Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Dinosaur Hunters Musical Comes to Golden History Museums

History and paleontology will come together in music at the Clear Creek History Park on Wednesday, Aug. 3 from 2-3 p.m. A group of students from Yale University will be putting on an hour-long musical titled The Dinosaur Hunters at the Hay Barn at CCHP.

Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, though not the bones found in Morrison, CO.

This performance will explore the story of the disagreements between two of the most famous paleontologists of the late 19th century: O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope. The connection for us is that Golden resident Arthur Lakes (who discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex bones near Morrison, CO) sent some of the bones that he found to both Marsh and Cope, but ultimately chose to work with Marsh over Cope. This angered the jealous Cope and only exacerbated the tension between the two paleontologists.

This musical is geared toward older children (4th grade and up) and teens. It is educational, but with a big dash of fun thrown in. We hope you are able to join us for the fun on August 3!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Foss Ski Country decanters, last chance to view at GHC

If you haven’t seen the highlights of Richard Gardner’s Foss Ski Country decanters, you’ll have your last chance this summer. This temporary exhibit at the Golden History Center will be on view until Sunday, Aug. 14 when we’ll begin making room for a new exhibit celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Golden Fortnightly Club.
In the early 1970s Foss Drug introduced a house-bourbon called Ski Country that came in a choice of three porcelain art decanters sculpted in the form of skiers.

Over the next quarter century, Foss produced 195 decanter designs, ranging from waterfowl and wildlife to Indians and rodeos. Ski Country decanters were made in limited editions of 120 to 12,000, usually in miniature and 750ml sizes.

The "barrel racer" decanter from the Foss Ski Country series.

Richard Gardner shows off a favorite.

For a while the Foss Ski Country decanters were extremely popular, with their own national
collector club, catalog, newsletter, and yearly auction. By the 1990s the decanter craze was over.

Today, the Golden History Center at 923 10th Street is one of the only places to see such an array of the various designs.

The decanters are on loan from Golden resident and historian Richard Gardner.

Finally, one of GHM’s primary goals is to collect artifacts that document Golden history. They include objects which were actually made or used in Golden and have a clear and specific association with some significant aspect of Golden history.

Do you have a Foss Ski Country decanter in your own private “collection” that you wish to donate to the museum? If so, please contact Mark Dodge at 303.278.3557 x204.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spying on the dress rehearsal for “Turn it Up: Golden’s Musical Memories”

Most musicians will tell you that every instrument has its own unique “voice.” Having watched the new exhibit “Turn it Up: Golden’s Musical Memories” come together, I can say that is absolutely true. In the process of creating the exhibit, we’ve had the privilege of restoring a handful of instruments from our remarkable collection. If you read our blog often, you might already know that we’ve restored our 1860 square grand piano (thanks to Dan Holstein of Dan’s Piano Service and a generous contribution from Mr. Gene Child). But, you might not know that Dan also tuned a recently donated 1893 Regal upright piano that was showcased at Chicago’s Columbian International Exposition. He also restored a charming 1873 melodeon. Not widely used or even recognized today, melodeons—a foot-pumped reed organ—were once commonplace in American homes. Turn it Up features two such melodeons, one of which is a WWII-era field organ carried by chaplains onto the battlefield.
On Thursday, June 2nd, musicians Peggy Lyon and Kathy Turnbull of the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra will perform a series of short concerts on the newly restored instruments. Both will play a selection of pieces that were composed during the era in which each instrument was manufactured. I got a chance to spy on their dress rehearsal today and I am excited to share this glimpse of their remarkable music. (P.S. There are still a handful of tickets available for the event, so call 303.278.3557 to make a reservation).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Press Release: Golden’s Musical Memories Exhibit Tells Stories of Local Musicians

Golden’s Musical Memories Exhibit Tells Stories of Local Musicians

GOLDEN, Colo. May 25, 2011 – An amazing experience awaits visitors to Golden History Museums, with a large collection of stories unique to Colorado’s musical history at the opening of “Turn It Up: Golden’s Musical Memories.” Come see the entertaining and informative exhibit from 6–8 p.m. on Friday, June 3 at the Golden History Center, 923 10th St. in Golden.

The personal stories of local musicians, as well as the tales behind some unusual instruments, will be told at this first-of-its-kind musical exhibit. The event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored in part by Dan’s Piano Service of Arvada, which donated much of the painstaking work to restore several instruments in the City of Golden’s collection, “Turn It Up” is an exhibit unlike any other in the museums’ history.

Combining many music types with the latest interactive video technology, the “Music-Maker Lounge” features local performers playing at various Golden venues, along with original interviews from musicians and longtime residents. 

From a pastor playing Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” on the custom-built pipe organ at the local church to the local bluegrass sensation Adam Kinghorn of Head for the Hills, the videos will cover a diverse range of subjects. Another favorite will be listening to local rancher Lena Baughman reminisce on attending monthly square dances in Golden Gate Canyon and hearing her mom, Kitty Jully, play piano while everyone danced to “Dive for the Oyster, Dive for the Clam, Dive for the Hole in the Old Tin Can.”

Additionally, four different historic pianos will be on view, including a J.M. Pelton square grand piano dating back to the 1860s which was purchased by Colorado’s Second Territorial Governor John Evans. The exhibit also includes an orange-velvet-covered Regal upright piano that was displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and a second square grand that is uniquely turned on end against the wall. Each piano on view, plus a melodeon, rare field organ, fiddle, and cornet, has a unique connection to a Golden resident.

J.M. Pelton square grand piano before restoration.

An exclusive preview concert using the historic instruments, along with a special in-depth preview of the exhibit will be held on Thursday, June 2. Tickets are limited and start at $30 ($25 for GHM members), including hors d’oeuvres and beverages. Call 303-278-3557 for ticket information.  “Turn It Up” will run through 2011 and is open during regular business hours.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Missing Fence at Clear Creek History Park?

Golden History Museums' David Allison explains in a video blog why the fence is temporarily missing from Clear Creek History Park in downtown Golden.

Will you please take a minute and share your opinion on this? We love to hear comments, either on the blog or on FB. You can also send your thoughts in an email. Thanks!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

So it Begins...

I’m a little late with the blog post, but I think the events at CCHP on April 16th warrant some commentary. I spent the morning alongside a number of new hops growers learning how to plant, care for, and harvest this precious plant that plays an important role in the beer brewing process. Golden History Museums and the AC Golden Brewing Company teamed up to host a couple of hops-growing workshops for the benefit of Colorado Native beer. GHM provided the ground and AC Golden took care of the rest.
(Leaning on this shovel was the most work I did all day)
During this workshop I learned a lot about growing hops from the AC Golden experts and I realized that people involved with brewing beer are as entertaining as you’d expect them to be. For those of you who don’t know, the folks over at AC Golden make a number of microbrews including the wonderful Colorado Native, a beer only sold in Colorado and currently made about 99.9% ingredients from Colorado. The lack of local hops is the only thing preventing Native from being a fully Colorado-grown and -brewed beer. So GHM is doing its part to help the brewery meet this goal. The workshop was a great success thanks to Aimee, Steve, Glenn and Steve from AC Golden, Zachary from Llama Tea, and Randy, a longtime hop grower.
Since I haven’t grown anything larger or more complicated than a zucchini, I tried to absorb as much information as I could, so we’ll see if David and I manage to keep those bines under control this year. (A bine is a climbing plant which climbs by its shoots growing in a helix around a support. It is distinct from a vine, which climbs using tendrils or suckers.) If I don’t, we might be in a little trouble at CCHP as these plants have a fairly aggressive growth rate. On a side note, if you ever see me trapped in an overgrowth of hop bines please remember to run away and save yourself. David and I were at the garden plot today and we noticed the first signs of hops, so here we go! This year production will be fairly low, but next year the hop bines could grow up to 18 feet high and weigh about 25 lbs apiece. Eep! Luckily Steve and the AC Golden gang will be building a maypole-style trellis to help us tame the plant growth.
It’s a great Colorado and Golden community project to be associated with, especially considering we’re a town built on beer. And when harvest time comes AC Golden will let us know when they use GHM hops in the Native and I’ll be sure to pass along the info to all our Facebook fans.  
Steve Rockhold discusses hops with AC Golden hops growers.

The planting begins!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bill Lee of Laughing Valley Ranch

Some of you may remember a couple of summers ago when we had a donkey and her baby “in residence” in our corral and stable at the Clear Creek History Park.  Bill Lee of Laughing Valley Ranch was the man behind the scenes who came every week to bring the animals so we could share a part of local history with our visitors.  Some of you may also recognize Bill as a 'real-life' Santa who cheered many children during the holidays with his long white beard and laughing eyes.  He also provided the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) donkey named “Blaster” to be their mascot. 

We have heard that Bill was in a serious accident, but is making some progress towards recovery.  Some CSM students and many community members have been helping Bill tend his ranch as a form of payment for all he's done for the Golden community.  You too can help if you’re interested. Find out more at

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Golden History Museums receives award for history book

Golden History Museums was recognized this morning with an award from The Jefferson County Good News Coalition.  GHM republished the very popular “A Woman’s Life in Golden” book in 2010, and has been continually working to preserve local history and make it accessible to the public.

Mark and Nathan soak up the applause after Kim Christiansen's (from 9 News) introduction.

Several hundred people gathered at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for the 21st annual awards presentation. Among the other honorees were the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society, Colorado Railroad Museum, and the Jefferson County Historical Commission.

Mark and Nathan show off the award and the book.

Mark Dodge and Nathan Richie accepted the award for GHM.

“A Woman’s Life in Golden” chronicles the growth of Golden through the first-hand accounts of 27 women, and is for sale at the Golden History Center.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Hoosier in Colorado

Being a native Hoosier and life-long resident of Indiana, it was not without some trepidation that I took the step to join the staff at Golden History Museums. It is hard to believe that only this past weekend I was driving across the country to start my first day on the job! While I will certainly miss my family (who are still in Indiana) and the fine folks that I count as friends there, I am now four days in and am so thrilled to be a part of the excitement and energy at Golden History Museums. From the unique partnerships of the Turn It Up exhibit (which opens June 3) to the interactive family learning events planned for the season opening of Clear Creek History Park (May 21), Golden History Museums is well poised to become a true leader in presenting engaging local history to the denizens of Golden and beyond.

I am excited to be in the position of Interpretation and Operations Coordinator at GHM. I'll be working closely with some fantastic staff and volunteers to reenergize the programming at the Astor House Museum and at Clear Creek History Park. I'll also be focusing on developing the volunteer corps (if you are interested in volunteering, please contact me at into an efficient and high-functioning group. As I begin, I want to listen closely to what people are saying about Golden History Museums. I believe strongly that everyone has ideas that could enhance the offerings at GHM, from volunteers to community partners to moms with very young kids.

History often gets a bad rap as boring and out-of-touch with the problems and challenges of the modern world. It is under siege from indifferent teaching in schools and from historic sites that insist on telling the stories of the past using outdated techniques and dull presentations. I hope to work toward a GHM that tells the fascinating stories of Golden in ways that are intriguing, unique and hopefully even fun!

Please send me any thoughts you have about what would make the Astor House Museum and Clear Creek History Park more engaging to you. I look forward to meeting you this year!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Golden History Museums welcomes David Allison as Interpretation and Operations Coordinator

Golden History Museums welcomes Interpretation and Operations Coordinator David Allison. As the newest GHM team member, David brings with him a wealth of historic interpretation experience. In his new position, he will oversee the daily interpretation and operations of each of the three museum venues. David will help create an interpretive plan, create interactive programming, and manage our docent and volunteer program.

A native Hoosier, David has spent the past nine years of his career at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Indianapolis, Indiana—one of the foremost living history parks in the nation. Over his tenure he served in a number of different capacities, advancing from frontline staff to management. David played a key role in the conceptualization and implementation of a new training resource called Opening Doors to Great Guest Experiences that has become a national model for visitor services best practices. In 2006, David led a team that designed and developed Discovery Station, a history-themed play and learning gallery for children. Most recently he developed and managed 1859 Balloon Voyage, Conner Prairie’s newest (and highest) exhibit.

In 2005, David received the April Award from the Visitor Studies Association that acknowledged his positive engagement with the visitor studies field in a museum setting. In 2008, he won the Indiana Governor’s Award for Tomorrow’s Leaders for his contributions to the museum field and the central Indiana community. He holds an MA in US History from Indiana University and is a 2006 graduate of the Seminar for Historic Administration.

David begins on April 18th, so please be sure to welcome him to Golden. David can be reached via email at

Friday, March 18, 2011

Video Trailer for "Turn It Up: Golden's Musical Memories"

Here's the first view of our video trailer for one of the multimedia portions of "Turn It Up: Golden's Musical Memories," which will open June 3, 2011. Let us know what you think!

Read more on our website, and stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Museum Advisory Board Seeks Community Input

In April, it will be one year since the Golden City Council adopted Resolution #2052 bringing Golden History Museums under city administration. The resolution also recognized a new relationship between the City and the non-profit organization that had been managing the three museums. Now known as “Friends of Golden History Museums,” the organization exists to help coordinate events, raise funds, and host events that help support the museums.
In addition, City Council passed Ordinance #1872 establishing a Cultural Services and Museum Advisory Board.  The board was charged “to promote cultural preservation, to advise the City Council concerning museum programming, and to recommend and plan events for the Golden community that promote an interest in and appreciation for the preservation of Golden’s history and culture.”
The ordinance also states, “the initial purpose of the board, at least through the end of 2011, and longer if necessary, is to assist the City with the transition of the management of the City’s museums to the City, advising the City with respect to strategic planning, transition issues, and museum best practices, and to act as “ambassadors to the community” for the City’s museums.”
Now that the transition is complete, the board is at a crossroads. They must prepare a recommendation for Council stating that, as of the end of 2011, the board with either: 1) continue on in perpetuity as stated; 2) be absorbed into another advisory board (i.e. the Parks Board); or 3) disband. 
In order to make an informed recommendation to City Council, the members of the Cultural Services and Museum Advisory Board is seeking community input on the board’s future. They are inviting interested citizens to attend the board’s next public meeting on Wednesday, April 13 at 7:00pm in City Council Chambers to give their feedback to the board members.
If you are unable to attend the meeting but would still like to provide your thoughts to the board members, please email the board chair, Liz Cook at or contact Nathan Richie at

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Real One of a Kind

Nancy Mason and Chuck Howes discuss
 the piano’s unique qualities.
 Upright pianos became popular in America during the late 1800s. We, however, have a real one-of-a-kind, and not just because it's covered in orange velvet.

Last December Michael and Nancy Mason, of Golden donated this beauty to the museum. Like all of our artifacts, this one has a story behind it too. Long before it came to the museum it was exhibited at the World Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Coincidentally, Adolf Coors was showing his beers at the same Exposition alongside the products of over two dozen other breweries. Coors won an award for “brilliancy, flavor, chemical analysis and commercial flavor.” He was also the only winner west of the Mississippi.

Anyhow, after seeing the piano at the Columbia Exhibition, a man named Clinton O. Heath purchased the piano as a gift for the woman he loved and intended to marry, a Miss Mattie Williamson. It was shipped to Ft. Morgan, CO, where Clint and Mattie lived on spacious property they called “the farm.” They later moved to Denver and lived in the Congress Park district until Clint’s death.

The Masons are aware of only one other similar piano, but it was a rose color. Oddly, it was found in a bar in Woodland Park, Colorado. Its condition was very poor because someone tried to wash it.

Specifically, our piano is a Regal #1908 with a patent date of August 20, 1889 made by the New England Piano Company of Boston. The donation also includes a piano stool of dark wood claw feet grasping glass balls.

The piano was regularly played in the Heath home until Mattie's death in 1964 when it was moved to the home of her daughter, Camille Heath Conine. She lived only a few blocks away from her mother on Garfield Street in Congress Park. The house at 720 Garfield was one of the first houses to be built in the block. Upon Camille's death in 1994, the piano was moved to her grandson Michael's home in Golden. And now, it’s the newest item in the Golden History Museums’s growing collection.

See our newest addition with your very own eyes in Turn it Up: Golden’s Musical Memories, opening June 3rd at the Golden History Center.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tickling the Ivories

Today marked the first day in a long series of work sessions which will involve several unique musical instruments in the City of Golden collection. Dan Holstein, of Dan’s Piano Service in Arvada, began removing all the wires, hammers, and other internal workings from our J.M. Pelton square grand piano. The wires will be sent to a specialty fabricator in Illinois where each one will be meticulously recreated to fit our instrument. Similarly, other piano parts will be rebuilt over the coming months to bring the square grand to its former musical glory. (When Dan tickled the ivories this morning before beginning to dismantle the 1200-pounder, it didn’t sound like a showroom piece.)
Dan’s Piano Service is the lead sponsor for the upcoming music exhibit, slated to open on June 3, 2011 at the Golden History Center. Dan Holstein, a 16-year veteran of the piano-repair business, started working as an auto mechanic before growing to appreciate the fine inner workings of player pianos, pump organs and similar instruments.
In future weeks we’ll continue to watch Dan’s progress on the J.M. Pelton, as well as one of our player pianos, a pump organ, and a melodeon. Enjoy the following pictorial overview of today's work.

Dan holds the damper assembly.

The bass strings have been removed.

The old tuning pins after removal.

Dan removes the action from the square grand.

Dan holds the hammer, shank, and flange assembly.

Hammer, shank, and flange assemblies after removal.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A beautiful day to move a piano or two

Three big guys from Keyboard Carriers arrived at 1:30 on Thursday to prep our J. M. Pelton square grand piano for a move from the Astor House Museum to the Golden History Center. Dating from 1860-1880, this 1600-pound mass of cherry and gumwood was one of the first major donations to the Astor House Museum in 1972, where it has remained ever since.  
Back when Mr. and Mrs. Keith Simmons from Littleton donated the piano, Mrs. Simmons recalled that Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans bought the instrument around 1859 for his youngest daughter. She died later at age 15. The piano was later sold, only to reside in Central City until 1910, when it was purchased by Mrs. Simmon’s family.
This was back before Golden had a train, so the story goes that he had the piano shipped to Cheyenne by train, and then transported by wagon to Golden. Fortunately, the four piano legs are removable, allowing the cabinet to fit snugly into a wagon. Come full circle back to today–this is basically what we did. The legs were removed and it was carted this time in a truck by professional movers.

Padding the piano at the Astor House Museum.

Removing one of the legs at the Astor House Museum.

Putting legs back on at the Golden History Center.

This is only the beginning of this story. The piano is about to undergo a complete restoration of all of its musical components. It will have new strings, hammers, and more, thanks to the generous support of several longtime museum supporters. All of the work will be completed under the talented eye of Dan Holstein, owner of Dan’s Piano Service, who will sponsor our upcoming music exhibit showcasing the Pelton grand. When the exhibit is done, you might even get a chance to hear it make beautiful music. This yet-to-be-named exhibit will open June 3, 2011.  Stay tuned, because next week Dan will be working in the Golden History Center’s gallery when he plans to began removing the strings.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Offsite collections in better, more secure location

From big-wheeled baby buggies to a hand-grenade-style glass fire extinguisher, the offsite collection storage for Golden History Museums has an amazing variety of Golden-centric artifacts. The collection has been growing for decades and numbers over 15,000 items—so many that they can’t all be stored at our three museums near downtown Golden.

Shelves have been assembled by volunteers, and items were boxed, labeled and cataloged in recent months.

Yesterday the whole staff, along with one lucky volunteer, donned special gloves (so as not to damage the artifacts we handled) and moved the last few hundred of the items, large and small, to a new and more secure storage room where everything is consolidated. With smaller items neatly organized on shelving units and larger items carefully placed anywhere space could be found, the transfer of artifacts is now nearly complete.

We even have a repurposed (from a federal government office) flat-file storage unit that will ensure proper care for maps and other large paper artifacts.

See the before-and-after images below to get a sense of the room’s scope.



Monday, January 10, 2011

Hands on History Summer Camp

When it comes to the public programs we provide at Golden History Museums it’s difficult to get a true handle on what parents and families really need and believe it or not, the best way to get at the needs of local families is to ask them. Last December I met with three Golden moms who were able to volunteer some time to talk about possible changes to the Hands-on History Summer Camp (HoH) structure and how it would affect parents.

The meeting went great and all three ladies had really helpful suggestions that ranged from session themes to making sure parents know their kids won’t be in the sun all day. With their suggestions I really think we’ll be able to make HoH 2011 work for a lot of families. This summer we’re dividing the kids by age, 6-8 and 9-11, and offering half-day or full-day sessions. And even better, in addition to our pioneer session, we’ve got 3 new session themes for kids to explore new time periods and topics.


Having involvement from community members is invaluable and I’m really thankful to all three women for taking the time to talk with me about this and I think we made HoH more convenient for parents and even more fun for kids.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Golden in Focus Photo Show

Golden in Focus: Historic Photo Show & Sale opened on Dec. 3 at the Golden History Center at 923 10th St., in conjunction with Golden’s Candlelight Walk. 

Visitors to the Golden History Center take in the exhibit on Dec. 3.

© Peter Skiba,

A collection of 36 images is still on display, featuring such diverse topics as Buffalo Bill, Coors Brewery employees, and Golden street scenes.

© Golden History Museums, City of Golden Collection

To create Golden in Focus, professional photographer Scott Dressel-Martin and museum curator Mark Dodge pored over the City of Golden collection to choose the best images for the exhibit. Painstakingly scanned and retouched when necessary, the images were reproduced and transferred to display boards, and then arranged in the Golden History Center’s gallery space.

Mark and Scott work to select the right images.

Elizabeth Strnad won the image of the Colorado & Southern train yard in Golden.

© Golden History Museums, City of Golden Collection

© Golden History Museums, City of Golden Collection
Reproductions are still for sale starting at $59.99. Stop in or call 303.278.3557 for details.