Vote to save the Tabor. Leadville’s iconic Tabor Opera House the only Colorado site selected for national preservation campaign | AspenTimes.com

Vote to save the Tabor. Leadville’s iconic Tabor Opera House the only Colorado site selected for national preservation campaign

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

LEADVILLE — You, yes you, can help save the Tabor Opera House, one of Colorado's iconic historic sites, and all you have to do is click your mouse.

Leadville's Tabor Opera House is the only site in Colorado and one of only 20 across the country selected for the 2018 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets National Historic Preservation Awareness campaign.

If you click consistently — and you can vote once a day — the folks at Save the Tabor can win $150,000 toward rehabilitating their national icon.

Vote through Oct. 26. Pretend it's a Chicago election and vote early and often. It's not complicated: The one with the most votes wins the money.

That $150,000 would go with $500,000 from the National Park Service's Save America's Treasures Historic Preservation Fund awarded to the city of Leadville and the Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation. That'll get them started on the first phase of restoration.

But they still have a long way to go. That first phase will cost $1.5 million. It'll cost between $8 million and $10 million total to restore the Tabor to its full glory.

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"We are thrilled that this preservation competition will bring awareness to Leadville's historic district and, if we win, the funds earned will help us preserve the facade of the Tabor Opera House for generations to come," said Stephanie Spong, Tabor Opera House Preservation Foundation board president.

The opera house has been used continuously since it was built in 1879.

However, it's under constant threat of demolition because of deferred maintenance, weather, crumbling bricks, water and fire risk.

The legend lives

Some say the highest spot in America's highest city is the balcony of the legendary Tabor Opera House.

Perspective like that must be preserved.

A few years ago, the good people of Cloud City started asking what was going to happen to their beloved Tabor.

Their Tabor, because people feel that way.

Sharon Bland's family owned it for 61 years since Sharon's mother, Evelyn Livingston Furman, bought it in 1955 and operated it until she was 84 years old.

Sharon and her husband, Bill Bland, ran it for a while, but finally couldn't do it any longer.

Judy Hinton chaired Leadville's Historic Preservation Commission. She connected former Leadville Mayor Jamie Stuever with Dana Crawford, an historic preservationist in Denver.

They chatted with the Blands and decided the city of Leadville would be the perfect buyer.

Steuver brought the proposal to Leadville City Council. The decision was not without debate, but the council took the bull by the horns to try to raise the money to buy the Tabor. That was October 2015.

A BIT ABOUT EVELYN

Evelyn Livingston Furman moved to Leadville when she was 20 to work as the nanny for the family of a geology professor who was working on a mining venture.

Before long, Leadville's legends captured her heart, especially those involving the Tabor Opera House.

Evelyn married Gordon Furman, a miner, and they lived in a mine shack near the Matchless Mine just above Baby Doe Tabor, who was happy to regale them with opera house stories.

Evelyn bought the Opera House from the Leadville Elks Club in 1955 to keep some guy from leveling it and paving that piece of paradise to put up a parking lot — which is exactly what he wanted to do.

She was a schoolteacher and offered her life savings, around $10,000, but it was only half of what she needed.

A local bank loaned her the rest, with the condition that she and her husband put their furniture and appliance store there.

"Everyone in town and everyone in the family thought she was crazy. But when she got something in her mind, she moved forward with it," Sharon said.

Sharon was 12 years old when they started giving tours for 25 cents each. Tours are now $10 and run every day except Monday. The opera house closes October through May because warm fuzzy feelings are not enough to heat it through a Leadville winter.

BUILT IN 100 DAYS

Mining magnate Horace Tabor built the massive three-story Tabor, known as "the most perfect place for amusement between Chicago and San Francisco" in 1879 in 100 days.

In the late 1880s, Peter McCourt established the Silver Circuit as a way for acts to travel the region and perform in various opera houses and theaters. McCourt managed the Tabor and was Baby Doe Tabor's older brother.

The Tabor Opera House has hosted entertainers such as Oscar Wilde and Harry Houdini as they made their way from Denver to San Francisco on the Silver Circuit during the mining heyday. Singer Judy Collins played there, and it has been host to countless local events.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Vote early, vote often

Leadville’s iconic Tabor Opera House is competing for a grant to help restoration. You can vote online every day through Friday, Oct. 26, at voteyourmainstreet.org/leadville.