Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ice Palace

CEDAREDGE--The Story of Leadville's Ice Palace in the January-February copy of Colorful Rocky Mountain West Colorado magazine, brought back memories to Mrs. Nell Wagner of the happiest event of her childhood, the night her father took her and her older sister and brother to spend a night at the winter carnival.

According to the magazine, the huge building erected by Tingley S. Wood covered a five acre site between Seventh and Eighth streets on top of Capitol Hill in Leadville. Construction began Nov. 1, 1895. A crew of 250 men were engaged to work on two shifts. They were paid $2.50 per day for day laborers and $3.00 for skilled labor.

Charles E. Jay, who had designed an ice palace in St. Paul, Minn., was hired as the architect and the Leadville Ice Company got the contract to produce the ice. At the construction site, the ice was trimmed to size and placed in forms, then sprayed with water, which served as mortar to bind the blocks together. The ice was for appearance only. The palace was supported by a complex frame work of trusses, girders and timber. Lumber was used for the dance floor and window frames.

The Ice Palace was a structure Leadville could be justly proud of. It was built 3400 feet long by 325 feet wide. One hundred and eighty thousand board feet of lumber and 5,000 tons of ice were used in the construction.

Nell especially remembers the beautiful American Beauty roses and trout, about 18 inches long, which were frozen in some of the blocks of clear ice and used to decorate the inside walls. She remembers the main hall which contained an ice skating rink , two huge ballrooms and a very large merry-go-round.

It was built in a true Norman style, with the front entrance on Eighth street flanked by two octagonal towers, each 90 feet high by 40 feet in diameter. There was also a tower at the four corners of the palace and a big back entrance at Seventh Street.
The palace was spectacular. It's size alone was enough to assure that. And it was particularly impressive by night with electric lights casting an eerie glow through the translucent walls. To a little girl 11 years old it looked like a million diamonds. It was not the fault of the builder that the warm chinook weather in December delayed completion of the building until well after Christmas, time planned for a grand opening.

Ella Wagner was born in Leadville in 1885. Her parents, John and Sarah Barlow christened her Ella, but she has always been glad that her family called her Nell, a name she likes much better. Her father owned the town Blacksmith shop, which was a prosperous business in the boom mining town. He built a new home for his family and provided well for them. It was a shock to him as well as his three children when they lost their wife and mother when Nell was seven years old. The family stayed together and the older girl and boy took care of Nell.

A very hard working man, Nell's father had never taken his children to any kind of entertain- ment, so they were completely surprised and delighted when he told them they were all going to the Ice Palace one evening.

They were all dressed comfortable warm for the four-mile walk into Leadville. They were all so excited over the coming evening that they never even thought about being weary from the long walk, in the 10,200 foot elevation and cold winter air.

To the children, the Ice Palace seemed like fairyland come true. Nell especially remembers the smell of the many popcorn machines and the large merry-go-round, which she rode many times. It seems to her that there was a huge Ice Statue of Liberty, with a balance in her hand, standing in front of the Hall of Arts. No women were allowed in that section and the children speculated as to the attractions inside. The inside of the palace was warm and the huge crowd of people seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

John Barlow took his children to the Saddle Rock Restaurant on Harrison Ave. for a banquet- type meal, quail on toast. Nell never forgot the evening as everyone they saw was happy and friendly. Nearly everyone wore colorful clothing, a poncho-type garment made of a gray blanket, trimmed in pink or blue.

It was not until around 3 a.m. that the Barlow family thought of going home. Barlow made a happy ending to the marvelous night by hiring an express wagon to take them home. Nell can still remember how warm and comfortable she felt sitting between her father and the livery driver on the ride back home.

Nell remembered hearing that the builders of the Palace lost a lot of money because of the warm winter weather, which caused the ice to melt. The building was condemned on March 28. It remained standing for some time after that, as 5,000 ton of ice does not melt overnight.

Leadville had no regrets about the Ice Palace, even though it did not attract the throngs of "spending money people" they had anticipated. The winter of 1895 and '96' was the grandest the city had ever known.

Delta County INDEPENDENT-SECTION TWO-Thursday, February 5, 1970


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