In the meantime, this chronological recounting of the Armory History through the eyes of the Silver World, Mining Register and other once local newspapers is informative and entertaining. This comes to you via Grant Houston and the Lake City Historical Society and was included as documentation for our grant for the Armory renovation.
Note how the writing style changes over the years, and true to history, how the Armory use changes and is restored, and the building changes and is restored, as the community needs and desires change. Quotes are italicized.
An idea is born:
Silver World, August 26th, 1876 - We learn that work will soon commence on a fine building designed for a theatre. The want of such an edifice is beginning to be felt here.
Silver World, Saturday, September 2, 1876 – Mention was made last week of the proposed erection of a theatre building at this place. Since then we have been shown the plans and informed on the intentions of the parties building it, Messrs. G. W. and J.M. Crummy, who have both had considerable experience in theatrical management. The entire building will be 125 x 50 feet, the auditorium to be 95 x 30 feet and in addition to the parquetted and dress circle will contain nine boxes. It is also arranged to be as easy of entrance and exit, and will be well ventilated and lighted. Its exact location has not yet been determined, but as soon as a location is found, work will be commenced.
Mining Register, Friday, June 22, 1883 – The board of directors have decided to locate the new public building on Third Street, corner of Bluff. At a meeting of the Lake City Building Association Wednesday evening, it was decided that the plans and specifications for the building to be erected were not definite enough to warrant entertaining bids and it was decided to elaborate them and be prepared to lay before the bidders at the meeting Saturday evening next the details for the building wanted. It being a matter of public interest we call the attention of contractors and urge all who may be disposed to bid to obtain a copy of the specifications and figures on the building.
Mining Register, Friday, September 7, 1883 – The Pitkin Guards are making arrangements to leave the Opera House for an Armory; that is, they hope to occupy one room in the building permanently, and use the main room certain nights for drill. The company needs a larger building, and we hope it will succeed in getting the lease. Its present accommodations are too contracted, and as the company is without question one of the best in the state, it should have plenty of elbow room. This the Guards will have in the new Opera House.
The New Building Opening is planned…
Mining Register, Friday, September 21, 1883 - GRAND GALA NIGHT, The New Opera House to be Opened by Home Talent. Grand Spectacular Tragedy of Macbeth. The Opera House managers have finally decided to open the new Opera House next month with home talent, and a number of our citizens have signified their willingness to bring out Macbeth, and productions of the greatest dramatist the world has ever produced. At a meeting held last night, the cast of the play was agreed upon. Mr. Mayers is now engaged painting the scenic effects. Professor Younsone will furnish the wardrobes. Prices of admission will be fixed as follows: Reserved seats, $5.00; second choice, $3.00; one the floor, $2.00; general admission $1.00; private boxes (on the outside) 25 cts. The date of the opening will be announced in due time.
Silver World, November 10, 1883 – THE NEW PUBLIC HALL. A FINE BUILDING --- THE BEST ARMORY IN COLORADO. The directors of the Lake City Building Association have received from the contractor, Daniel Hurd, the new building variously known as the “public hall,” “armory”, etc. a portion of which is designed to be used for general public purposes, while other portions will be occupied by Company A, 2nd Battalion, C.N.G. (Pitkin Guards) and still others by the Hinsdale Club as well will hereafter appear.
On the 10th of June articles of incorporation were filed. The capital stock is $15,000, in shares of $10 each. The stock is now ready for deliver, and holders of receipts for subscriptions are requested to call on the secretary, surrender the same and receive their stock.
The association was organized June 9 last, subscriptions secured for the erection of the building and contract let June 28, to Daniel Hurd.
The Board of Directors for the first year were and are: John S. Hough, President; Alferd Schiffer, Vice-President; H. A. Avery, Treasurer; Frank A. Taylor, Secretary: J. K Mullin, A.E. Reynolds and E.I. Stirman.
The building is admirably adapted for the purposes designed. It is of brick, 50 x 125 feet in length. The side walls are 20 inches thick, end walls 16, ceiling of flower floor 16 feet. The proper front of the building is on Bluff Street.
The main hall, which occupies the west end of the building, is 50 x 98 feet, constituting one of the finest audience rooms in the state of Colorado. For public speaking and services of all kinds, it is unsurpassed by any in the west; it is light, well ventilated, and the acoustic properties are perfect. As a drill room it is unequalled west of Chicago. There are three double doors on Their Street and two single on Bluff Street, all design for exits. The main entrance to the room is from the central hall on Third Street.
The west end of the building, 27 x 50 feet is two stories. The lower floor is divided as follows: The entrance hall --- from which double doors open in to the main room, on the right; thence a long hall running through the building, from which the Battalion headquarters room and Guards room are entered; the directors room, on the left of the entrance hall, which can be used for a ticket office on public occasions; Battalion headquarters and Guards’ headquarters, both fine rooms, each also opening upon the alley. The upper floor is divided into three beautiful rooms, light, well ventilated and commanding beautiful views, these to be occupied by the Hinsdale Club. It is expected the State will take a long time lease on the lower floor for the use of the Guards. Captain F.A. Taylor will leave in a few days for Denver empowered to execute a lease. The building cost about $15,000. The furnishing and fitting will probably cost $5,000 more. The work was all done under Mr. Hurd’s contract, the painting by J.J. Mayers and the tin roof by J.W. Kraft, with which exceptions the work was done by day’s labor. All the work is first class and reflects great credit upon the contractor and the Workmen under him.
Mining Register, Friday, November 23, 1883 – OUR OPERA HOUSE. Formal opening of the New Structure. Description of the Building. As already announced in the these columns, the completion of the Lake City Opera House will be formally inaugurated by a public ball on Thanksgiving eve, Wednesday, 28th inst., an occasion that promises to be the most brilliant assemblage that ever gathered in this city. Apropos to the opening of building comes a description of it. As our readers all know, an association was organized last June with a capital stock of $15,000, in shares of $10.00 each, for the erection of public building, an enterprise the need of which has been sorely felt for years. A contract for the erection of the building was let to Daniel Hurd, he being the lowest bidder, and on the 1st of November that gentleman turned his work over to the board of directors, who accepted it. When the hall is finished with stage, seats, lights, etc., it will have cost about $15,000.
The Opera House is located on the southeast corner of Third and Bluff Streets, fronting on Third. It is of red brick, manufactured in this city, and is 125 feet long by 50 feet wide. The side walls are 20 inches thick and the end walls 16 inches. The main hall is 50 x 98 feet in the clear, with a 16-foot ceiling, and is one of the finest audience rooms in the state.
The east end of the building, 27 x 50 feet, is two stories high, divided as follows: the first floor has an entrance hall its entire width, from which double doors open into the main building on the right and single doors into other compartments, of which there are three. It is expected that these rooms will be occupied by the Pitkin Guards and 2nd battalion headquarters, Col. George J. Richards command. The second story is also divided into three pleasant rooms, which will be occupied by the Hinsdale Club. All the rooms are well lighted, and the ceilings and walls finished in white.
The work was all done under Mr. Hurd’s supervision, and reflects credit upon his workmanship as a carpenter and skill as a builder. The painting was sub-let to John J. Mayers, who is always a master in his art, and tin and iron work to John W. Kraft, one of the most skillful artisans.
The main hall on the first floor will accommodate nearly 400 dancers in quadrille, and we expect to see nearly that number on the floor next Wednesday night. The proceeds of the ball will be used to furnish the building internally, and we hope to see 200 tickets sold at $2.00 each. Every citizen should participate in the inauguration of the Opera House. It is an ornament to the town and an honor to its projectors.
Mining Register, Friday, November 30, 1883 – The Hinsdale Club took formal possession of their new rooms in the Opera House last Saturday.
Mining Register, Friday, October 3, 1884 - Messrs. Downer & Wells have opened a roller skating rink in the Opera House. The rink has been a great attraction with locals since its opening.
Mining Register, Friday, October 10, 1884 – R.S. Graham and Henry Cornforth have succeeded Downer and Wells as manager of the roller skating rink in the Opera House. It continues as a very popular entertainment. Baby carriages and dogs will not be allowed in the hall when the skating is in progress.
Mining Register, Friday, March 20, 1885 – Fred W. Weinberg purchases Graham & Cornforth’s roller skating rink and will henceforth be the manager of that institution.
Silver World, May 2, 1885 – THE PITKIN GUARDS. TO CELBRATE THEIR SIXTH ANNIVERSARY. The Pitkin Guards, Co. A, 2nd Batt., C.N.G., are preparing for their anniversary, the sixth, which comes on the 14th inst… The Armory is being put into fine shape. The drill room – used also as a ball room --- is already prepared. The ceiling was taken down some time ago, necessitated by the too heavy strain upon the roof, leaving the trusses and supports in their natural state; the acoustic properties of the hall are thereby greatly improved, and when the plastering of the walls is extended to cover the gap made by the change, the trusses calcimined, the general appearance of the hall will be greatly improved.
The Guards have fitted up their South-East room for Company meeting room; several fine pictures and other adornments, a handsome carpet, bookcase, stove and other furniture --- purchased with the contributions made by our citizens two weeks ago --- have been added, The whole making the room a very cozy one. The members are building up a library and will use this room for reading room. The y have also fitted up their gun room in a very tasty manner, their closets, for uniforms, gun rack, etc., painted light blue and trimmed in dark of the same color.
Silver World, Saturday, August 8, 1885 – Exercise of a public nature will be held at the Armory Hall in Lake City on August 8, 1885, in memory of our late and great statesman, Ex-President U.S. Grant.
Silver World, Saturday, February 6, 1886 – Last Monday evening, about 4:45 o’clock, a deafening crash was heard by a large number of our citizens. It was at first thought a snow slide had come down from one of the hills surrounding the city, but investigation showed that the roof over the main room of the Armory, 50 x 100 feet, had come down, leaving the walls standing. The snow had accumulated upon the roof for some weeks, and with the addition of the heavy snow of last Monday, caused the break down. Fortunately, no one was in hall at the time. The building belongs to the Lake City Building Association. Loss, about $2,000.
Silver World, July 17, 1886 – Notice to Contractors and Builders. Bids for repairing what is known as the “Armory” building situated upon the lots described in the above notice of trustee’s sale – will be received by the undersigned at this office in Lake City, Colorado, at any time on or before July 15th 1886.
The said bids should be accompanied by complete drawings and specifications and directly state the charter of repair that will be made for the proposed bid, and the full extent of such repairs and the kind of material proposed to be used. Figures should be given on the following difference styles of roof: Flat, arched, truss, and mansard. The right is reserved to reject any and all bids. J.W. Mills, Attorney for J.A. Forbes.
Silver World, August 14, 1886 – As yet it is not known what plans will be used for repairing the Armory building. Attorney Mills has let the contract conditionally to Mr. Thomas L. Beam, who is arranging for plans now. The roof will be built on the mansard principal and securely built so that there will be no further danger of its going down gain by snow pressure. Mr. Beam is the proper man to do the work and we would like to see it progressing now and the building in shape for occupancy this winter.
Silver World, December 11, 1886 – The Armory building is about completed, with the exception of some work still to do on the roof. It will be one of the nicest halls in south-western Colorado.
Silver World, January 8, 1887 – The Armory is now finished and contractor Beam deserves great praise for the way in which he has executed his work.
Lake City Sentinel, May 4, 1889 – A mammoth liberty pole is being erected in front of the Sate Armory by Captain Gardner, assisted by half the gentlemen of the town. He is determined to have the best in the state or none.
Lake City Times, December 24, 1891 – The Armory Hall has been wired and will be illuminated with two arc lights as soon as the new plant is in operation.
Lake City Times, April 21, 1892 – Wouldn’t it be a good idea for the owners of the Armory to put in a good substantial stage, wide and deep enough to accommodate a good sized troupe, together with some scenery and a good drop curtain?
The Lake City Times: February 20, 1896 – By the falling of one of the curtains at the Armory, Monday night, Bob Potter had his foot badly hurt and Miss Laura Emerson has an arm injured. Nothing of a serious nature.
The Lake City Times: April 28, 1898 – The stars and stripes now float from the flag pole at the Armory. Long may they wave!
Lake City Times: Thursday, October 9, 1913 – A NEW HALL FOR LAKE CITY. We understand that there is a movement on foot by the Odd Fellows of Lake City to furnish this town with a new hall, where all kinds of entertainments can be held. We do not know, and probably they do not, the plans for the hall, but we do know that Lake City needs a hall of reasonable size. They are getting mighty tired of sitting in the barn of an Armory and congealing into icicles. And added to this discomfort is the miserable acoustic properties of the place, where only those with fog-horn voices and cast-iron lungs can be heard beyond their own waist-bands. If the Odd Fellows go ahead with the hall idea it will include a good dancing floor and conveniences for serving meals.
Gunnison News-Champion, Thursday, February 21, 1935 – The town hall will be lighted with electric lights Friday night for the Masquerade, furnished from the newly-installed plant of Mike Pavich. Too bad the whole town couldn’t be lighted. Lots of folks who can’t go to the dance would enjoy the lights.
Gunnison News-Champion, Thursday, September 3, 1953 – The old town hall is having a remodeling job – all the old staging has been torn out and a room built in the west end of the hall to house the fire equipment with an outside door cut for easy entrance. Clarence Wright and Walter Andrik are doing the work.
Excerpts from the July 29, 1983 Silver World – The old building has had the sign “COMMUNITY CENTER” prominently displayed over its entry door for the past decade or more, but for Lake City residents and visitors who have become familiar with the community, the building is known simply as the Armory. It is a cavernous structure that towers over Third Street, a substantially built brick building which is relatively unornamented.
But the history of this building is far from plain or undecorated. If the walls of that old structure could speak, they would relate a fascinating echo of grand pageantry and dance, they would perhaps speak of those subtle chords of music that swirled upwards, mingled with the massive wooden beams and finally passed out into the clear star-lit night. They might tell of public meetings and sports events, the roar of the crowds cheering their home team on; there were also the somber gathering which marked the passing of honored national statesmen, the hotly patriotic assemblies which sang anthems and waved flags as they sent their native sons off to war. There were those hushed, hopeful pauses just before the orchestra began playing, the formal tread of footsteps as Grand Marshal Dr. B.F. Cummins led the opening procession of the masquerade dance.
The old brick walls of the Armory have seen it all – and then some. This year, as the building marks its centennial, it continues to act as the vital heart of the Lake City community.
Prior to 1883, Lake City’s pioneer residents had been without the use of a large public hall for dances or meetings. The upstairs courtroom of the County Courthouse was used occasionally, as were halls or the public rooms in various hotels or vacant business buildings. It was mainly due to this absence that the Lake City Building Association was formed on June 10, 1883.
The Building Association was formed with high hopes --- to provide Lake City with a suitably impressive public hall --- the Town’s very own Opera House, and to put to work many of the community’s unemployed craftsmen. The Associations’ Board of Directors consisted of the area’s most prominent businessmen and capitalists. ... It was an impressive gathering of capitalists who personally had much to gain, or, alternatively, lose, depending on the future of Lake City.
Although the Armory was successfully completed, its overall goal was not such a success. The formerly unemployed workmen were employed for a brief time but ultimately moved elsewhere in search of greener pastures; the grand Lake City Opera House, though used frequently in the years to follow, probably never hosted an actual opera. The building itself represents the last major brick building to be built in Lake City. The Opera House, rather than signifying the beginning of a grand new period of prosperity, was in reality a last hooray for a once-great boom town. …
The Pitkin Guards, C. A. of the Colorado National Guard, were a crack military unit who were originally formed to protect Lake City against Indian attacks. … It was during the declining days of the Pitkin Guards, in 1899, that Italian radicals raised the Armory and removed rifles and ammunition form the company weapon storage. Only the timely arrival of military assistance from the National Guard, and the prompt disarming of the rioters, prevented what would have almost certainly been a bloody massacre.
In November, 1883, the elite Hinsdale Club took possession of three rooms on the second floor of the Armory. The Hinsdale Club was a fashionable men’s organization which charged a hefty initiation fee and annual dues. Members of the club, selected chiefly from the local business community, could entertain themselves with billiards and parlor games, recline on soft chairs while reading or gazing contentedly at gilt-framed oil paintings , smoke or write letters. The club rooms were most certainly off limits to the women of Lake City.
Another club which later occupied the same upstairs room was known simply as “The Club”. The Club was organized in 1891 and charged a $20 initiation fee followed by $10 annual dues. The rooms were nicely carpeted, and furnished with card tables, high backed chairs, and billiard and pool tables. Both single and married men of the community were invited to join and, by special arrangement, the families of married members were allowed to visit the rooms on special occasions. The upstairs rooms now rather sparsely furnished by the former standards, are currently used by the Lake City Board of Trustees. …
Roller skating remained a legitimate “craze" in Lake City through 1886. The MINING REGISTER noted, “Everybody tries to skate, from the judge of the court to the barnacle boy; the major of the city, his clerk and his council; the long, the short, the fat , the lean; the generous, the gay, sedate and mean. The miner and the “masher” try it: the merchant and the editor; the madame and the maiden. The rink has many charms, for women and men of all dispositions find on its seductive and slipper floor recreation, exercise and relaxation.” …By 1986, the poor condition of the Armory floor, combined with still newer interests brought declines in the skating crowds.
There is a part 2 to the last article, but I don’t have it. Hope to see it soon!