Good day! Today's key room post will be the first in a series on "City Keys". The idea of a "Key to the City" is entirely symbolic, especially in modern times. Cities these days can be entered and exited without any need for a key, but back when cities would be surrounded by walls, the key to the city actually had a practical purpose. In present times, to obtain the key to the city, a person must do something to make themselves standout in that city. Here at the Baldpate Inn, we've been able to collect a good amount of these keys to the city in the museum.
The first of these keys is one from Rock Island, Illinois. The key itself is bigger than a standard key, measuring 8 inches from top to bottom with a round part of about 3 and a half inches in diameter. The key is engraved "Aug 22 1940, To Bald Pate, Key to city of Rock Island Ill. R.P. Galbraith, Mayor." As this key lacks a letter to accompany it, the exact manner in which it arrived at the inn is a bit unclear. Given that the key is engraved to the inn, it can be speculated that this key was intended for our museum from the start.
Rock Island is located on the western side of Illinois, on the Iowan border, along the Mississippi River. The city is notable for having the world's largest roller dam, designed to help prevent erosion further downstream. The dam was constructed in 1934, around six years before we got the key to Rock Island, and spans around 1200 feet across. Interestingly enough, the dam is called "Lock and Dam No. 15", though it's one of the only locks that we cannot possibly obtain a key to!
Rock Island is represented elsewhere in the key room in a similar time frame with the key for the Rocky Mountain Rocket, operated by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Also donated in 1940, it followed a visit to the Baldpate by several of the railroad's prominent figures. The letter stated that they hoped the Rocket would provide the inn with more visitors. The Rocket struggled to compete with the Denver Zephyr, operated by the Burlington Route, and it ceased to exist in 1966; consequently, the Rock Island company went bankrupt and stopped operations in 1980.
Be sure to check out these keys (and countless others) when you visit the key room!