Teddy and the Boston stallion: Aspen’s take on Glenwood history
If you grew up in Aspen or have visited the Hotel Colorado, you know that a highlight of Glenwood Springs’ history is the 1895 visit by Theodore Roosevelt. A visit to a small town by the president of the United States puts your town on the map and leaves generations of stories. However, the Aspen Times Weekly coverage of that visit suggested that nothing of importance happened on the Western Slope unless it happened in Aspen.
“All bones, superfluous hair, and any thing connected with Teddy’s bear hunt that the souvenir fiends could get hold of, disappeared like magic,” according to the Times. President Roosevelt’s three-week hunting trip in Colorado was exploited in every possible way by entrepreneurs of the era. Newspaper editors felt obligated to tout any moneymaking enterprise, no matter how base, as Aspen recovered from the economic panic of 1893.
Aspen’s community leaders were embarrassed that they had not arranged for a president to visit, especially after they heard from his aides that Teddy would have enjoyed touring a mine. The lost opportunity for free press coverage associated with the visit-that-did-not-happen gnawed at mine owners and businessmen who hungered for an infusion of new capital.
A hundred Aspenites took the train to Glenwood to get a glimpse of the president who stayed at the Colorado Hotel after his hunting trip. They joined another 650 people at the hotel only to be disappointed when the president, who waved from a balcony, declined to give a speech. He had a policy not to make public appearances on Sundays. People lined the street to cheer as he passed on his way to the Presbyterian church. Many newcomers to the congregation were more interested in seeing a president than they were in finding the Lord.
Roosevelt traveled with Secret Service protection that guarded his special train while he was hunting. Concern for his safety arose when, on his return trip from church, he paused on his horse to reach down to shake a young child’s hand. His attendants thought his reach was so far that he might fall off, but he moved on before they could intervene.
The crowd pressed the hotel again. Finally, sensing their disappointment and admiration, Roosevelt briefly addressed the crowd from his balcony.
Although Roosevelt was a crowd pleaser, the Aspen Times gave equal billing to the visit of a stallion. The arrival of “Boston” on the Colorado Midland Railroad attracted as much curiosity due to its commercial significance. The racehorse, imported from France by farmers from Watson, Brush Creek and Woody Creek, was temporarily stabled at Tagert’s Barn. As many Aspenites as traveled to see Roosevelt sought a glimpse of the 1,775-pound horse.
Investors bet $3,600 (in 1895 dollars) on the Percheron pedigree for a big return.
There may have been more hype than substance to Boston’s possibilities. He shared his name with a dominant racehorse of the 1840s who sired a line of champions including Lexington, the sire of the dominant horses of the late 1800s. It is not clear whether Aspen’s Boston could boast of any relation to the grand sire. No doubt the implication sufficed.
Another front-page Times article in the Roosevelt issue featured less racy fortunes. It told of Aspenite B. Clark Wheeler’s silver discoveries in Mexico and of visitor Charles Hollender’s efficient electrical extraction of silver from previously processed mine dumps.
As much as real estate feeds Aspen’s current economy and pages of the Times, mining nourished 19th-century Aspen. The presidential visit that failed to attract investors of any kind was relegated to Glenwood’s history.
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The 20-person San Juan Interagency Hotshot Crew out of Durango is on the mountain to assess the fire risk and protect the Adventure Park. It is unknown when the park will reopen.