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Brown Palace Hotel
Brown Palace Hotel, Denver, Colorado
photograph by D. Kanzeg

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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
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.


Augusta's gravesite
Augusta's gravesite


Gravesite of Maxcy Tabor
Maxcy Tabor's gravesite
photo by Rachel Lambert

Persis B. Gray Luella B. Tabor N. Maxcy Tabor Charles W.
1865 - 1937 1862 - 1932 1857 - 1929 1856 - 1928

Silver Dollar's gravesite
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."


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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 eras.

Historic 16th Street - Denver, Colorado
click on any of the views of 16th Street for a larger image