Monday, November 28, 2011

Tiny Town or Bust!

It looks like the famous Wild West showman, Buffalo Bill Cody, is enjoying a ride on the back of this vehicle. Note the miniature vehicle in the foreground.

In 1915, a man named George Turner decided to build a wonderland for his daughter on a steep hillside near their home on the site of the Denver-Leadville Stage Coach line . Christening it "Turnerville," George chose the embankment above the small channel of water called Turkey Creek to construct child-sized replicas of the buildings one would find in an Old West Town such as a barbershop, hotel, bank, saloon, and a grocery store.

Seemingly taken with this new hobby, George continued to add buildings to his small metropolis until 1920, at which time public interest grew so keen that he decided to open his budding city to the community and he renamed it, "Tiny Town." Families looking for a pleasant mountain outing were able to park alongside the dirt road after an adventurous trek up the mountain to walk and picnic amongst the miniature structures.

With 125 buildings to see and growing, more than 20,000 visitors per year drove up from Denver to view the intricate "play houses" until the popularity of the site became a bit too much for George and he sold it to an interested buyer in 1927 who continued to add sporadically to the now famous site.

Floods damaged some of the buildings in 1929 and 1932 and, in 1935, a fire destroyed much of George's most important pieces while leaving many of the houses and businesses standing. In 1948, car traffic had grown to the point that the state decided to reroute U.S. Highway 285 above the blissful little metropolis, and Tiny Town started to fall into disrepair.

Then, in 1965, two families purchased Tiny Town and renovated the remaining structures. However, the work was for naught and the site is put up for sale. There aren't any interested buyers this time.

In 1969 a massive flood wiped out the restored buildings and Tiny Town is devastated.

Enter Lyle Fulkerson in 1972 who, along with his family, lovingly resurrected and improved the tiny city until his death in 1977.

Once again the buildings of Tiny Town suffered the onslaught of time, opening in 1980, closing in 1983, and finally in 1987, the Northern Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management assumed the dilapidated buildings as a civic project. Plots of land where the once beautiful "play houses" stood were leased to the community and, under the IREM policy and codes, Tiny Town once again rose on the shore of little Turkey Creek.

The grand opening was held on July 4, 1988 with 150 new structures with over 10,000 people visiting the new and improved town.  

Tiny Town is reborn. Again.

As a child, I remember visiting Tiny Town many times, walking around and crawling into the tiny houses and businesses, pretending I was the mayor of the buildings whose roofs stretched as far as I could see. I so enjoyed the stage coach rides with the prancing horses and I took deep breaths to capture the smell of the coal as the miniature train took me on a tour of the grounds.

                                                                               This Stanley Hotel is not haunted. At least I don't think so...

They were joyful times, as I claimed each discovered structure as my own play land with the infamous Stanley Hotel as my throne.
And, over the ensuing years I have brought my children, my step-children, and my grandchildren to Tiny Town so they, too, could claim it as their own.

  May Tiny Town thrive for all the future childhoods to come!


Isabelle said...

How lovely. I hope it goes on for many years.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting history. I am not surprised that you have visited Tiny Town so often and it must have fuelled the imagination of tens of thousands of children over the years. Fantastic!