Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Jack Benny's Dressing Room

Good afternoon key lovers!

As part of my last day here at the Baldpate Inn, I will be presenting my Summer Enchanted Evening. My topic is all about the Seven Keys to Baldpate novel written by Earl Derr Biggers and its many adaptations. One of the adaptations I will be talking about today is the Lux Radio Show adaptation starring Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone. As I try to stick with the theme of Seven Keys today, I thought I would mention a special key donation we have here from Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone, the key to Jack Benny's dressing room. 

Jack Benny began his performing career after being expelled from high school. He began playing violin in vaudeville shows. He got his big break when he was signed to MGM and shortly appeared on Ed Sullivan's radio show. He was a hit and soon after received his own comedy radio show. Benny became a household name. Benny is credited with creating the modern situational comedy. His show evolved over the years from sketches to the sitcom structure we are familiar with today. After Success in radio, television, and film. Benny died in 1974 at the age of 80 from pancreatic cancer. 
Jack Benny’s partner both on screen and behind the scenes was a comedian named Mary Livingstone. They married in 1927 when Mary’s name was still Sadie Marks. It wasn’t until she took the stage that her name changed. It was an accident really. One of the women in one of Benny’s acts fell ill and was unable to perform. Mary, who had seen the show hundreds of times, was asked to fill in. It turns out she had a natural talent and began to collaborate with Benny on most of his productions. She retired due to horrible stage fright that she still suffered from after two decades of performing. She died at the age of 78 in 1983.

Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone a key here to the Baldpate Inn after recording the Lux Radio show. It is located near the entrance of the key room on the left.

I would like to thank each of you for reading our blog this summer. I have had a wonderful time here and have greatly enjoyed meeting you and hearing from you during these past few months. Again, thank you for a lovely summer.

Your Key Room Museum Curator, 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Keys From This Year

Greetings!  Today's post is all about our most recent key donations, coming from this year.  By my count, we've received about 50 different keys as donations this season, which is fantastic to add to our 25,000 (give or take a few) keys!  A few different keys will be highlighted for this post.

- Joseph Casey of Estes Park gave us one of the year's most exotic keys to the Hotel Chur in Chur, Switzerland.  The town of Chur is nestled in a mountain valley along the Rhine River.  Allegedly, it's the oldest town in Switzerland, with archaeological evidence in the area dating back to the Bronze Age and the Roman Empire.  The Hotel Chur prides itself on being close to the train station and the city center.

Chur, Switzerland

- Another key coming from far away was donated by Lynne Chizzick of Boulder, coming from Luang Prabang in Laos.  Luang Prabang dates back to about 600-700 CE, in which it became the seat of an old Laos empire.  According to Laotian creation myths, Luang Prabang and the area factor greatly into the origins of the world.  Much of the village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of the history of the area.  The key is from a hotel in the town.

Luang Prabang, Laos

- While I was writing this post, the most recent donation was presented by Richard and Linda Taube of Sherman, Texas.  Their key presented to the museum is only the top of the key, as the bottom half is broken off.  It's the first broken key we've had donated this year, but certainly not the only one in the collection.

- One of our employees, Heather Kegel, donated a key to the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass Village.  The ranch offers workshops throughout the year in various mediums.  The key is to one of the dorm rooms at the ranch.

Do you have a key to add to this assortment of this year's batch?  Bring one to us when you visit, or mail it to us!  A key is one of the best things to receive in the mail (certainly better than getting bills!), so send one on over.  Thanks to all of our donors so far this year!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hotel Keys - The Zumbro Hotel

Greetings!  Today's key takes us back to another hotel no longer in existence, while also taking me back into my past.  This key comes from the Zumbro Hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, which happens to be my hometown.

When the Zumbro was built in 1912, it was a necessity for a rapidly growing town.  Rochester's history is tied directly to the Mayo Clinic, the world-class hospital that calls Rochester home.  William Worrall Mayo, who served as a surgeon during the Civil War, ended up starting Saint Mary's Hospital in 1883 as a response to a devastating tornado that decimated the city.  As his sons William and Charles graduated medical school, they joined him back home.  From there, the Mayo family expanded the hospital into a group practice, collaborating with other notable doctors of the time to found the Mayo Clinic.  It innovated at the time by having many of the region's best doctors, attracting large amounts of patients and helping advance medicine.

Charles, William Worrall, and William James Mayo

Of course, with an increasing number of visitors to the hospital, the demand for lodging in the town increased.  The Zumbro was built in 1912 to capitalize on that demand.  Founded by local hotel magnate John Kahler, the Zumbro took advantage of a centralized location downtown near the clinic to attract guests.  The hotel bragged about other amenities, including "most rooms with private baths" and special rates at a nearby golf course.  The original hotel started with 125 rooms, and was expanded only 4 years later to keep up with demand.  The construction of the clinic's Plummer Building in 1927 saw the Zumbro construct a subway to connect the two buildings - a necessity during the cold Minnesota winters!

Postcard of the Zumbro Hotel

Eventually, with Kahler's hotel empire continuing to expand in the city, the Zumbro began to be known as the Kahler Zumbro Hotel.  Kahler's name, because of the city's Kahler Grand Hotel, was becoming more well-known, so attaching his name to the Zumbro was an attempt to keep it relevant.  Unfortunately for the Zumbro, the changing times became the hotel's downfall.  The Kahler Corporation decided to tear it down in 1987 to replace it with a new hotel.

The Zumbro (top), with the Plummer Building (middle), and the current location (bottom)

Today's downtown Rochester has no shortage of hotels and hospital buildings - its skyline has many exceptionally large buildings for a city of about 100,000.  The Zumbro's significance lives on in the other hotels and medical buildings in the area, representing the continued cooperation between the Mayo Clinic and their 1.3 million annual patients.

Downtown Rochester as seen from my most recent trip to the city

As with the other keys in our blog, the Zumbro room key can be seen by visiting us here in the key museum!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The University of Michigan

As the season begins to wind down, many of our staff members have begun leaving the Baldpate Inn to return to school. I, fortunately, get to stay a few weeks longer, but the recent goodbyes have got me thinking about the upcoming semester. We have an area here in the key room containing keys to many distinguished colleges and universities including Columbia University in new York and the University of Chicago. Simply because I love my home in Michigan, I've chosen today to talk about the key we have here from the University of Michigan.

The University of Michigania was established in Detroit, Michigan on August 26, 1817 and moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 under the new name, University of Michigan. Classes began in 1841 with the first graduating class of eleven men receiving their diplomas in 1845. Since then, the University of Michigan has grown into a large and respected American University. They are known for their history of student activism and for being the first American University to use the seminar method of study. It is also where President John F. Kennedy proposed the concept that became the Peace Corps and where President Lyndon B. Johnson outlined his Great Society program in a speech.

The key we have here in the Key Room opened the original Law Building of the University of Michigan which opened in 1863 and is still standing today. The building underwent renovations in 1893 and 1898. The old Law Building housed the Law School and tits library until 1933. The governing body of the University also met in this building until 1933. At that time, the building was renamed Haven Hall after Erastus O. Haven, a former president of the University, and began housing the History, Sociology and Journalism Departments. Today, Haven Hall houses the University's African American Music Collection, American Culture Program, Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, Political Science Department, Lemuel Johnson Library, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and their Services for Students with Disabilities.

This key unlocked a door that countless professors and students passed through. This key represents knowledge, potential, and hard work of those individuals and the illustrious history of the University of Michigan. It was donated to the Baldpate Inn in December of 1934 by John C. Christensen, the former Assistant Secretary and Comptroller of U of M.

As the weather gets cooler and back to school sales start up, don't forget to visit the Baldpate Inn just once more for some incredible pie and a tour around the Key Room.

Until next time!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Key to Adolf Hitler's Home

Good morning key lovers!

  Hunter here, and unfortunately today will be my last day posting to the Key Room Blog, as I head back to school in Arizona in a couple of days.  Since this is my last post, I have decided to focus on a key that is easily one of the most famous in our key museum, as well as one that has interested me all summer- the key to Adolf Hitler's home at Berghtesgaden (Berghof).

   Berghof was one of Hitler's primary headquarters during World War II.  Other than the Wolfsschanze, which can be translated to "Wolf's Lair," Hitler spent more time in Berghof than any other of his shelters during the war.  Berghof was also one of his more widely known headquarters during the war.  Berghof was purchased with the money that Hitler had profited from his famous book, the political manifesto Mein Kampf.  The home was maintained like a vacation resort hotel, as Hitler hired many gardners, cooks, housekeepers, and other domestic workers.  He is quoted as saying in the Home and Gardens magazine, "This place is mine...I built it with money that I earned."

  Hitler decorated Berghof with a jade green color scheme in order have a "light and airy" vibe throughout the home.  Hitler's longtime companion Eva Braun also lived at Berghof, as she had two bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms and interconnecting doors.  Berghof soon became a German tourist attraction, as civilians would wait at the end of the driveway in hopes of catching a glimpse of Hitler.  This caused Hitler to enhance security on the property and place severe restrictions on the private property.  Hitler also compelled neighbors to sell their homes so that he could expand his own property.  Guests such as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the Aga Khan, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were greeted personally by Hitler and invited into his infamous home.

  In late April of 1945,  Berghof was damaged by British aerial bombs, and then set on fire by retreating SS troops about a month later.  It was then looted when Allied troops reached the area.  The Bavarian government then destroyed the burnt home in 1952.  Much fear surrounded the ruins, as many feared that it would become a shrine and worship place for Neo Nazis.  Today, trees have overgrown the site and some scattered rubble is all that remains.

  Well key lovers, I have had such a fun time writing for you all and exploring the key museum that I have been lucky enough to work at this summer.  I leave with a tremendous amount of respect for the Baldpate Inn, and knowledge that I will take with me for years to come.  As summer begins to come to an end, make sure to find some time to head down to Baldpate and pay a visit, and possibly enjoy some pie and drink as well!

  Signing off for good,


Friday, August 5, 2016

Rail Keys - The Key to the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company

Greetings!  Today's key takes us back to a railroad with a long history and a continued presence into today.  The key was donated by E. D. Mays, the executive general agent of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company's freight division, in 1954.  Attached was a letter with a brief history of the line.

Our key of the day, complete with a letter

"Remembering my promise made to you during our stay at Baldpate Inn during last Summer, I am forwarding to you a key which I hope you will add to your wonderful collection of keys.  The key I am sending is taken from one of the first passenger train coaches that operated into South Florida and, although it is old, it represents a passenger service that is still operating.  This key admitted many of the pioneer citizens of Florida to the Seaboard passenger trains and I hope this key may serve you sometime in using some of our passenger service into this part of Florida.  The Seaboard has gone a long way in developing its passenger service since this key was active, and we now have the "Silver Fleet" operating into Florida and the South, as the SILVER METEOR, SILVER STAR, and SILVER COMET.  The key I am sending you will also admit you to these trains."

The Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company's history essentially started back in the 1830s, when the line operated as a series of smaller Southeastern railroads.  The name changed around quite a bit, until the 1850s, when the "Air Line" part of the name came into play.  This idea of calling a railroad an "Air Line" is puzzling to think of now, in a time period when an airline refers to airplanes.  However, back when the term Air Line was used for railroads, it was more of a marketing slogan.  Air Line was used as a phrase to refer to the shortest distance between two places.  A railroad claiming to be an Air Line railroad was a railroad that advertised short distances and quick trips.  The confusion with airplanes didn't come around in the early days, since airplanes weren't even invented then, but later on, that became an issue.  One story says that the Seaboard's stock went up shortly following Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight, only for it to return to normal as investors realized that it was only a railway.
An old advertisement demonstrating the "Air Line" principle

The trains mentioned as part of the Silver Fleet still have some continuation.  The three lines were long distance, hauling passengers in comfort and style from southern cities like Atlanta and Tampa up to New York.  Starting in 1939, these streamliners were some of the earliest ones along the East Coast, prompting some good years for the railroad.  Only the Silver Meteor and Silver Star remain in operation today,  run by Amtrak.

Much like many of the other rail services in the country, a decline in passenger rail travel combined with less demand for rail freight led to the downfall of the Seaboard.  Several mergers in the late 1960s and early 1970s left the Seaboard as part of the past.  The passenger services was transferred to Amtrak in 1971, while the freight service was eventually absorbed by CSX.

The Seaboard's logo

With the Seaboard Railroad no longer in existence, the key to the passenger trains may no longer be able to admit us to the trip, as Mr. Mays suggested in his letter.  However, two of the rail lines can still be taken, if you're in the area.  And of course, the key from the Seaboard Air Line can be seen, along with countless others, here at the museum.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Keys to a Grand Piano

Good afternoon!

Here in the Key Room, we have keys of all types. We have keys to houses, cars, office buildings, desks, lockets, and hearts. We even have keys to musical instruments.

The invention of the modern piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori of Italy who was the Keeper of instruments for the Medici Family. It is not known when Cristofori first built a piano, but it is know that existed by the year 1700. Three Cristofori pianos survive today and date from the 1720s. Cristofori's greatest challenge was to discover, with no previous example, how to strike the strings with a hammer, yet not remain in contact, and return to its resting position calmly and quickly so that it may be played again almost immediately.

Grand pianos have horizontal strings and frames, extending away from the keyboard. Longer pianos with longer strings have a richer sound, which is why grand pianos are considered the highest quality. Pianos are used in virtually every music genre from classical to pop music. It has become one of the world's most recognizable and popular instruments.

When entering the key room, immediately to the left, sits a number of grand piano keys, seven to be exact. These grand piano keys were donated by Ray Hamilton and are accompanied by a tag which states: "Seven keys to one of the first grand pianos to arrive in Denver via covered wagon from the East."

Until next time!