Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jack Benny and Mary Livingston

Hello, everybody!

Today is another beautiful day here at the Baldpate Inn! I've had some great conversations in the Key Room today, and I hope that I'll have the opportunity to talk to all of you soon. Between conversations, I've been trying to decide which key to blog about. As I was thinking about it, I was listening to the radio play version of Seven Keys to Baldpate, which plays on repeat in the Key Room. I've listened to this show many times, and I never get tired of it! In all honesty, it is a great show, starring some great actors.
Two of the actors whose voices are featured in the radio play include Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone. We actually have a key in our collection that was donated by Benny and Livingstone. The key is to Jack Benny's Paramount Studios dressing room. On the tag, he wrote, "Jello again, and here's a key to health for every Baldpate Inn visitor." Mary Livingstone wrote, "Me too." I know Benny's and Livingstone's voices very well, but I didn't know that much about their life stories; therefore, I would like to share a little bit of what I have learned about these two Baldpate legends.

Jack Benny was born as Benjamin Kubelsky in 1894 in Illinois. Benny learned to play the violin at an early age and found work in theatre orchestras. He became a vaudeville performer when he was a teenager, teaming up with pianist Cora Salisbury. He had the oportunity to tour with the Marx Brothers, but his parents would not let him go on tour at 17 years old. Benny's comedy career began during World War I when he was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Centre. He used to try to entertain the men with his violin, but he did not receive a lot of appreciation from them. At one point, his friend whispered, "For heaven's sake, Ben, put down the damn fiddle and talk to 'em." Then, Benny told a joke that truly entertained the men.

Benny continued to make vaudeville performances after the war and began using the name "Jack Benny". He made his first radio appearance on Ed Sullivan's interview show on March 29, 1932. Within a year of this interview, Benny became a radio star. He starred in The Canada Dry Program, The Jell-O Program, and The Lucky Strike Program. Jack Benny eventually starred in his own television show, The Jack Benny Show. Benny even starred in Hollywood movies; although, his film appearances were largely poorly received. His movies include The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The Medicine Man, and To Be or Not To Be.

Jack Benny met Mary Livingstone while he was appearing in the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, and they were later married. They had one daughter, Joan Naomi Benny, and remained together until the end of his life. Benny died of cancer on December 26, 1974. He suffered for a short time before his death, but he continued to perform. After his death, a red rose began appearing at the Benny home every day. Eventually, Mary asked the florist about this. Apparently Jack Benny had been purchasing flowers one day and said, "If anything should happen to me, I want you to send my Doll a red rose every day." Mary received these roses until the day she rejoined Jack.

I hope you enjoyed today's blog! Please comment if you have more information you would like to share about Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone.

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Key to Musical Genius

Many have been considered great when we think of composers and artists in the music industry, yet there are some that have been more impactful than many of the artists that we consider great in our time period. One of these more impactful names in the world of music is that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is my great pleasure to discuss the key in our collection that is related to such a musical visionary as Mozart, especially since we have the key to his wine cellar in Salzburg, Austria.

Wolfgang was born on January 27th in 1756 to Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria in Salzburg, Austria. He was only two of seven children to the Mozart parents that actually survived into adulthood with the other five never surpassing infancy. His father was a minor composer and appointed to be the fourth violinist in the musical company for Count Leopold Anton von Firmian, the ruling Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg in 1743.

Even early on, his older sister Maria Anna recalled that he was able to pick out thirds in scale as well as by age five being able to compose as his father wrote the notes down. His father was a great encourager of Wolfgang’s talents and soon focused primarily on teaching his children and gave up composing. While he and his sister were still very young, Leopold took them on several different European excursions in which Wolfgang and Maria Anna would perform as child prodigies for a plethora of dignitaries in a variety of cities including Munich, Paris, London, Zurich, and even parts of Italy.

In 1773 Wolfgang was employed as a court musician in Salzburg until 1777 when he resigned and looked for different work but unfortunately could not find a position to his liking and fell into debt. During this traveling period of Mozart’s life, his mother died on July 3rd 1778. He returned home in 1779 and took a position as a court organist and concertmaster. This was not to last long, however, for in 1781 he set off again, this time for Vienna.

When visiting his employer in Vienna he actually tried to resign his post and was refused, but then granted permission of dismissal and he settled in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer. There became a dispute due to him leaving the court of the Archbishop in Salzburg and it ran deeper than just being dismissed because Leopold Mozart sided against Wolfgang on the matter. When he did not return with the Archbishop it was considered the revolutionary step for Mozart, one that drastically changed his career.

It was in Vienna where he pursued Constanze Weber ,and the couple married in 1782, the day before his father’s letter of consent arrived in the mail. The Mozart couple had a total of six children over the next nine years with only two of them surviving infancy. A year after their marriage they visited Salzburg and prompted one of the more famous pieces by Mozart, Mass in C Minor, with his new wife singing one of the solo parts. In Maynard Solomon’s book, Mozart: A Life, he says this about Mozart’s time in Salzburg, “a harmonious connection between an eager composer-performer and a delighted audience, which was given the opportunity of witnessing the transformation and perfection of a major musical genre.”

It is here where our key comes in. Due to its unique nature and origin the key to Mozart’s wine cellar is quite rare in our collection. It is said that the wine cellar was given to Mozart as a gift since he was a popular visitor to the wine cellars made by the priests. During the early stages of his career as he became up and coming, Mozart was a prodigy and it seems that due to the already small amount of stature his father had acquired in Salzburg, Wolfgang was able to break through and this, his birthplace, was proud to call him one of their own. So when he returned and during the composing of Mass in C Minor, the citizens of Salzburg gave this key and the wine cellar it opened to him.

Over the next several years he created some of the most inspirational and genre-changing music that has ever graced the earth’s inhabitant’s ears, and yet life was cut short. At the age of 35, Mozart fell ill and while being nursed by his wife and daughter, wrote his final masterpiece, Requiem. He died on December 5th, 1791 and was laid in a commoner’s grave. While having changed how so many look at music and composing, Mozart had a glimpse of fame during his lifetime. In death, however, he inspired and continues to do so. Even I, a very amateur musician, have found the power of his music lifting and even can bring me shivers down my back if performed eloquently. I hope that this brief piece can induce a curiosity to look up and listen to some of his compositions.

Once again I will make a note here at the end that on July 9th I will be presenting ten of some of the more famous keys in our collection during the Summer Encahnted Evenings at 7 pm. I hope that many of you are able to come out and enjoy the variety of history we have here in the Baldpate Inn Key Room.

Until next time,
Key Room Curator

Friday, June 27, 2014

S St. Vrain Highway

Good to see you again Key Room readers,

I have another key to share with you on this lovely Friday afternoon, and I hope you enjoy it.

Today’s key is a piece of local history that we are proud to have as a part of our key collection. It is the key to the transit box used in the surveying of the South St. Vrain Highway in Estes Park. If you have visited Estes Park at all you have probably driven on this road once or twice. I use it every time I leave the Inn and venture into town. The highway was constructed during the 1920s and is now part of Colorado State Highway 7 which happens to be home to the Baldpate Inn and many other beautiful locations in Northern Colorado.

The picture above shows part of the survey team that worked on the highway back in the early 20th century when surveying required different tools than a computer and a satellite. It’s thanks to their hard work and the hard work of many others that Estes Park has become the town that it is today. Road service in the early 20th century brought many more tourists and visitors to the Estes Park area and many of those visitors decided to stay and contribute to community. And who could blame them? The South St. Vrain Highway allowed many people to come and fall in love with Estes Park and it continues to do the same today.

Here in the Baldpate Key Room we have a whole section devoted to Colorado state history so if you’re interested in how this great state has grown to be what it is today then come by and see for yourself. We’d love to have you,

Key Room Museum Curator

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ford Model T

Hello, everybody!

Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about cars, even though I am far from being an expert on this topic. I'm preparing for my presentation on July 30 here in the Key Room as part of our Summer Enchanted Evenings. In case you don't know, we have different people come and speak about various topics here at the Baldpate every Wednesday night at 7:00 pm. We would love for you join us every week for an hour of entertainment! Anyway, I will be giving a presentation at the end of July about some of our keys and photos that relate to Hollywood. One of the movies that I'm going to talk about in my presentation is American Graffiti. This movie features some of the best music and coolest cars from the 1960s and earlier. One of the cars used in the movie is the Ford Thunderbird, a beautiful car driven by a beautiful girl. The movie features other Ford vehicles as well. Our photo collection here at the Baldpate includes a photo of the man who started it all, Henry Ford. Not only is Ford part of our photo collection, but I discovered today that we have two keys from Model Ts in our key collection.

We have a fun option in the Key Room for visitors to complete a scavenger hunt, and one of the Model T keys is included in the scavenger hunt. This key can be found in the Michigan section of keys on our ceiling, and the other Model T key can be found in the Kansas section. We can identify the keys as keys to Model Ts because of their wavy blades and diamond shaped handles. The numbers on the keys are 52 and 74, and these numbered keys were used between the years 1919 and 1927. For example, the key with the number 52 on it would have been used for any Ford with a number 52 lock. Interestingly, one of the keys has the Ford logo on it while the other key does not.

I want to talk now a little bit about Henry Ford and the Model T. Henry Ford was always interested in making vehicles and was willing to take any risk to start his own company. His first two companies failed, but his third automotive company, Ford Motor Company, was a success. He was able to hire a group of capable men who believed in his vision. The company's first vehicle, the Model A, was followed by improved models. In 1907, Ford's Model N became the best selling car in the country, but Henry Ford was dreaming of a car that was better and more affordable. He came up with the Model T, which was introduced in 1908.

The Model T was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads. The car was very successful, and Ford was able to sell every one that he made. He wanted to be able to make enough cars for everyone who wanted to buy one, which was the inspiration for the assembly line. The company moved to a huge plant in Michigan in 1910, and the Ford team borrowed ideas from watch makers, gun makers, bicycle makers, and meat packers in an attempt to create a way to increase production. By late 1913, the team had developed the moving assemply line. Employees were not pleased, though, with the repetitive work, and the company had to hire 53,000 people a year to keep 14,000 jobs filled. Henry Ford solved this problem by doubling his employees' wages. The price of the Model T dropped, and sales rose steadily. By 1922, half of the cars in America were Model Ts.

I hope you found this interesting, and I hope you can come in July to my presentation about Hollywood keys. If you have more information about Henry Ford or the Model T that I should know about, please leave a comment.

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Key to Becoming a Famous Outlaw

While none of us grow up without knowing too many names of famous criminals, one name should always spark the interest of the American mind. If it doesn’t then I hope to enlighten any reader on the name of one famous outlaw that has a connection to the Baldpate Inn Key Room, and that is Jesse James. While never actually staying here, or even owning the key that is connected to him here, the key to the Old Southern Bank of Kentucky in Russellville, KY would not soon forget, since it was robbed by the famous outlaw and his gang in 1868.

Jesse James is a man from a stereotypical upbringing during the mid-19th century. Born on September 5, 1847 to Robert S. James, a farmer and Baptist preacher, and Zerelda Cole James, he knew his father for only a short time before Robert James went west to minister to the gold miners in California. He had two full siblings, Alexander Franklin “Frank” and younger sister, Susan Lavenia, and four half siblings after his mother married twice after the death of Robert James.

As the years went by living in the state of Missouri was increasingly difficult since it was a border state as the United States increased in hostility and polarized into the North and South. Since the population was nearly 75% Southern born, animosity grew increasingly and lead to militia groups on both sides attacking, making Missouri a dangerous place to grow up in. This style of fighting, which has been classified as guerrilla warfare, gripped most of Missouri throughout the 1850s and even through most of the Civil War. Jesse’s older brother Frank joined a group known as the Drew Lobbs Army and then later was identified as a member of a different guerrilla warfare group that led Union militia soldiers to search and raid the James-Samuel farm, even torturing Reuben Samuel and, according to rumor, Jesse as well.

In 1864, Jesse joined his first outlaw squad under the leadership of Fletch Taylor, but soon after Jesse and Frank James joined a group under the command of Bloody Bill Anderson. During that summer it is reported by the local marshal that Jesse and Frank James were part of the Centralia Massacre where 22 unarmed Union soldiers were killed. After some time the brothers separated and had their own adventures, Jesse was even mortally wounded twice during the absence of his brother.

Over the next several years Jesse James became more prominent. In 1866 he and Frank met up with Cole Younger and began to plan several bank robberies as they also recruited to their gang. This is where the key from our collection comes into the scene. While being reported as the first bank ever robbed by Frank and Jesse James, there are several reports that state that they had robbed a couple of banks before reaching the Old Southern Bank of Russellville, KY including the Clay County Savings Bank in Liberty, Missouri and the Alexander Mitchell and Co. Bank in Lexington, Missouri. Yet this is one of the first banks that were ever robbed by the brothers and their gang, which gives significance to this place and to the key that is from it. Now our information that was given to us by the donator of the key to this bank in Russellville, KY says that there was $17,000 stolen, yet according to my research I have found that they got away with as much as $14,000. Either way this was a good haul for them and continued to help propel them towards infamy.

Jesse and Frank James soon became famous with their crimes and evasion of the law. Rewards were posted for them at $5000 dollars a piece by different companies in the state of Missouri but not any by the government since there was a bar on the governor from seeking a suitable reward for their capture. By this time many of the original members of the James-Younger Gang were dead and so recruiting was required to keep up the nomadic and reckless lifestyle that Jesse James had become accustom to by the late 1870s. These recruits however were not battle hardened as were the original members and it made it difficult for Jesse to trust them by 1882, he trusted only two but should have trusted none. On April 3, 1882 while getting ready to go out for another robbery, Charley and Robert Ford prepared the horses. In a moment of weakness and trust, Jesse James turned his back to adjust a picture on the wall and was shot in the back of the head by Robert Ford.

Thus ended the life of Jesse James, but it did not end the legend. Jesse James was already famous during his lifetime, his death sky-rocketed him to the spotlight of notorious outlaws and rightfully so in my opinion. The story of his life has been recounted in many aspects ranging from reenactments and TV shows to literature, comics and even plenty of movies. During one traveling adventure out west, Oscar Wilde wrote this after visiting Jesse James’ hometown in Missouri, “Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take heroes from the criminal class.” This seems to definitely be true in the case of Jesse James. While being a person with little morality, he is still a fascinating individual to research.

I would like to conclude the post today with a reminder that this Wednesday at 7pm, we will once again be having Summer Enchanted Evening with guest speaker, Pat Washburn, whose topic is called “The Other Mills Brother.” Also looking ahead a little further, I will be speaking on July 9th focusing on 10 of the most famous keys and their history, so I would love for people to come out for that event.

Until next time,


Key Room Curator

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Key to a Canadian Dungeon

Hi, friends!

Welcome back to the Key Room blog. I’m here once again to bring you the virtual key room experience, so get ready for an exciting historical journey.

Today’s key is one that I picked out of our International section which hosts keys from all around the world, but this one in particular only requires a short visit to our Northern neighbor. It comes from Newfoundland, the easternmost province of Canada, but since the key dates back to 1741 let’s just call it one obscure portion of the British Empire. Back when Britain’s American colonies were growing rapidly and nearing the door of independence, Newfoundland was barely a blip on the British radar. It was used only as a fishing port until it was organized into an official colony in 1825, and until then the British crown discouraged permanent settlement there. Still, settlers found ways of keeping order in their distant colony, and the key I’ll show you today is a relic of Newfoundland’s very early justice system.

It unlocked the door to a dungeon in the basement of the Court of Oyer and Terminer in the settlement of Harbour Grace. The Court of Oyer and Terminer was distinct from other courthouses in the province because it was specifically used to deal with capital crimes and the most serious offenses. Any crime apart from treason could be tried and decided there. The court officials and judges in charge of sentencing those convicted were often naval officers since during this time Newfoundland was governed primarily by the navy. As the 18th century progress, Newfoundland’s civil government grew and non-military governors were instituted, but in 1741 there were still few of those in place. Generally, this time period in Newfoundland is regarded as fairly lawless and marked by conflict, and maybe the presence of a dungeon in the basement of the courthouse for capital crimes is an indicator of how criminals were dealt with in the early days of the colony. There is plenty to be left to the imagination, but this key is a pretty exciting piece of history to have here in Estes Park and brings us back to a much less institutionalized world.

On your next visit to the Key Room, come see all our keys from around the world, and you’ll find even more stories from distant cultures and eras. It’s even more fun in person.

Goodbye for now,

Key Room Museum Curator

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hello, everybody!

I'm so glad that you decided to join me in exploring another key from our huge collection! Today, I think I'm going to talk about a key from one of my favorite cities, New York. I stumbled across this key, and it is actually pretty incredible. The key is from the original Plaza Hotel in NYC.

Download 20140620_180023_resized.jpg (1628.6 KB)The Plaza Hotel that stands today was opened in 1907, but the original Plaza Hotel stood in the same spot for 15 years before that. We received a letter with the key for the Plaza from J. P. Herndon, Jr. in 1948. In the letter, he said that the key was the only souvenir he had from the original Plaza and he wanted to see it prominently displayed in the Baldpate's key collection.

Today, The Plaza Hotel is one of the most celebrated, elegant hotels in America and is frequented by business leaders, socialites, movie stars, and artists. It was once said, "Nothing unimportant ever happens at The Plaza." When The Plaza opened, it was reported to be the greatest hotel in the world. Bernhard Beinecke, Fred Sterry, and Harry S. Black were the men who had the dream for the current Plaza Hotel. Construction of the 19-story building took two years at a cost of $12 million, which was a lot of money in those days. No cost was spared in the attempt to create a hotel with the opulence of a French chateau. The Plaza was so well known that Ernest Hemingway advised F. Scott Fitzgerald to give his liver to Princeton and his heart to The Plaza.

Fitzgerald used The Plaza in some of his novels, including The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, were devoted patrons of The Plaza. The hotel is featured in Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of the novel, as well as other movies, including Plaza Suite, The Way We Were, Barefoot in the Park, Funny Girl, Cotton Club, and Home Alone II: Lost In New-York. The hotel's movie debut was in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic, North by Northwest.

Check out this link for an interesting video about The Plaza and The Great Gatsby:

I hope you join me again soon for another advanture in the key room!

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bringing the Beach to Baldpate

If there’s one thing I think I’ll miss while spending the summer in Estes Park, it’s the ocean. There aren’t very many things as relaxing as walking barefoot along the sand and hearing the waves rhythmically crashing at the shoreline, and not many things as freeing as diving into them to cool off from the warmth of the sun. I love the sounds and smells, and the hot sun that soaks into your skin, and eating shrimp and scallops and sipping lemonade. Sometimes I just get lost thinking about it.

Sadly the ocean doesn’t quite reach to 9,000 ft, but here in the Key Room we have plenty of keys to unlock that kind of paradise, so sit back with me and let’s enjoy the beach as best we can.

Ahh, the Royal  Victoria Hotel. Once located in Nassau on the appropriately named Paradise Island, it was the luxurious gem of Bahaman tourism. This delightful getaway was built during the American Civil War, but burned down in a fire in 1971. Though this key no longer unlocks a room with a view, what stand in place of the hotel now are the Royal Victoria Gardens. There the remaining ruins of the hotel have been overgrown by a sprawling botanical garden that demonstrates the natural beauty of the tropics.


And now I'll take you to the other ocean and to the island of Maui. This key is to the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Napili Bay. Napili Bay is considered to have of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii and I would guess that it has probably been used as a screensaver a few times. This sunny resort wraps along the coast and offers ultimate relaxation with access to snorkeling, swimming, and beautiful sunsets.


Finally, here is the key to the Palmas del Mar Resort in Humacao, Puerto Rico on the eastern coast of the island. Palmas del Mar is the largest and most famous resort in Puerto Rico and has on its property over 20 tennis courts, 2 golf courses, and a riding center. The best parts, in my opinion, are its multiple beaches and gorgeous views, but who doesn’t love a good tennis match once in a while.


So I hope today’s keys have made you feel a little closer to the sun and sand. Someday soon I’ll be back in the waves, but here at the Baldpate we have our own kind of paradise. Come visit us if you get the chance and you’ll find your relaxation in the fresh mountain air and the view from the porch swing.
If you make it our way tonight at 7pm, you’ll get a special treat as we’ll be hosting the second in our Summer Enchanted Evenings series. Tonight Scott Rashid, a local bird rehabilitator and wildlife expert, will be sharing a presentation on hummingbirds and offering an up close view of one of the smallest species of birds on earth. If you’ve visited the Baldpate hummingbirds before then you certainly won’t want to miss this opportunity to learn a little more about them.
Hope you see you all soon,

Key Room Museum Curator

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hello, everybody!

I hope you are all doing well on this beautiful day, and I hope that all of the fathers out there are having a great Father's Day!

Today, I was reading through letters that we keep in a filing cabinet. These letters are ones that were sent with donated keys. I found one letter that was particularly interesting. As I was searching for the key that went along with the letter, I discovered another related key. The first key was donated by John E. Tidwell, and his letter says that the key was to "Number 10", a prison car, which was used by United States Marshals in transporting prisoners from the United States Jail at Muskogee, Oklahoma to penitentiaries in Leavenworth, Kansas, Columbus, Ohio, and Jefferson City, Missouri. The key was given to Tidwell by E. H. Hubbard, the Chief Deputy United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

The related key that I found was actually donated by E. H. Hubbard himself. He also sent a letter with his key, and both letters are dated on July 23, 1936. Hubbard writes that he decided to donate a key after hearing about the collection from J. E. Tidwell. Hubbard's donated key was used in the United States Jail at Muskogee, Oklahoma to unlock cell locks. Hubbard says that the jail was built by the United States Government during 1902. Many notorious criminals, including bank robbers, train robbers, murderers, and kidnappers, have been incarcerated in this prison. I'm going to talk a little bit about some of these prisoners, Bill Doolin, Al Jennings, Henry Starr, Dewey Gilmore, and Rufe McCain.

Bill Doolin was an American bandit and founder of the Wild Bunch, an outlaw gang that specialized in robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas during the 1890s. When the Wild Bunch was taken down by three Deputy U.S. Marshals and Bill Doolin was killed, one of the members, Richard West, joined Al Jennings and the Jennings Gang. The Jennings Gang was not very successful. The Gang conducted a series of failed train robbery attempts, one of there last being a case where they blew up an entire train car, only to find that there was no money in the train's safe. Interestingly Al Jennings also worked as an attorney and in politics, and he later became a silent film star. Henry Starr might have been the most successful of the robbers that I have mentioned so far. He robbed more banks than both Bill Doolin's Gang and Jesse James's Gang put together. He started robbing banks on horseback in 1893 and ended up robbing his last in a car in 1921. He stole over $60,000 in more than 21 bank robberies.

Dewey Gilmore and Rufe McCain are both criminals who eventually ended up at Alcatraz. From the mid 1930s until the mid 1960s, Alcatraz was America's premier maximum-security prison, located on Alcatraz Island, one and a half miles offshore from San Francisco. Dewey Gilmore, a kidnapper, was sent to Alcatraz shortly after the death of another inmate, Joseph Bower. Bower tried to make a nearly impossible escape and was shot down. Bower was the first person to try to escape after Alcatraz Island became a federal prison. Other criminals at Alcatraz at this time included Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Another criminal who ended up at Alcatraz after spending time in the the jail in Muskogee was Rufe McCain. McCain was confined in cell 14-D at Alcatraz for over three years after an escape attempt. Cell 14-D, a place where rebellious prisoners were confined in total isolation, is the most famous cell for being haunted. When McCain was released from the cell, he murdered another inmate. It is said that cell 14-D had done irreparable damage to his psyche.

I hope you enjoyed learning about these two prison keys as much as I did! I'm constantly discovering new fascinating keys here in the Key Room. If you have a favorite key, please let me know so I can learn about it, too!

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The "City of Denver"

Welcome back Key Room fanatics!
I hope you’re all enjoying this sunny Saturday afternoon and maybe contemplating the expanse of the Baldpate Key Collection while you sip iced tea on a porch swing in the mountains. If you are, or if you need a little inspiration, I’m here to highlight another one of our fascinating keys for you.

Today I walked over to panel 10 on our left side wall where we have a large assortment of keys relating to transportation and all the planes, trains, and automobiles you can think of, and I picked one out that struck me as pretty interesting. It was donated by the Union Pacific Railroad Company in 1936 and is the key to a train called the “CITY OF DENVER.” Unfortunately for all of us, John Denver never wrote a song about this train, but it’s notable for reasons of its own. “The CITY OF DENVER” made the very first 16 hour daily service voyage from Denver to Chicago on June 18, 1936 which set the record for the fastest long-distance train route in the world. Before its historic journey, the fastest train schedule between Denver and Chicago took 25 hours making the “CITY OF DENVER’s” route 9 hours faster; a revolution in efficiency that the Union Pacific advertized would “save a business day.”
And like a true champion of the rails, the “CITY OF DENVER” had both speed and stamina. It dominated the competition and ran the fastest route from Denver to Chicago for nearly 20 years. It was not until 1953 that Union Pacific Railroad Company updated its route in favor of a lighter, faster engine. That’s quite an achievement for one little train.

So how does the “CITY OF DENVER” compare to the trains of today? Well, it really isn’t too far behind. On the 16 hour route from Denver to Chicago, the “CITY OF DENVER” averaged about 65 miles per hour, and although most modern AmTrak trains are capable of higher speeds, there is a 79 mph speed limit set for most American routes. Since rail travel has been changing, however, many trains are blowing that number away. Bullet trains average about 200 mph and even that number continues to increase with new technologies.

If you come by the Key Room you’ll be able to see even more keys from American railway history and plenty of other industries as well. There’s lots to be learned and discovered.

Until next time,

Key Room Museum Curator

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th

On this unique day, being it is Friday the 13th as well as there being a full moon scheduled for tonight, I figured it was detrimental that I would write on a key that has a unique history because of its owner and the origin.

Edgar Allan Poe has been and probably will be one of the most influential and famous authors from the American Romantic Movement in the first half of the 19th century. Born in January of 1809, Poe was soon orphaned by an abandoning father and a mother who died of unknown causes by the time he was two years old. He was then taken in, but not ever officially adopted, by John and Frances Allan. Although he lived with them and was raised by them, John Allan and Poe constantly fought about debts that came from gambling and for the secondary education of Poe.

And this is where the uniqueness of the key of this particular blog comes from. We have in our possession at the Baldpate Inn, the key to the dorm room where Edgar Allan Poe resided during his first and only semester at the University of Virginia in 1826. He was only able to attend for one semester due to the money issues with his “adopted” father, but during his time, he seemed to make an impression on the University of Virginia. The Raven Society, a tribute and historical group to Poe and his writings, has preserved Poe’s dorm room at the University of Virginia, room number 13 on the West Range. In fact, the entire building has been marked as a historic site.

Now after Edgar Allan Poe left the University of Virginia, he joined the army and eventually went to West Point after the death of his “adopted” mother although he failed out and became fully convinced that he wanted to be a poet and a writer. After this confirmation he went on to publish the wide variation of short stories and novels that many have heard of through our various English and Literature classes. Some of the more famous works of Edgar Allan Poe that seem to fit with the significance of Friday the 13th and the mysteries and superstitions that seem to accompany it are The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Masque of the Red Death, and even The Black Cat.

While there are some that are still very superstitious, I hope that this post doesn’t sway anyone from going about your normal routines today. Yet, I would ask that if anyone does have any spare time today, maybe read a tale or two from Edgar Allan Poe and not only enjoy the slight chill that may crawl up your spine as you read it, but also the literary abilities and works that Poe was able to add to literature. I leave you all with a final quote from one of the happier of Poe’s writings, Eleonora, “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.”

Until next time,


Baldpate Key Room Curator

Thursday, June 12, 2014

General Sherman and Seven Pines

Happy Thursday!

In today’s edition of the Key Room Blog, I’ll be bringing you a little bit of history from my great home state of New York. To tell you the truth, I was a little sad when I first came to the key room and saw that New York’s keys only occupy a meager fifth of one of our ceiling panels, but just a few minutes of inspection made me realize that our small section is still a mighty one. Today’s key for example comes from Yonkers, NY and its story alone involves beautiful mansions, a family of New York bankers, and one of the Civil War’s most famous generals.


It is labeled “The key to Gen. Sherman’s Wine Cellar ‘Seven Pines’” and its namesake is probably someone you’ve heard of before. General  William Tecumseh Sherman fought for the Union Army in the Civil War and is most famous for the military campaign of 1864 nicknamed “Sherman’s March to the Sea” during which he enacted a harsh “scorched earth” policy and burned down everything in his path from northern Georgia to Savannah. The march amassed more than $100 million in property damage and is one of the primary reasons that Gone with the Wind is so sad. After the Civil War ended and Ulysses S. Grant became President of the United States, he appointed Sherman Commanding General of the Army in 1869.


But General Sherman is not really the key’s owner as one might assume. The wine cellar at “Seven Pines” in Yonkers, NY actually belonged to New York City banker John Bond Trevor. The Trevors were a wealthy and extremely influential family that settled in the suburb of Yonkers in 1861 and are most famous for building the Glenview Mansion; a Victorian style estate that is now listed as the John Bond Trevor House and a part of the Hudson River Museum.


 “Seven Pines” was the Trevor family’s residence before they moved into the Glenview Mansion and was originally named Edgewater. Its name changed when General Sherman visited the Glenview as a guest and suggested that Edgewater be changed to Seven Pines after the battle of Seven Pines which took place in Virginia during the Civil War. In honor of him, the house’s name was changed and General Sherman was able to leave his mark on the Yonkers community.


The couple that made the donation to the Baldpate Inn, Mr. and Mrs. Howard B. MacDonald, add a bonus layer of historical significance to the Seven Pines key. They also hailed from Yonkers, NY and Mrs. Howard B. MacDonald held local musical acclaim under the name Georgia Graves. Though we do not know the exact year that this key was donated, this newspaper article from 1939 puts the MacDonalds into historical context and tells us a little bit about the contralto Georgia Graves and her musical career.


This key which is wrapped up in a long history of famous names and places is just one of the many gems that can be found hanging from the key room ceiling here at the Baldpate. If you’re in the area, just swing by and I’ll help you find your own state’s claim to fame.

Hope to see you all soon,

Key Room Museum Curator

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Elementary, My Dear Watson

"Elementary, My Dear Watson"
Although the phrase is never actually found together in the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it has become the chatchphrase attributed to Sherlock Holmes, the famous fictional resident of 221-B Baker Street, which is the topic of the today’s blog from the Baldpate Inn Key Room.  

Sherlock Holmes is definitely one the most prominent fictional characters in literature, or at least he is in my mind. The uniqueness of his character is seemingly unparalleled, with his astute logical reasoning, ability to adopt a variety of disguises, and his forensic skills to help with his consulting detective service. Not only were his abilities unique, he was also considered a “bohemian” by his counterpart, Dr. Watson. Having an extreme expectation for personal hygiene, he then complimented it with his rather disdain for tidiness or any sort of organization. To add to the uniqueness of Mr. Holmes, he also was considered to be rather arrogant and enjoyed baffling the police inspectors with the deductions he was able to make that they were unable to see.

In the four novels and fifty-six short stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that give us the basis for Sherlock Holmes, he is able to help the police inspectors solve many crimes and also interact with some uncommon villains as well including Professor James Moriarty, Charles Augustus Magnussen, and Dr. Robert Frankland.

221-B Baker Street became the setting and residence for this rare setting and characters, and while it was considered to be rather ordinary, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson made this place into a bustling, crime-solving center where people could bring their issues and mysteries, and if unique or adventurous Sherlock Holmes would take their case. Yet at the time Doyle wrote the Sherlock stories, Baker Street did not actually have address numbers into the 200s and it is believed that Doyle created 221-B to avoid using an actual person’s residence.

While being a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes’ residential address is an actual place and we are blessed to have the key to 221-B Baker Street, donated to us by Dr. Watson’s Neglected Patients, a scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars. This key may seem as one that is rather ordinary of the time period, but to those that enjoy literature and even the more recent visual adaptations like Robert Downing Jr. as Sherlock Holmes in two films, or Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC TV series, it is more about the legacy of the character Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created.  

Already we as the three curators have been able to give you a brief background to almost a half dozen keys here in our collection. I would personally like to invite all of you in the Estes Park area at some point this summer to come and see the many other thousands of keys we have here in our collection. We hope to continue to inform and enlighten our readers through this blog the rest of the summer.

For now I am off,
Key Room Museum Curator

Friday, June 6, 2014

Clarence Darrow Key

Hello, everybody!

Today, I'm going to talk a little about one of my favorite keys in our collection here at the Baldpate. The key that was donated by Clarence Darrow in 1923 has the honor of being considered the "First key to Baldpate." It is possible that other keys were donated before Darrow made his donation, but Darrow's key will always be considered the first. Our key collection began after World War I when the original owners, the Maces, could no longer afford to give each of their guests individual keys to the Inn. Part of the story tells that Clarence Darrow actually made the suggestion that guests bring keys back to the Inn. It is safe to say, that if it wasn't for Darrow, I may not have this job today. 

Let me tell you a little bit about Clarence Darrow, a well-known attorney. His father was an atheist (Well, that seems like a strange way to start this, right? It's relevant, though.). "The fact that my father was a heretic always put him on the defensive," Darrow wrote. "We children thought it was only right and loyal that we should defend his cause." Darrow's way of thinking led him participate in the famous Scopes "monkey trial."

In the last decade of the 1800s, Darrow worked to defend strikers, labor leaders, and anarchists. He became a celebrity of the radical left. Darrow experienced a rough patch after taking on a case that nearly destroyed his career. He made a bit of a career change and became a criminal defense lawyer. In the 1920s, Darrow was the most famous trial lawyer in America. He longed for a public debate with William Jennings Bryan over religion and science because he disagreed with Bryan's religious views. He got his opportunity with the Scopes trial.

The trial took place after John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in a public Tennessee high school. Darrow faced a real struggle trying to convince the judge and jury that Scopes was innocent and the anti-evolution law should be overturned. On the seventh day of the trial, Darrow called Bryan to the stand as an expert on the Bible. This move led to a furious argument between the two men. Many believed that Darrow made a fool out of Bryan, but some believed it to be cruel, especially when Bryan died five days after the trial. Bryan did win the case, but Darrow made progress by publicizing scientific evidence for evolution.

As Clarence Darrow remains a significant figure in our country's history, we are honored that he is such an important part of The Baldpate's history as well!

Key Room Museum Curator

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Master Key to the Situation

Hello all you key enthusiasts!

Our doors are open once again here at the Baldpate Inn Key Room and I’ve been having a lot of fun exploring and getting to know the wide variety of keys and stories that hang on our walls. My name is Rachel and I will be one of your Key Room Curators for the 2014 season. I am a senior in college originally from Clifton Park, New York and I’m so happy I decided to leave sea level for the summer to be in a place like the Baldpate where the history is as rich as the landscape.

The great thing about a collection as big as ours is its variety. Whether it be a collection of keys or toasters, you get to see a wide range of items from the most basic and plain to the most elaborate, strange, and baffling. I love the individuality and creativity found in some of the keys we have here, so for my first Key Room blog post I’d like to highlight one key whose story is full of creativity. It is called “the master key to the situation,” and takes up about 20 inches on our left side wall.

by the looks of it, this key does not unlock any door or chest, but included on its frame are six key blades, a knob, a couple of other unknown gadgets, and a large screw. It was donated to the collection in 1930 by a man named Gus Miller of Lincoln, Nebraska and its tag tells us that it was crafted in the early 20th century by workers in a Nebraska boys’ reformatory.

So what did this group of boys in Nebraska’s reformatory (much like a modern day correctional facility) working as key makers do with their free time? They used their knowledge of key making and their own imagination and humor to put together a “key” that would, in theory, fix whatever problem might come their way. The key is signed, or engraved, with the name “Engler the Locksmith” who presumably is the craftsman behind this interesting project. A project not of obligation, but of recreation.

Well Engler, the Baldpate Inn thanks you for your handiwork and Gus Miller for his generous donation. The "Master Key" is certainly a key unlike any other and one of my personal favorites in the key room, at least so far. If you come visit us here at the Baldpate Key Room, I would be happy to show you this fascinating key in person and the thousands of others worth sharing, so plan a visit! You’ll be sure to find a favorite key of your own and plenty of other key history to peak your interest.

Until next time,

Key Room Museum Curator