Remember Colorado’s Famous Ice Palace?
Some of Colorado's most popular tourist destinations include Rocky Mountain National Park and the Royal Gorge Bridge - but going back more than 120 years ago, the Centennial State boasted a pretty cool winter attraction, that's since melted away in history.
The Leadville Ice Palace was a famous Colorado attraction that opened to the public on New Year’s Day 1896.
The impressive structure was constructed in just 36 days. Designed to compete with tourist destinations found nearby in Denver, Leadvile's Ice Palace was a massive ice-walled building with an exterior in the style of an "Old Norman" castle. Similar castles had previously popped up in places including Montreal, Canada, and St. Paul, Minnesota, but Leadville's was planned to be the largest of them all.
Set on 3.3 acres, Colorado's ice palace was built utilizing 5,000 tons of ice. The ice had to be precisely cut and stacked to form eight towers, as well as the rest of the enormous frozen building. The two largest towers measured 40 feet wide and 95 feet high. As workers stacked the ice blocks into walls, they sprayed the walls with water, which froze and acted like mortar to hold the individual blocks together. Renowned architect, Charles E. Joy, was brought in to oversee the project.
Funding to build the Leadville Ice Palace was spearheaded by the husband of the Unsinkable Molly Brown, James J. Brown. He provided $500 to start, however others, including local miners, also chipped in cash pledges. Citizens hoped it would help to revive Leadville's suffering economy.
Business is Booming
Once open to the public, the palace featured a 16,000-square-foot skating rink illuminated by electric lights, a restaurant, heated ballrooms, a dance floor, gaming rooms, and a carousel house. The frozen structure stood gleaming in all its glory, overlooking the city of Leadville below. A royal-looking sculpture made from snow and ice, wearing a large crown made of electric lights was situated at the palace's entrance, acting as the official greeter to tourists stopping in. Various exhibits could be found within the castle's towers.
According to historians, outside the palace, a street had been closed to make space for a massive toboggan slide that was said to be two miles long.
To get more people to the local attraction, the Rio Grande Western Railway began offering special train rides with discounted rates.
Admission for adults was fifty cents, and children cost just a quarter to enter the ice palace. During the three-month period that the ice palace was open, it welcomed approximately 250,000 visitors.
Along Came Spring
Unfortunately, the Leadville Ice Palace melted as Colorado's spring came around. The entertainment facility was forced to close its doors on March 28, 1896. Although the building was condemned in March, it did not fully melt until May. Once this happened, all that remained was the building's wooden skeleton. Finally, the rest of the palace's framework was demolished in October 1896.
Nowadays, a guided walking tour takes people past the former ice palace grounds, giving a glimpse back at fun-filled memories that are now just frozen in time.