Sunday, June 26, 2016

Keys to the Past - Denver's Albany Hotel

Greetings!  Today's key comes straight from our "Orphan Key" collection.  Our orphan keys contain keys donated to us that have lost tags, or have tags that have faded so badly that they're illegible.  Today's key didn't come with a paper tag, but fortunately, we do have some documentation of where it came from.

This is the key to room 622 in the Albany Hotel in Denver, as noted by the front side of the tag.  As with most old hotel keys, it could be dropped in any mailbox to be returned to the hotel.  On the back of the tag is an advertisement for Continental Rent-a-Car, offering rates of 5 dollars a day, 5 cents a mile.  Wouldn't those prices be fantastic to have today?

The Albany Hotel was first built in 1885, as the product of architect E. P. Brink and financier W. H. Cox.  The vision for the hotel at the time was to provide Denver with an elegant hotel that combined elements of American hotels with French style.  Originally, the hotel featured 155 rooms, in addition to it being one of the few hotels in the city to have electricity in every room.  In 1912, the continued success of the hotel led to the addition of a new annex.  The Salida Mail remarked that the annex held an additional 120 rooms, each with a private bath of its own, which was a big deal at the time.

The original Albany Hotel

The hotel was one of Denver's more notable ones in the early 1900s, with additions adding more features, like a trout pond and continued bathroom renovations.  Large-scale events, including the 1908 Democratic National Convention and the 1906 National Elks Convention, were hosted, and the hotel boasted plenty of famous guests, including Buffalo Bill.  The popularity of the National Western Stock Show also meant that many cowboys and cowgirls would frequent the establishment as well.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the Albany Hotel was its instability in ownership.  The hotel frequently changed owners, usually every few years.  In the 1930s, the newest owners decided to tear down much of the hotel and rebuild it, re-opening in 1938.  The rebuilt portion of the hotel was designed to better match the earlier annex.  Unfortunately, the continued ownership changes helped contribute to the decline of the hotel.  In 1976, after years of slow business, the Albany Hotel shut its doors for good.  It was demolished on November 17th, 1976, to be replaced by a new office building.

The interior of the Albany Hotel's 1912 annex

In the end, the failure of the Albany Hotel was a multitude of factors - an aging facility, inconsistent owners, and an overall lack of business.  The old elegance and charm of the building simply couldn't hold up as well against newer hotels.  The Windsor Hotel, one of the Albany's main competitors from the time period, also came to a similar ending when it was demolished in 1960.  Here at the Baldpate, we are especially fortunate to have made it much longer than the Albany Hotel.

Unfortunately, research into the Continental Rent-a-Car Company from the back side of the key came up with nothing but dead ends, implying the business has been long gone.  But, the low prices prove to be a sign of the times - diners could get lobster at the Albany Hotel's dining room for only 75 cents a hundred years ago.

As always, thank you for joining me on this trip through time!  Though it is regrettable that we don't have the key's paper tag, or that we don't know who provided us with this fantastic key, we remain thankful for the donation.  Bring in your keys (and the stories they tell) to the Key Room!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Keys to Heaven

In the Gospel of Mathew 16:19, Jesus says to St. Peter, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in heaven."

Since the creation of the Catholic Church, the image of St. Peter's keys to heaven has been seen on papal coats of arms and all over the Vatican. In fact, the keys to the Iron Door at the Vatican were modeled after the keys to heaven that Jesus gave to Peter.

In the back corner of our key room, we have a replica of the key to the Iron Door of the Vatican. Although the label states that the key is from 1950, the letter attached to the back of the key states that the key was collected by John K. Major in a 1932 trip to Rome. He was 8 years old at the time. It was attached to a ticket to the private museum of the pope (during this time Pope Pius XI). When John K. Major donated this key to heaven years later, he included this poem:

"After viewing your collection,
I've finally made up my mind. 
I'll add another to your group
Of a very peculiar kind.

This type of key I found in Rome,
It was for the Vatican,
Where I used to roam and roam,
In it were things from every lan'.

This key was on the ticket,
To the Pope's Private Museum,
It was his own insignia,
Under the tiara built for him.

This key's supposed to open heaven
The one Christ gave to St. Peter,
Two keys together form an X,
Under the Crown of the Catholic Leader.

The Crown in called the  Triple Tiara,
A tall Tiara with Three Great Rings
Of costly jewels circling it,
A Holy Thing above all Things.

Since this is all I need to tell,
I'll enclose the ticket itself I need to tell,
Then I'll just say farewell,
And not bother you anymore with terrible poetry that doesn't rhyme."

Until next time,

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Solstice

Happy Flip Flop Friday from the Baldpate!

Today we are celebrating summer with Summer Solstice in The Keys featuring Key Lime and Coconut Cream Pies with Corona and New Belgium Beers.While everyone is enjoying that in the dinning room, I am in the Key Room finding more and more keys to admire and share with all of you.

Today, I bring you thoughts of warmer, sunnier places as we look at hotel keys and their evolution throughout the years.

During my time in the Key Room, visitors have commented on our hotel key collections, especially the Epperson’s collection of  keys from their travels as a married couple. These keys in particular were donated in October 2006 by their son, Peter Epperson, after both John and Stella passed away. 

Although these are worth discussing, visitors’ comments usually relate to the fact metal hotel keys are rapidly approaching extinction. 

Before the invention of the plastic key cards in 1975, hotels operated using metal keys (a practice the Baldpate still uses today) with plastic key tags displaying the name of the hotel, room number and a certified stamp guaranteeing postage if returned. Because changing locks was expensive and required a lot of work, if someone found a lost key, or forgot to return their key at check out - all they had to do was drop the key in a mailbox and it would be returned to the hotel. 

When the plastic key came about, it operated through different combinations of thirty-two holes in the card. Later the holes were replaced with a magnetic strip. These quickly became the most popular form of key in the hotel industry around the world today. With every new guest, key cards are reprogrammed to include information like the guest’s name and room number. Another advantage of key cards is they usually deactivate after checkout, eliminating the need to track down lost keys.

One of the most recent innovations in key cards is the RFID (radio frequency identification) card. As the name suggests, this type of key card uses a specific radio frequency instead of a magnetic strip to open locks. This type does not have to be swiped like the magnetic strip key cards, so it is held in front of the lock instead.

Like I said, The Baldpate, as a tribute to its Key Room and commitment to tradition continues to use metal keys for its rooms. 

Signing off,

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Key to the First Atomic Bomb

  Good morning key lovers!

   It is a sort of rainy and gloomy morning here at The Baldpate Inn, so I have decided to focus on a key with a darker context- the key to the laboratory in which the first atomic bomb was worked on.

  The atomic bomb's origins go all the way back to the year 1932, when James Chadwick discovered the neutron- an atomic particle with mass but no charge.  By 1941, atomic research and work was being done in 12 American universities, one of them being the University of Chicago, where our key for the day comes from.  Enrico Fermi's team at Chicago was able to create a sustained chain reaction of fission for the first time.

  Stated on the letter below, Wayne Whittaker says, "Let's hope that this key symbolizes more than the terrifying atom bomb; that nuclear science will eventually give us a happier, healthier world."  This can be considered a very controversial statement, as nuclear science and the invention of the atomic bomb are already extremely touchy topics.  Whittaker also says that this world includes an "old-fashioned friendliness" that "reigns supreme" at the Baldpate Inn.

   We could go on all day about debates regarding the atomic bomb, but that is where I will leave the topic for today.  Come join us for some hot Baldpate soup on this gloomy day, and enjoy the rest of your afternoon!

  Signing off,



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Keys to the Past - The Ashtabula Dinor

Greetings key enthusiasts!  Today's interesting key takes us on a journey that includes mystery, good food, and urban decay.  This is all provided to us from a key donation from last season from Larry Bates and Maliah Niemuth, of Williamsfield, OH, and Estes Park, respectively.  The key is a large decorative key made of plastic with a thermometer on the front.

This key is commemorating the 15th season of the Ashtabula Dinor, located in Ashtabula, Ohio, along Lake Erie between Cleveland and Erie, PA.  There's a small sketch of the diner on the front, and the key uses two slogans - "Where Friends Meet" and "A Good Place to Eat".  I remain unsure of whether the thermometer is accurate - it claims that it's only 62 degrees here in the key room, though it doesn't quite feel that chilly in here!

Now is where the mystery begins.  Naturally, as the key is labeled with "Our 15th Year", I was curious as to what year that could possibly be.  A quick internet search revealed that the Ashtabula Dinor wasn't in existence anymore.  Judging by the complete lack of results for the Ashtabula Dinor, it hadn't been around for a very long time.  Fortunately, I found one fantastic picture from the Ashtabula Archives which showed the diner as it was in 1947.

This is a good start!  Unfortunately, it's impossible to tell from the picture what the first year of the Ashtabula Dinor really was.  All we know is that it was open on Main Avenue in 1947.  That could have been its first year in operation, or it could have been in operation significantly longer than that.  But that also means the absolute latest date we can give to this key is 1962.  Now, we have a timeframe to work with.

My investigations led me to further conclusions.  An old forum post was searching for a Clara Whelpley, who ran the Ashtabula Dinor from 1944-1971.  Assuming the start date is true, that shortens our timeline to a late date of 1959.  Along the theme of historical reliability that I talked about in my last post, I'm sure someone is wondering why I would be trusting a random internet message board.  But, a bit more digging verified Clara Whelpley as the proprietor of the diner by stumbling upon the following business card.

There's no date on the card, but since Clara Whelpley was indeed running it, we can assume that the 1944-1971 date has to be somewhat accurate.  Additionally, the picture on the key matches the business card, so all of this has to be around the same time.  With this information on the date, I think we should be able to conclude that the key comes from either the 40s or the 50s.

That brings us to the next question - why was this diner so hard to track down?  The answer to that ties into the history of Ashtabula itself.  Throughout the 20th century, Ashtabula became a manufacturing hub, taking ore and coal shipped from across Lake Erie and turning it into steel, a major product of the region.  The town peaked in the 1950s, when it was home to around 25,000 people with a bustling industrial sector and port.

Today, it's a town that's been left to the same fate as many other cities in the region.  Ashtabula has declined to a population of 19,000, as many of those earlier jobs had moved on.  This left buildings abandoned, neglected, and frequently destroyed.  The Ashtabula Dinor was one property destroyed.  A Google Maps street view search reveals the former location to be a parking lot.  The Palace Theater, behind the diner in the photo, was also destroyed.  Many plots along Main Avenue are empty, having once had demolished buildings.  This phenomenon is known as "urban decay", and is most notable for hitting Detroit.  Groups in Ashtabula are trying their best to counter the process and save their main street.  Unfortunately for us, the diner is long gone, and too late to be saved.

One final issue to be addressed here is one with spelling.  You've certainly seen me spell out the word "diner" as "dinor" when referring to the Ashtabula Dinor.  This happens to be an extremely regional spelling of the word, seen only in western Pennsylvania and nearby areas.  No one exactly knows how the spelling got changed to an "o", but theories range from differentiating from the word "dinner" to someone misspelling "diner" and having everyone else copy it.

Thanks again to Larry and Maliah for this fantastic key donation!  As always, feel free to mail in your key donations to us, and they may be featured on our blog.  If you find yourself in Ashtabula, and have a time machine that can take you back to the 1950s, be sure to swing by the Dinor!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Good afternoon readers!

This morning as I began my shift in the museum, I was feeling a little nostalgic thinking about my 6 months abroad in Spain this past year so I began to look around the International Section. The key I found reminded me of the miles and miles of olive trees growing in perfect lines, waiting to be turned into delicious Spanish olive oil. Its story also shares a striking similarity to Seven Keys to Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers.

The key was donated by Xavier Vive in 1956. According to the the tag, this key belonged to a wealthy Spanish olive grower in the 18th century. It was the key to his olive store room. Over time, the grower began to notice his fruit was disappearing. This made no sense seeing as the grower was the owner of the only key. He later discovered that each of his family of six had made duplicate keys. Just like the main character in Seven Keys to Baldpate, the olive grower thought there was only one key when in reality there were seven keys in total.

The original key belonging to the grower is right here in the key room in the International Section. Maybe someday we'll have the other six in the collection.

Until next time,

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Rocky Mountain Rocket

Good morning key lovers!

   Hunter here, and to begin with I want to wish a very happy Father's Day to all the fathers and father figures out there- you da bomb!  It's a calm morning here at the Baldpate, but soon to be bustling with the excitement of families coming to enjoy this special day in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. In the spirit of celebrating these amazing natural wonders around us, I have decided to focus on the key to the Rocky Mountain Rocket.

  The Rocky Mountain Rocket was Rock Island's first streamlined passenger train, running all the way from Rock Island, Chicago to Denver's Union Station and Colorado Springs.  The Rocky Mountain Rocket ran from 1939 to 1966, and ran on a 19.5 hour schedule from Denver to Chicago, plus an extra quarter of an hour for the Colorado Springs section.  The Rocky Mountain Rocket's success led to a series of many more long-distance Rocket trains.

  Despite The Rocky Mountain Rocket's success and many years of exceptional service, the train's run came to an end after a combination of financial problems, decreasing ridership, and competition with the Union Pacific, Burlington, and Missouri Pacific railroads.  It is apparent though that trains like The Rocky Mountain Rocket helped to pave the way for the major passenger railroads that we have today.  This key was donated to the key collection by P.W Johnston.

  As always, we are always open to new keys to improve our collection, so come in and donate a key or we are always welcome to mail-ins. Have a blessed Father's day with family and friends today, and perhaps come in and treat yourself a to a fresh slice of Baldpate pie!

  Til Next Time,