Friday, July 12, 2013

The Grandest of Them All

Today, the Key Room is highlighting a set of keys that cannot open a physical door, but can unlock the doors to inspiration and creativity. The keys in mention are a set of seven piano keys (keys 33-39 to be exact) from one of the first grand pianos in Denver, CO donated to the Key  Room by Ray Hamilton.

*Interesting fact: The piano has earned the moniker “The King of Instruments” primarily for its wide tonal range. The piano can reach the lowest note of the contrabassoon and the highest note of the piccolo. There is no other orchestral instrument that can match its complete tonal range.


 Though I could not find any information on who Ray Hamilton was, we here at the Inn are very appreciative of his donation and proud to have it displayed in the “Musical Keys” section of our Key Room.

Come See!

Key Room Museum Curator


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Small and Mighty

        After the question which is the most famous key, visitors most often ask us what is the oldest key in our Key Room. The answer appears unassuming at first: a small ivory ankh.
        The ankh is the ancient Egyptian symbol and hieroglyphic sign for life. They are ubiquitous in ancient Egyptian art and decoration and are commonly displayed with gods and goddesses. Deities such as Isis, Osiris, Ptah, Satet, Ra, Hathor, and Anubis were depicted holding ankhs. I once saw a statue of Sekhmet—the Egyptian goddess of vengeance and retribution, as well as healing—at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The great stone figure, regal with a sun disk poised on her lion head, offered the viewer an ankh and thus offered life. The sign’s connection with immortals and the loop’s lack of beginning or end do not just entail life for the living but also eternal life for the deceased. Ankhs were used in funeral ceremonies, and the dead were called "ankhu." A sarcophagus was also called "neb-ankh," which means "possessor of life."
Statue of Sekhmet
        Originally, the ankh was thought by historians to signify sandals, the loop the part of the shoe intended to be placed around the ankle. It is also believed to have been used as a sign of initiation into sacred mysteries by placing it on a person’s forehead between the eyes; in this way it acted as a key locking the knowledge away from the uninitiated. Additionally, the ankh could be associated to the “Knot of Isis,” which was representative of mirror opposites like life and death, since the word ankh was also used for mirror. Another interpretation is that the loop suggests the path of the Nile delta, while the horizontal bar represents the unification of East and West. This may explain another reason why the ankh is connected with life: water is the ultimate sustainer of life. In the desert there is no life without it.
        Even though the ankh is Egyptian, we in Colorado understand water as a source of life and sustenance. With summer halfway over, we hope our ankh will continue to bring us rain and stave off wildfires. If you’d like to see this little piece of ancient history and decide which interpretation you like most for the “Key of Life,” come visit us at the Key Room!

Key Room Museum Curator

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Comedian, the Legend, Jack Benny

This past weekend here at the Baldpate Inn was special, due in part to the play Seven Keys to Baldpate, which premiered on Friday and Saturday. For those of you that have visited the Key Room here at the Inn, you are probably familiar to the Seven Keys to Baldpate radio play and the stage play of the same name which we show at our Keythedral Theatre. The voice most notable to visitors when they listen to the radio play is that of comedian Jack Benny.


Born Benjamin Kubelsky on Valentine’s Day, 1894 in Chicago, IL, Benny picked up the violin at the age of six, which would become a trademark later in his career. By 17, he was playing violin at local vaudeville theaters. It was during this time that Benny came into contact with the famous Marx Brothers, who not only were working in the same theater as Benny, but would form a lifetime friendship with him as well. After serving duty in the U.S. Navy from 1917 to 1921, where he was considered a comedian and musician by fellow soldiers, Benny would start a one-man act called "Ben K. Benny: Fiddle Funology". It was around this time that he changed his stage name to Jack Benny due to legal pressure from famed violinist, Ben Bernie. 

One night in 1922, Benny was invited over to a Passover Seder by friend Zeppo Marx, where he would meet the love of his life, Sadie Marks, but better known by her stage name, Mary Livingstone. Benny and Livingstone would go on to get married, along with becoming comedic partners, too. Ten years later, after a four-week comedy show stint at nightclubs, Benny was invited onto TV host and writer Ed Sullivan’s radio show. This would eventually lead Benny to get his own radio show, The Jack Benny Program, later that year. The weekly radio show, which ran for a total of 30 years (from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1949 to 1955 on CBS) is generally regarded as a high-water mark in 20th-century American comedy. This radio show would be followed up with a TV show of the same name from 1950-1965.

(Group photograph of Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Jack Benny, Don Wilson, and Mel Blanc)

Here at the Inn we  are honored to have keys to Jack Benny’s dressing room at Paramount Studios. We are glad to have the opportunity to have this key on display for visitors!
Come see!
Key Room Museum Curator

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

        To celebrate our nation's independence, we are featuring our key to the U.S. Capitol. It was donated to the Maces' on January 10, 1936 by William R. Eaton, a Senator for Colorado in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Though this key may look unremarkable, it unlocks a grandiose building and past replete with trial and tribulation.
        The predominant symbol of the legislative branch, not to mention the U.S. government and America as a whole, the Capitol Building was first commissioned in 1791 to be built on land selected by President George Washington. The first designer was dismissed a year later and, as suggested by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, a competition was held instead. Unfortunately, none of the entries were deemed "wholly satisfactory." It wasn't until October 1792 that a plan was selected and approved by the commissioners and Washington.
        Although work on the three-sectioned building began in September 1793, some rooms were still incomplete due to budget constraints when Congress, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the D.C. courts moved into the building in 1800. With the allocation of funds by Congress and the appointment of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, construction was renewed until the War of 1812 diverted money away from the project again.
        By 1818 a new architect, Charles Bulfinch, was supervising construction. The following year chambers for the Supreme Court, House, and Senate were all ready for use. By 1829 Bulfinch’s work was considered finished, and his employment with the government ended.
        Modifications and improvements continued until 1850 when, despite the Capitol’s vast size, it couldn’t fit all the senators and representatives from newly admitted states. Another competition was held, and, once again, none of the entries were exactly what Congress wanted, leaving President Millard Fillmore to select a plan and architect. He chose Thomas U. Walter.
        Under Walter’s direction extensions for the Capitol, Treasury, Post Office buildings, and Marine barracks in Pensacole and Brooklyn were completed, as well as designs for the Patent Office building and the restoration of the Library of Congress after a fire burned it in 1851. Construction paused during the Civil War. During this time the Capitol functioned as a military barracks, hospital, and bakery.
        After the war the Statue of Freedom and a new dome, including Brumidi’s The Apothesis of Washington, were added, extensions completed, and the building modernized. Work to fireproof the Capitol began in earnest after a gas explosion and fire in the north wing in November 1898.
        For the next several decades, basic cleaning and refurbishing occurred. In 1958 work began on the East Front extension, managed by J. George Stewart. This expanded the front of the building by almost thirty-three feet. It also included repairs to the dome, the construction of a subway terminal under the Senate steps, cleaning both wings, birdproofing, furnishing the new rooms, and improving lighting. All this finished in 1962.
        Major projects since then included restorations for the country’s 1976 Bicentennial anniversary, renovations of the West Front, strengthening the structure’s masonry with steel tie rods, replacement of sandstone blocks with limestone, and the conservation of various artistic structures throughout the building.
         The latest and greatest project at the Capitol was the Visitor Center. The center opened in 2008 and is almost as large as the Capitol itself! Yet this massive structure is actually located underground so as to not ruin the view of the Capitol itself.

         Every year millions of people visit the Capitol Building. While us here at The Baldpate may not receive millions of visitors each season, we likewise contain years of history and stories to be shared with the public and are a key part of the Estes Park community and Colorado history. Visit for more information about our Capitol. Hope to see you soon at The Baldpate to see this remarkable key for yourself! Have a happy Independence Day!

Key Room Museum Curator