HGI Honored to be acknowledged in “Remember Me to Miss Louisa”

Sharony Green

Book Cover

When author Sharony Green visited Georgetown last fall in search of historical information about one of the individuals in her recently published book, Remember Me to Miss Louisa, little did we know that chance meeting would land HGI in the acknowledgement section of her book. Needless to say we are honored.

Remember Me to Miss Louisa looks at the complexities of antebellum interracial relationships, “especially from the freedwomen’s and children’s points of view.” Georgetown plays into the narrative via one of the main character’s ancestral line.

Remember Me to Miss Louisa

Sharony Green (middle) with Anne Marie Cannon (right) and Nancy Hale (left) in front of the Hamill House fall, 2014

When the Silver Runs Dry

Silver bars

Clear Creek County was known as one of the top silver producing areas in the entire country from the mid 1860’s to the turn of the 20th Century.  Originally, the early settlers of the area came in the hopes of finding gold.  While gold was found in the area, it did not pan out the way silver did.  The entire economy of the region was built on the precious substance and the United States Government took notice.

President Rutherford B. Hayes signed the Bland-Allison Act in 1878.  This act gave the United States government the ability to buy silver and use it for minting coinage.  It was still valued less than gold however but now the United States was authorized to purchase between two and four million dollars worth of silver monthly from Western mining interests.  The conflict over having two metals represent the American currency was a regional issue.  The Free Silver movement was a movement spawned by Western mining interests.  It was a call to arms against the business elites of the East Coast.  This regional conflict will be seen throughout the fight over the viability of silver and gold as the two forms of American currency.  A key issue was the fact that the currency value of silver was more than the metal value, which was not the case with gold.  This would cause massive inflation.

Hayes

(President Rutherford. B Hayes, who vetoed Bland-Allison was overruled by Congress)

In Georgetown and Clear Creek County, the silver continued to flow from the mountains.  Originally found in 1864, the silver vein launched some men to incredible fortunes.  Fortunes that were short lived.  Georgetown was not a typical mining town in those days.  Its main purpose was to be a town of commerce and entertainment for miners rather than a typical mining town.  At its height roughly ten thousand people lived in Georgetown.  The Silver Plume Mining District had the most silver output until Leadville, Colorado took the crown in 1878.  The total haul of the mining district is an estimated thirty million dollars.

georgetown1880s

(Georgetown  booming Circa 1880’s)

Bi-metallism currency standard was simply not a viable option by 1893.  As the valuation of silver was inflated, the gold by which it was bought was being exhausted.  This exhaustion of gold was the cause for a nationwide economic panic.  This Panic began shortly after 1890 when the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was enacted.  Silver could now be bought at double the rates the government was paying under the Bland Allison act of 1878.  Silver was now trading at 16:1 over gold.  This was a fixed rate established by Congress, which had far over-valued silver.  The gold market quickly began to dry up.

By 1893, the US gold reserves were on the brink of complete exhaustion.  The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed in 1893, affixing once and for all gold as the standard backing for United States currency. The effect on the west of this repeal caused an immediate panic, as silver barons lost massive fortunes almost over night.  The political ramifications were also felt.  The Republican establishment felt that gold was far more stable backing to the United States economy.  This caused a regional rift in the United States; it was felt that gold was backed by the East and silver by the West.  Populist politicians such as William Jennings Bryan saw huge popularity in the West, including Colorado which had been a Republican stronghold for decades.  The election of 1896 saw an overwhelming support for William Jennings Bryan.  The Republican candidate, William McKinley favored a big business approach to the economy with the backing of gold, which would further keep the Colorado and western economy in recession.  William McKinley eventually won the election of 1896.

mckinley

(Left: William McKinley, Republican Candidate 1896, Bottom Right: William Jennings Bryan Populist Candidate 1896)

WJ Bryan

William Arthur Hamill, supported a gold standard, despite his heavy influence in the silver industry.  He was also a stalwart Republican and supported McKinley and his campaign.  Hamill’s Georgetown of the 1870’s and 1880’s was now a thing of the past.  It slowly trickled down to near ghost town status.  It wasn’t until the post-depression era that saw Georgetown grow again.  It wasn’t silver it was tourism and a growing ski industry that helped the town regain its footing.

Silver and the Free Silver movement had a massive impact on Colorado.  It was the one of if not the most important influence on Colorado’s economy and political identity.  William Arthur Hamill and Georgetown were right in the thick of it.

-Tom Mensik

Sources:

http://www.mininghistoryassociation.org/Golden6.htm

Leyendecker, Liston, Bradley, Christine, and Smith Duane.  The Rise of the Silver Queen. The University of Colorado Press. Boulder. 2005

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Bland-Allison_Act.asp

http://www.miningartifacts.org/Colorado-Mines.html

The Past Moving Forward

Spend the final days of summer at the Hamill House. HGI has been busy interpreting history, writing grants, partnering and hosting fundraisers for the restoration fund.

As we reported earlier, the parlor ceiling in the Hamill House is being held up by scaffolding due to a structural issue. Unfortunately we are not sure when we will be able to do the expensive restoration that is required to fix that problem, but that has not stopped HGI from doing the things it does best, including taking visitor’s on tours of the old gal.

Held up by Scaffolding

Held up by Scaffolding

Ceiling Medallion

Ceiling Medallion

Fundraising for the Hamill House Restoration fund has been utmost on our list of priorities. To date this summer HGI hosted two First Friday Lawn Parties, with one more to come Friday,  in August and two Georgetown Horse Drawn Wagon Tours, with one left to come the first Saturday of August. All of the profits of First Fridays and Horse Tours go to the restoration fund.

HGI has also been busy partnering with the soon to be opened Georgetown Heritage Center’s Cultural Arts Program and The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in curating an exhibit for the month of September titled “Crazy Quilts, the Pride of Victorian Womanhood.” The Georgetown Heritage Center is housed in the 1874 Georgetown schoolhouse.

Cultural Arts Program

1874 Schoolhouse

Possibly the oldest brick school building in Colorado, The old schoolhouse functioned as an active school until 1938 when it was purchased by a private individual who used it for storage
and a machine shop, even demolishing part of one side
of the building for trucks to drive in.

In 2007, the Georgetown Trust for Conservation and
Preservation purchased the property and applied for
grants to help restore the beauty of the fading landmark.

The restoration on the exterior of the structure began as soon as funding was available. While the character defining exterior-features of the school were plain to see, decisions about the interior were equally critical. The Heritage Center will house the local history archive maintained by the Clear Creek County Library and the Cultural Arts Program whose mission is to demonstrate, teach, and exhibit traditional folk arts and their modern adaptations, as well as provide cultural programming that was practiced and enjoyed by the diverse groups who created Georgetown during the 19th century mining boom. Programs include local, regional, and visiting artists/musicians, traditional crafts, fine arts and houses a music/drama performance space on the second floor.

August 1: Historic Carriage Rides Through Georgetown
Enjoy a leisurely carriage ride through town as you learn the history of the Silver Queen of the
Rockies. Historic Houses, Events, and Places will be shown on your route. In addition the ride,
you will be able to tour the beautiful Hamill House as part of the tour.

August 7: First Friday Victorian Lawn Party
Come to the Hamill and enjoy a Victorian Lawn Party. No summer would be complete without playing lawn games on the Hamill property. Games include croquet, and ladder ball. In addition to games, a face painting station along with Hamill House tours. There will also be a drawing at the end of the night. Wine/Beer bar along with hors de ouvers will be served. Each ticket includes one drink ticket. Come down to our last First Friday of 2015. All are welcome.

August 28: Past Moving Forward Benefit Auction, Wine Pull and Picnic Benefit for the Hamill House Museum,

Proceeds go to the restoration fund.

Be a part of historic preservation and have a great time while you’re at it! HGI is hosting an auction and picnic at the Hamill House Museum on August 28th. Enjoy an evening of live entertainment, food, a chance to win great items and a special Wine Pull in which everyone is a winner. Enjoy the majestic beauty of one of the most well-preserved Victorian towns in America from the grounds of the Hamill House Museum.
$20 per Ticket, $35 per couple, Children are Free. Ticket includes a drink from out Wine/Beer
Bar. Additional Drinks are $5. Auction proceeds go to the further restoration of the Hamill House.

September 6-27, Saturday and Sunday, Exhibit: Crazy Quilts, the Pride of Victorian Womanhood Curated by the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in collaboration with HGI.

Crazy Quilts: The Pride of Victorian Womanhood

Crazy Quilts: The Pride of Victorian Womanhood

How the Railroad and the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Expanded the Hamill House

The United States had a lot to celebrate in the summer of 1876.  The Declaration of Independence was signed 100 years prior, and the country was hosting its first World’s Fair.  William Arthur Hamill also had reasons to be happy during the historic summer.  For Hamill, business was booming.  The Silver was flowing and his town of Georgetown was growing.  The Colorado legislator, railroad commissioner, and silver baron went to the City of Brotherly Love to celebrate the momentous event.  While attending the Expo, Hamill was inspired by the many exhibits he saw to add to his expanding mansion back in Georgetown.

The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition had over thirty thousand exhibits.  It opened on May 10, 1876.  The exhibits featured natural history displays including taxidermy animals, minerals and gems from all over the American landscape.  Native American’s were featured prominently during the expo.  Over fifty-three Native tribes displayed art work, weapons, and clothing.  However, they were portrayed as a “museum relic” rather than a thriving cultural community.  During the expo, word reached back East that Custer had fallen at Little Big Horn which cast a dark shade over the festivities.  In addition to the Native American cultural exhibits, and natural history displays, several American companies were displaying their products.

map

As William Arthur Hamill and the other ten million visitors strode the halls of the expo, they were shown knew inventions and home improvement options.  Hamill, being the western aristocrat that he was, felt it was necessary to improve his home in Georgetown with all of the finest Victorian furnishings.  One of the prominent features of the Expo was a twenty-five foot fountain built by the J.L Mott Ironworks Company of New York.  Hamill was inspired by this fountain and decided to add one to his estate.  Another exhibit that caught his eye, were the Victorian Conservatory’s.

DSCN0439

Conservatories were an integral part of elite Victorian estates.  William Arthur Hamill had to have one for his home.  The 19th Century was the golden age of home conservatories.  Due to new glass and heating technology, they were able to be mass produced.  In addition to the conservatory, ferneries were part and parcel for the conservatory.  The one Hamill ordered was produced by Mott Ironworks.  The fernery was integral to displaying your plant collection. Hamill’s conservatory had slatted panels in the flooring.  Underneath a large coal burning furnace was placed. During the winter the heat from the furnace would rise through the slats in the flooring and heat the room during bitterly cold days.  They were designed so that flowers and plants could be enjoyed year round. DSCN0433DSCN0437

It is safe to assume that William Arthur Hamill came back from the Philadelphia Exposition with inspired new ideas for his mountain estate.  He embraced the Victorian designs he saw.  However, there was one problem.  The railroad had not reached Georgetown in 1876.  Hamill waited until 1877 when the railroad finally wound its way to Georgetown.  The railroad sparked the economy of any area it entered.  Now people, such as Hamill, could order from back east all of the new pieces for his extension project.  The company he ordered the conservatory from came out with an installer to build the structure onto the house.  The Mott’s Ironworks sent out his fountain and fernery which came with an installer as well.  The railroad also allowed Hamill to order two exquisite marble fireplaces from Vermont, and tiles from England.  William Arthur Hamill was able to expand his house to the Victorian grandeur he had earned, due to his inspiration from the Philadelphia Exposition and the Railroad.

-Tom Mensik

Sources:

http://www.vintageplumbing.com/thejlmottironworks.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/grant-exposition/

Lights, Camera, Action!

The Hamill House is under construction

The Hamill House is under construction

We have been telling you about the repairs that will be undertaken in the Parlor at the Hamill House. Last week we posted pictures of the scaffolding that is holding up the ceiling. The ceiling is not the only issue that requires our immediate attention. We are also faced with the urgent need to repair the front and back porches. What that means for the upcoming tour season at the Hamill House is still uncertain.

While we wait to learn the fate of our summer house tour schedule, we here at HGI have been busy working around the possibility that tours at the Hamill House Museum may have to take a hiatus this summer. Never fear, for we have decided to celebrate the transformation of this Victorian jewel by utilizing as much of the yard and town (yes you heard right -I said town…meaning Georgetown) Very soon we will be posting the schedule of activities we are working on at this very moment. Some highlights of what is to come include the addition of a guided walking Georgetown tour to coincide with the publication of an updated Georgetown walking tour book and First Friday lawn parties throughout the summer at the Hamill House that will include food, drawings for prizes, wine and family friendly activities

One final note. Filming will begin next week in Georgetown on For the Living, written by Emanuel Isler, directed by Colin Floom, starring Kate Linder and Elias Harger. We are excited to be hosting the film cast and crew here at the Hamill House for several days while they shoot various scenes in and around the house. It’s not just the Hamill House that will be hosting cast and crew, but our town. Somewhere around thirty people will be using our town as their home for approximately 10 days!

leppek_isler

Writer Emanuel Isler was interviewed by Westword Magazine in 2012

Besides writing For the LIving, Isler also co-authored the spine tingling novels Abatoir and Chaosicon with Christopher Leppek. Stay tuned for updates.

Georgetown & Silver Plume, Colorado

What a great post about the Georgetown & Silver Plume historic landmark district!

Jan MacKell Collins

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in Colorado Gambler Magazine

Image

The famed Georgetown Loop, as seen in the 1800’s.

Georgetown (also once known as George’s Town), was called the “Silver Queen of the Rockies”. In about 1860, the fledgling mining camp was located next to another early camp known as Elizabethtown. The connection between the two was literally relative: Elizabethtown was named for Elizabeth Griffith; Georgetown was named for Elizabeth’s brother George. A third sibling, David Griffith, missed out.

Both Georgetown and Elizabethtown were combined during a public meeting in about 1864, when the growing city became simply known as Georgetown—Colorado’s first silver city. It is said George actually preferred Elizabethtown, and that his town lots were offered free to the first 10 “respectable women” to call Georgetown home. At the time, the town only sported four cabins. Clearly, however, the city wanted to…

View original post 1,110 more words

State of Transformation

Hamill House Parlor

Post 1974 restoration

We are currently in a state of transformation, bringing the Hamill House back to its original splendor. As I write this the 1867 parlor’s ceiling is currently being held up by scaffolding and a great deal of furniture has been moved from the old dusty attic to the dining room and what once served as William Arthur Hamill’s library/office. We have identified original Hamill pieces to be restored and put back into the collection for exhibit in the house. Among the furniture is the original set of eight leather and walnut (a Hamill signature) formal dining room chairs. We are lucky to be working with Howard Lorton Galleries who we have worked with in the past to restore other pieces within the house.

Restoration April, 20015

Restoration April, 20015

Staging area for furniture going to Howard Lorton for some much needed love.

Staging area for furniture going to Howard Lorton for some much needed love.