Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, Colorado
photograph by D. Kanzeg
||Central City, Colorado
||Cutchogue, New York
||Riley County, Kansas
||Baby Doe Restaurant
Many credit Horace Tabor with deep
early vision about Denver's potential to become a place of significance.
His decision to build the Tabor Block, constructed in 1879 at 16th
and Larimer, set the stage for others to follow his lead in creating
the city's first substantial structures; multi-story buildings (some
of which were to survive into our time), that spoke of permanence
and metropolitan prominence.
His and Augusta's first encounter with the landscape around the confluence
of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River came at the end of their
six-week trek across the Plains in the spring of 1859. It carried
the name Denver City, at the time, and was still a part of Kansas
Territory. It became simply Denver in 1866. Though the Tabors were
quick to move on into the mountains, and spent most of the next twenty
years living at considerably higher altitudes than Denver's mile-high
elevation, Colorado's capital was to play an outsized role in the
long-since outsized Tabor saga.
Emblematic of that role, perhaps, is the Tabor Grand Opera House--that
"monument to Tabor," which opened on September 5th, 1881
with the Emma Abbott Company performing the "Mad Scene"
from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, as well as a complete
performance of Sir William Vincent Wallace's Maritana.
Constructed at 16th and Curtis, the "Tabor Grand" changed
Denver's image of itself overnight; from an upstart prairie boomtown
to a place worthy of world-class culture. (Imagine fully-staged European
opera being presented in the midst of a landscape that, barely twenty-five
years earlier, had been prairie grassland.) No effort was spared.
The cutting-edge building was regarded as the best-equipped theater
between the midwest and San Francisco, and cost in the neighborhood
of $850,000, in 1881 dollars--a truly phenomenal sum for the time.
It survived until October of 1964.
Tabor owned the entire block along the southwest side of 16th Street,
between Curtis and Arapahoe. The Tabor Grand occupied the half facing
Curtis. Horace donated the other--the half facing Arapahoe--to the
federal government so that it could start construction of a new main
post office in 1886. Horace knew something, from his general store
years in the mining camps, about a post office's ability to create
traffic in the vicinity of the rest of his Denver real estate. The
irony is that years later, Tabor nemesis President McKinley was persuaded
by influential Colorado politicians to relieve Horace of the penury
that had followed the collapse of his fortune, by appointing him postmaster
of Denver. For the last year and a half of his life, "Haw"
earned a bureaucrat's wage presiding in the recently-completed building
that had been erected on land he had once owned. Perhaps fittingly,
since 1965, the Federal Reserve Bank of Denver has occupied the full
block along 16th Street, replacing both the Post Office AND the Tabor
Grand Opera House.
The Tabor Grand lives on in the stirring last scene of Douglas Moore's
opera The Ballad of Baby Doe, as does the prophetic legend
by Charles Kingsley, as sung by an a capella chorus, that
adorned the theater's great curtain: "So fleet the works of man/Back
to the earth again/Ancient and holy things/Fade like a dream."
There are a host of other Tabor sites in Denver, though most of the
buildings themselves have long-since vanished. The mansion he built
for Augusta sat just across Broadway from the Brown Palace Hotel,
which itself opened in 1892 (and still thrives as Denver's premier
address). Augusta lived for while in the hotel, which was managed
by her and Horace's son, Maxcy.
Horace and Baby Doe lived in another mansion, at Sherman and 13th,
a Capital Hill block that now hosts 1930s vintage low-rise retail
and apartment buildings. The Tabor Block at 16th and Larimer, was
demolished in 1972. Fittingly, its location is now incorporated into
Tabor Center--the office, retail and hotel complex that straddles
a two-block stretch along 16th and 17th streets. Vintage photographs
on the Center's escalator landings appropriately honor the site's
history, as does the restaurant in The Westin Hotel at Tabor Center,
which is aptly named "Augusta."
Baby Doe has her own restaurant, perched on a hill on the near west
side, close to Mile High Stadium. Baby Doe's Matchless Mine is one
of a number of "themed" restaurants around the country that
carry her name, in which one can be served buffalo tenderloin, while
in a Victorian era setting, surrounded by Tabor family photographs
and framed stock certificates from various Tabor companies. The place
enjoys a prime view of the picturesque Twister II roller
coaster at the new Elitch's Gardens amusement park, not to mention
a sweeping panorama of downtown.
Today the remains of all three Tabors--Augusta, Baby Doe and Horace--lie
in Denver cemeteries. Horace and Baby Doe are buried together in Mt.
Olivet west of the city; Augusta is alone in Riverside Pioneer north
of town. Augusta and Horace's son Maxcy is buried in Fairmount Cemetery
in suburban Aurora, after having died in 1929 at the age of seventy-two.
Horace and Baby Doe's gravesite
A larger picture of the Tabor graves can be seen here. The photo was taken in June 2008 by D. Kanzeg and captures a rainbow over the stone.
Maxcy Tabor's gravesite
photo by Rachel Lambert
|Persis B. Gray
||Luella B. Tabor
||N. Maxcy Tabor
|1865 - 1937
||1862 - 1932
||1857 - 1929
||1856 - 1928
Silver Dollar's Gravesite
The grave of Silver Dollar Tabor (Horace and Baby
Doe's second daughter) is NOT in Denver, but in Worth, Illinois (suburban
Chicago). After growing up in Colorado, and working in many different
locations as a chorus girl-cum-actress, Silver spent the last six
or seven years of her life living in Chicago. Her death was the result
of scalding. Baby Doe's brother, Peter McCourt, paid to have Silver
buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, which, in 1925, was considered
"way out in the country."
* * *
Denver's commercial hub for more
than a century, 16th Street stretches roughly from the city's Capital
Hill to the Union Station neighborhood. Throughout most of its history,
Horace Tabor's name has been a part of the 16th Street landscape.
Tabor is given credit, in fact, for having sparked much of the development
of the street's northern end in the 1880s through strategic construction
of the Tabor Block and the magnificent Tabor Grand Opera House, as
well as through his donation of land to the Federal Government for
the U.S. Post Office, and his ownership of the nearby Windsor Hotel
at 18th and Larimer.
Tabor's name lives on today in the magnificent Tabor Center office,
entertainment and shopping complex, which includes the Westin Hotel,
with its four-diamond Augusta Restaurant. The complex sits astride
the location of the Tabor Block, which was demolished in 1972. The
Federal Reserve Bank, across the street, occupies the block that once
contained both the Post Office in which Horace spent his last year-and-a-half
as Postmaster of Denver, and the Tabor Grand Opera House, which was
demolished in 1964. The map below is meant to show these relationships,
as well as to contrast 16th street today with how it appeared in previous
click on any of the views
of 16th Street for a larger image