Leadville's Ice Palace,
1896, by William Henry Jackson.
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Palace was built in just 36 days
utilizing 5,000 tons of ice. The palace held a skating rink, a
restaurant, a ball room, a dance floor, gaming rooms and a carousel
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In 1896 a spectacular true Norman ice
palace stood on a gleaming, snow-covered rise above the City of
Colorado. Sitting at the foot of two of
Colorado's highest peaks, the ice castle was the largest ice
structure ever built. The crystal castle housed a ballroom, a 180
foot skating rink, a curling rink, a restaurant, a dance floor,
gaming rooms, a theatre, toboggan runs and a carousel house.
Leadville was born from the fabulous gold strikes in 1860 and
for two decades the town thrived with fortunes made from the rich
ore of the surrounding mines. But in 1881, some of the largest,
richest mines began to play out after years of exploitation. The
miners began to leave in search of richer finds, stores and banks
failed, and the town was consumed by fires that destroyed the rows
of wooden structures. Repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act
and the depression of 1893 further depressed the economy of
Leadville and ended the silver era.
In 1893, the Herald Democrat, reviewing the events of the
year, expressed: "Those were the days of panic and gloom for
Leadville. Ruin and bankruptcy stared every mining man, every
smelting man and every businessman in the face.''
Prior to the winter of 1895, the
desperate townspeople proposed a mammoth ice castle to draw
sightseers, create jobs and rescue the town's flagging economy.
Anticipating trains full of tourists, the project began by hiring
Charles E. Jay, an architect who had designed an ice palace in St.
Paul, Minnesota. Tingley S. Wood was hired to build the ice palace
Leadville Ice Company got the contract to produce the ice.
Construction began November 1, 1895 with a crew of 250 men working
day and night. Day laborers were paid $2.50 per day and skilled
laborers were paid $3.00 per day. The palace was more than 58,000
square feet - 325 x 180 feet, utilizing 180,000 board feet of
lumber and 5,000 tons of ice. The palace was supported by a
complex frame work of trusses, girders and timber, with the ice
for appearance only. The ice was trimmed to size and placed in
forms, then sprayed with water, which served as mortar to bind the
blocks together. The towers reached 90 feet high by 40 feet wide
and the palace encompassed 5 acres of ground.