History Colorado staff and other writers chronicle the latest preservation success stories, share new perspectives on the past, and peer behind the scenes into the care and documentation of our collections. Read on to learn about how rare collections of historic artifacts and photographs are stored, cared for, and put on view. Find out what Colorado communities are doing to preserve their past for future generations. And, read in-depth histories of Colorado people and events of the past that still matter to us today.
Over one hundred years ago, Margaret Gessing, a model for the Daniels and Fisher department store, was widely known as Denver’s most beautiful model. She not only modeled for individual customers and in fashion shows, but also was in high demand by newspaper photographers for fashion-page articles. After Margaret married a well-known and colorful mortician, Joseph E. Bona, they had a reputation for hosting great parties. Her story involves a number of notable, historic buildings of Denver's past.
William Henry Jackson is one of the American West’s best-known photographers, and History Colorado is fortunate to hold a large portion of his photographic oeuvre as well as a manuscript collection (MSS #341) containing correspondence, diaries, and other records of Jackson’s remarkable life. One of the more unusual items in our Jackson manuscript collection is a full report of a phrenological examination performed on Jackson when he was 18 years old by “Professor” O.S. Fowler. The pseudoscience of phrenology was popular in the 19th century and posited that the size and shape of a person’s head revealed information about that individual’s personality, character, and capabilities. While the practice has been thoroughly debunked, Fowler at least seems to have hit on something when he described Jackson’s capacity for artistic genius.
Each year, History Colorado honors historic preservationists and advocacy groups with the Stephen H. Hart Awards for Historic Preservation. At the 2017 event, Lee Merkel received an award for over forty years of public service as a tireless advocate for historic resources in Colorado’s southeast region. Lee’s perspective is that preservation should be a union between the recognition of history and viable use of those resources for public good. Saving “old buildings” can have a direct and positive impact on everyday Coloradans.
The National Park Service National Register of Historic Places program celebrates August as Archaeology month. Given the weather, it’s a great time to get outside and take advantage of the last of summer before school. There are many publicly accessible sites that speak to Colorado’s rich archaeological heritage and all these sites can reveal to us about the past.
On a lonely stretch of highway about 100 miles north of Denver, there’s a sign for a town where no town exists: Virginia Dale, Colorado. There’s a boarded-up post office, a tiny community church, and a Colorado historical site marker that may or may not catch your eye as you drive by on US Highway 287 at seventy-five miles an hour.
One of the many advantages of living in Colorado is the easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park and its eastern “gateway” town, Estes Park. While Estes Park’s proximity to the National Park is certainly a major draw, there are many sights worth seeing in the downtown area, especially if you’re interested in a bit of history.
Over the last year, there’s been a lot of activity between our Pueblo and Denver storage locations. History Colorado is nearing completion of a Museums for America Collections Stewardship grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to hire temporary staff and moving services to move collections from Pueblo to Denver.