which takes guests through the West End to see home and sculptural works by and related to Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer. The Historical Society is also bringing back a weekly Mining & Ranching Machinery Tour, which shows off the operational steam engine and equipment outside of the Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum.

The walking tour staples of the Historical Society also launched operations this week: the Victorian West End Walking Tour and Historical Downtown Walking Tour, which each run Tuesday through Saturday all summer.

The socially distant walking tours are capped at six participants. Reservations are required in advance (970-925-3721). More tour information is online at

The Historical Society’s Wheeler/Stallard Museum and Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum both remain closed due to public health restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. An application by Pitkin County to the state health authorities to open local museums was denied this month.

“We were confused as to why they would keep them closed,” Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann said Thursday.

Gov. Jared Polis cleared the way for museums to open Thursday under amendments to the state’s public health order. Koenemann said there’s no reason to think museums here won’t open Friday. The Pitkin County Board of Health will discuss opening museums at its Thursday meeting, where it is expected to clear the way for Aspen HIstorical Society museums as well as the Aspen Art Museum.

“I don’t think there’s any medical or public health reason why it wouldn’t make sense (to open them) in our community,” she said. “Bars are definitely more risky than museums.”

The governor’s Thursday order also allowed bars to open at 25%, though that won’t yet be allowed in Pitkin County.

When the Wheeler/Stallard opens, it will present two new exhibits.

“Decade by Decade: Aspen Revealed” tells the story of local life through photographs and artifacts, tracing Aspen from the mining boom to today. The display aims to underscore the community’s connection to national events and trends and, according to the museum’s announcement, “reflects on the community’s place within the larger historical landscape of the nations — sometimes congruent, sometimes divergent — but always exciting.”

The complementary display “Maps Through the Decades” tracks Aspen history through maps dating from 1870 to 1970 including mining claims and ski trail maps from the Historical Society collection.

Plans for summer events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment have been canceled due to public health restrictions. But the Historical Society is working on ways to honor the women’s suffrage movement later this summer and through the fall 2020 elections.

Staff writer Jason Auslander contributed to this report.

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