According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pitkin County’s estimated population in 2014 was 17,626. Pitkin’s county seat is Aspen. In an August 16, 2015, article, The Aspen Times noted, “Pitkin County real estate sales have passed $1 billion…for the sixth straight year.” The Aspen Historical Society (AHS) leased the Wheeler/Stallard home from the Aspen Institute, opened it as a museum in 1969, and quickly raised the money needed to buy it. The sale price was $140,000. I wonder what it would sell for today? Wheeler/Stallard is still a museum, and for the next 2 years its upstairs rooms will be devoted to an excellent AHS exhibit called “Bests Firsts & Worsts: Aspen in Objects”.
Jerome B. Wheeler came to Aspen in 1883 and invested in mining claims. He spent almost $2 million building the Hotel Jerome and the Wheeler Opera House. Both survive. He also built a home at 620 West Bleeker Street, but he never lived in it. Mary Ella Patterson arrived in Aspen from New York in 1890 and opened a dress shop. Five years later she married Edgar Stallard and they moved into Wheeler’s Victorian home (shown above). Edgar died in 1925. Mary Ella remained in the house and, over the next 20 years closed off rooms one by one until she was living only in the front parlor. Renovated 3 times since it became a historical museum, Wheeler/Stallard’s parlor and dining room recreate Victorian affluence. Jerome B. Wheeler’s Civil War sword is upstairs among the 90 artifacts in “Bests Firsts & Worsts”.
Lisa Hancock, an AHS curator, says in the exhibition’s booklet that Aspen is a town of mostly positive superlatives but that “there have been a few stumbles along the way”. “Bests Firsts and Worsts” displayed items reflect both extremes and are lots of fun to see. I learned a lot of Aspen history as I browsed my way through them. For example, I didn’t know that Frederick Pitkin was Colorado’s 2nd Governor. When he ran for office in 1878 his campaign slogan was “The Utes Must Go”. He believed that the local Native Americans didn’t use their land properly so white settlers had ever right to take it. While he was Governor, Utes were removed from their homeland and moved to reservations. Some of the objects that I long stared at included a piece of solid silver from the largest nugget ever mined in the United States. It came from the local Smuggler Mine in 1894 and weighed 1,853 pounds. When Colorado voters rejected a tax initiative in 1972, Aspen became the only chosen site to ever turn down The Olympic Games. There was a lot in this exhibit about skiing, hippies, etc. but not as much after the 1970s as I would like to have seen. Nevertheless, it’s a very revelatory and worthwhile show.
On August 11, 2015, a house being built on Red Mountain went on record as having been sold for $26, 723, 810. According to The Aspen Times this was Pitkin County’s most expensive single-family transaction during the past 2 years. I hope the new owner is a Ute.