Letter: Name game
For years I remained convinced that calling Aspen Mountain “Ajax” was a misnomer, the reason being that my first real job in Aspen was in 1966 when I worked in the Pitkin County Surveyor’s Office, where the second in command was Harold Johnson, who was born and raised in Aspen and whose father worked in the Midnight Mine on the back side of Aspen Mountain. One day I asked Harold where the name Ajax came from, thinking it might be the name of a mining claim. Harold said that, no, there was no claim that he knew of that bore the name Ajax and that growing up in Aspen, neither he nor his friends ever referred to Aspen Mountain as Ajax. That settled the matter for me. Until this morning.
This morning I was in the Pitkin County Library on the top floor, where I spotted a letter to the editor from Tim Willoughby and a copy of a page from Josiah Edward Spurr’s famous geologic map of Aspen Mountain first published in 1895 and 1896. Both Tim’s letter and the page from Spurr’s atlas had been framed by the library and are now on display. So I closely examined the Spurr map, which covers the area from the top of Aspen Mountain down to town. To my great surprise, I noticed that the knob where the Sundeck now sits was labeled with the words “Ajax Hill.” Spurr’s geologic atlas labels the entire mountain as “Aspen Mountain” along with “West Aspen Mountain” and “East Aspen Mountain.” The present-day Ute Trail is on East Aspen Mountain, and “West Aspen Mountain” has long been referred to as “Shadow Mountain.”
Harold Johnson is no longer with us, or I would have given him a call to ask if he had ever noticed that the knob at the top of the mountain had been labeled by Spurr as “Ajax Hill.” Harold was a very good surveyor and a very smart man, but it is possible that he simply had never noticed or had a need to look at Spurr’s map.
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Editor’s note: This letter was directed to Aspen City Council and Mayor Torre.