Built in 1879 by Colorado’s “Silver King” Horace Tabor, the Opera House was among the Best in the West when first constructed: a splendid Victorian beauty complete with hand painted frescoes and red velvet seats, the envy of any Western city with cultural pretenses.
Tabor’s story starts in Vermont, where he is born and married for the first time, moves through Kansas where he tried his hand at farming, then goes to Colorado where he first started making money from the gold of California Gulch before settling in Leadville in 1877.
To this day Leadville is very proud of all the lead that gave the town its name: I saw quite a few cars with a Pb decal, must be the local “thing to do”. Back to Tabor: He made tons of money from silver, reportedly getting as much as 4 million dollars a year during some of his mining periods. But no matter how much he made, he managed to spend more. His first wife, Augusta, unhappy with his spending habits, left him and took the children. Tabor did not waste any time getting a companion – much younger and beautiful Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt. Eventually, they moved to Denver but not prior to building the beautiful Tabor Opera House in Leadville. The plaque at the door mentions that the Opera house represents the “last of Tabor’s money”. Tabor and “Baby Doe” are buried in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Colorado.
The Building itself is now used, during the high season, for performances as well as wedding, reunions and anything else that can help make some money. It was closed on the day I visited. But you cannot have it all: less tourists everywhere (it’s after Labor Day) and all attractions available… If you are tempted to cross the street to visit the “Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon” you might wish to read my review of said Saloon first.
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