A Voice of Colorado Version 2018 No. 582

Near the confluence of Fall River and The Big Thompson River was once the location of the summertime fun and nightlife for Estes Park, CO., in the form of The Riverside Dance Hall and Amusement Park.

Built in 1922 – 1923 by Ted Jelsema and Frank Bond, on land acquired from Estes Park businessman, Cornelius H. Bond, The Riverside Dance Hall and Amusement Park started with a 160-by-60 wooden pavilion featuring a lobby, a large stone fireplace, ice cream parlor, and lunch-time meals, and a large booth-lined dance hall. On the east side of the facility was a steam-heated swimming pool. On the south end was a sand beach. For those concerned a boiler kept the water from Fall River at about eighty-four degrees.

Visitors to the dance hall and amusement park who did not want to swim could choose to visit a bowling alley and shooting gallery.

The main entrance to the complex was on Elkhorn Avenue, next to The Josephine Hotel by way of a six-foot-wide log bridge. On the other side of the river was a parking lot for vehicles.

The Riverside Dance Hall and Amusement Park opened for business on July 4, 9123, and quickly became a success and favorite among locals. Because he recognized the potential Jelsema bought out Frank Bond.

Each Wednesday night there were theme dances, and in 1933, following the repeal of prohibition Jelsema introduced The Dark Horse Inn, that featured wooden merry-go-round horses as bar stools for patrons.

Although Jelsema sold The Riverside Amusement complex in January 1946 it remains in business well into the 1950s. The swimming pool was converted to a roller skating rink, and from 1958 until 1969 The Dark Horse Theater presented theatrics on a stage built over the pool.

The Riverside Amusement complex came to a close in October 1969. The town of Estes Park, in need of parking space, acquired the property. On January 31, 1970 the last dance was held. The Riverside Amusement Park and The Dark Horse Tavern passed into history.

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A Voice of Colorado Version 2018 No. 576

The first superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park, Charles Russell Trowbridge arrived to Estes Park, CO. in 1915, and one of the first things he did was to rent space to serve as park headquarters for the national park.

A small frame building located on lower Elkhorn Avenue was the choice. Across the street from Sam Service’s general store, it was small and cramped, but remained in service to the park for eight years. In October 1923 the administrative offices were relocated westward to a new building on Moraine Avenue, near the intersection with West Riverside Drive.

The original park offices remained on Elkhorn Avenue until 1924 when it was moved to East Riverside Drive, just north of the bridge over the Big Thompson River. The building remained on that site and was home to a number of businesses, including a laundry and the first Radio Shack store in Estes Park. In 1990 it was relocated to the Estes Park Museum property where it was restored. The rededication took place on June 2, 1990 in association with the 75th anniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park being established. Today it is a gallery for museum exhibits and is opened to the public.

A Voice of Colorado Version 2018 No. 548

Until 1923 the administrative offices of Rocky Mountain National Park were located in a small, white frame building on Elkhorn Avenue, across from a general store owned and operated by Sam Service.

In October 1923 the offices were relocated to a new headquarters on what was then the outskirts of Estes Park, on the southern slope of Davis Hill, where Moraine Avenue travels west along the Big Thompson River. The building, measuring twenty-six feet by forty-five feet, was constructed of masonry work and lumber, with an eight-foot porch extending halfway across the front elevation. It was built on land donated to the Park Service in May 1921 by the Estes Park Woman’s Club.

The lobby featured a large stone fireplace and served as an information bureau. The remainder of the building contained office space for the park superintendent, rangers, and business offices.

In June 1931, a museum associated with Rocky Mountain National Park, located directly below the administration building, was opened to the public. But it came with a concern for more than a few: Across the street from the park buildings was the Blue Ribbon Livery, owned by Harold Arps.

In 1967 the park headquarters were relocated to a new facility in lower Beaver Meadows inside of Rocky Mountain National Park, as part of “Mission 66” – the ten-year plan to upgrade facilities in national parks throughout the United States of America.

The architecture of the building, which was deemed a “Frank Lloyd Wright style”, was a pronounced difference from the 1923 building. It is known by many as “Park Service Rustic” because it features decorative exterior stonework and extended pole rafters.

A Voice of Colorado Version 2018 No. 544

“Beaver Point” is the name of intersection of High Drive and Mary’s Lake Road, with CR 66. The name comes from Beaver Brook, which runs southeast through Beaver Meadows, and empties into the Big Thompson River nearby. For many year Beaver Point was a busy location. For example, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries horse-drawn wagons and stages turned left at Beaver Point to ascend to what was then called “Highlands Hill” to unload their cargo and passengers at Horace Ferguson’s Highlands Hotel, which was located just below the crest of the hill. Some continued on to Lamb’s Peak House (later named “The Longs Peak Inn), located in the Tahosa Valley.

Since 1915 the road past Beaver Point has been one of the main entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park.

A Voice of Colorado Version 2018 No. 542

“Beaver Point” is the name of intersection of High Drive and Mary’s Lake Road, with CR 66. The name comes from Beaver Brook, which runs southeast through Beaver Meadows, and empties into the Big Thompson River nearby. For many year Beaver Point was a busy location. For example, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries horse-drawn wagons and stages turned left at Beaver Point to ascend to what was then called “Highlands Hill” to unload their cargo and passengers at Horace Ferguson’s Highlands Hotel, which was located just below the crest of the hill. Some continued on to Lamb’s Peak House (later named “The Longs Peak Inn), located in the Tahosa Valley.

A Voice of Colorado Version 2018 No. 482

In the 1930s major changes starting taking place within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, and nearby Estes Park would be affected. For the first time financial resources became available that allowed for the acquisition of private property or “inholdings” located inside Rocky Mountain National Park. The acquisitions that occurred involved many of the lodges and resorts visitors had come to enjoy because of their location.

The task was not a simple one. The inholdings entailed more than 11,000 acres that had been homesteaded before the national park was established in 1915, and there were another two thousand acres that would be involved in acquisition because of boundary changes.

East of the Continental Divide the private properties were concentrated in the Beaver Meadows, Moraine, Horseshoe, Tuxedo, and Hollowell Park areas. To the west of the divide the properties included the site of Lulu City on the Colorado River, and south to Grand Lake.

The first inholding purchase took place in October 1931, when the Park Service purchased the 120-acre tract in Horseshoe Park that included the Horseshoe Inn for $32,500.

In the spring of 1932 additional inholding purchases took in the Chapman and Sprague homesteads and the Moraine Park Lodge in Moraine Park. Abner Sprague’s lodge on Glacier Creek in Glacier Basin was also acquired and Jack Wood’s cabin camp in Tuxedo Park near what was then the Big Thompson River entrance.

As 1932 came to a close real estate transactions involving twenty separate purchases and the acquisition of 4,414 acres resulted, for a total cost of $335,316. The largest of the purchases made in 1932 was the old Hondius ranch, located in Beaver Meadows and Horseshoe Park, and the Brinwood Hotel in Moraine Park.

On the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park a significant acquisition was made in September 1940, when the park service acquired the Harbison estate, which included 226 acres of meadow and timberland, located along the Colorado River, homesteaded by the sisters Annie and Kitty Harbison.

Although many buildings were demolished shortly after the property was acquired once building remained: The recreation hall for the Moraine Park Lodge, which was retained for use as a museum.

In 1958 the Bear Lake Lodge was razed, as was Camp Woods. In 1959 The Forest Inn at The Pool and The Fall River Lodge were removed in 1959. The following year The Brinwood Hotel, The Deer Ridge Chalet, and the Spragues Lodge were razed. In 1963 Stead’s Ranch was bulldozed and the land returned to its previous appearance. In 1976 The Fern Lake Lodge was demolished.

Although the decision to remove the buildings was painful for long-time residents of the area their disappearance would bring to a close an important chapter in the area.

A Voice of Colorado Version 2018 No. 434

Although progress has altered and destroyed much of the history in the Estes Valley much has been preserved and documented.

For example, the lower portion of Fish Creek Road in Estes Park, which once encompassed the original Joel Estes – Griff Evans Ranch, which was enlarged by the Earl of Dunraven and his manager, Theodore Whyte. In the late 1940s the road was moved and raised to make way for the Big Thompson River dam project to create Lake Estes as part of the Colorado – Big Thompson transmountain irrigation project. Despite the dramatic alterations a historical record of the original road was established, allowing insight into what Joel Estes and Griff Evans intended for their property.