Willoughby: An ode to Galena Street
Legends & Legacies
Most of Aspen’s streets were named after early pioneers and investors, except for Galena Street. Many mining claims surrounding the town featured historic mining and mineral names like Ophir, but galena, one of Aspen’s plethora of minerals, was not used. While much less valuable than silver, since galena is lead, it is the shiniest, a great choice for a major Aspen street.
I lived in the Cowenhoven Building on Galena until the end of sixth grade, an odd place for a family to live. My grandfather, with partners, bought the building from the Brown family in the early 1940s. He moved the Midnight Mine office from the Crystal Palace building to Galena Street. At the time my father was the manager at the mine and needed quick access to the office, especially because he was working round-the-clock producing strategic minerals for the war effort. A section in the middle of the building was converted into a family residence.
Much of Aspen’s daily business took place on Galena Street. The bank, post office and Aspen Drug were at the intersection of Galena and Hyman. City Hall and the County Court House were just one or two blocks away. You paid your utility bills at City Hall or the Holy Cross Electric office.
There was a laundry, Jiffy Cleaners, and Tomkins Hardware for other necessities, and an income tax office. If you were hungry you could stop in at Edies or Guido’s. M. Kalmes and Company provided clothing and shoes for all ages and all incomes.
Tourist oriented gift shops with a wide range of merchandise lined the street. One of the largest, the Golconda in the Aspen Block, had ‘decorative accessories’, and sewing supplies. That was a summary description of a wide variety of products. House and Garden sold housewares as did the Aspen Woodshed that also sold toys and jewelry. Jim Hayes, for a while, had his silversmith shop on Galena. Alice Towne’s Indian jewelry and rug store in the Cowenhoven building was a longtime tourist favorite in the 1950s.
I set up card tables in front of my residence in the summer selling lemonade and rocks. In the 1950s there was not much pedestrian traffic, but the idea of my store was more exciting than the reality.
Galena Street was part of the highway through town, the fist streets to be paved. Car needs were met with a gas station, Sinclair, at the Cooper Street intersection where the highway turned and at the other end another gas station, Aspen Conoco where the highway turned onto Main Street. The Brand Building housed car sales and rentals, and an auto body and mechanical repair shop. For a young boy, they offered free bicycle tire air pumps.
The fraternal orders of Eagles and Elks had their lodges on Galena where a multitude of civic activity took place along with their local’s bars. The Chamber of Commerce had an office and meeting space in the Aspen Block.
At the top of the street at the Aspen Mountain end, was the Aspen Dairy. It was actually not on Galena Street since at the time it was not in the city limits and the city and county had to decide which entity was responsible for the street maintenance. Since at that time they delivered milk to Aspen’s homes there was little traffic going there.
For most of us children, in spite of the polio scare, the public swimming pool on Galena Street was the major summer destination. The Barbie’s Sweet and Snack Shop next door to me in the Covenhoven Building was an equal draw and a primary one in the summer months as they sold ice cream cones, donuts and candy. Parents could buy fresh eggs, and if you asked fresh rabbits.
I only had to walk out my front door to watch Aspen’s two annual parades, Fourth of July and Wintersköl. Tourists occasionally came through our front door thinking our home was a store or restaurant. All that and more on one short Aspen street.
Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while teaching Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical perspective. Reach him at email@example.com.
Coming off a successful 40th anniversary summer season, Theatre Aspen will close out the year with its third annual holiday cabaret event entitled “A Christmas Carol Cabaret.”