Baby Doe
Historic Sites
Articles, Speeches & Interviews

This photo looks west up Eureka Street, from its intersection with Main Street. The large building on the left, with the letters "USE" painted along its cornice, is the Teller House, built in 1872. Just beyond it, with the peaked roof, is the Central City Opera House, built in 1878.

Central City, Colorado
Leadville, Colorado
Central City, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
Cutchogue, New York
Riley County, Kansas
Holland, Vermont
Washington, DC
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Baby Doe Restaurant

Gregory Gulch is the name given to the roughly mile-long ravine that runs between the towns of Black Hawk and Central City, Colorado. It was here, in May of 1859, that John H. Gregory and Wilkes De Frees struck gold. Simultaneously Horace and Augusta Tabor, with their newborn Maxcy and two friends, were trudging across the prairie from their home in eastern Kansas, drawn by the news of the riches to be found in the Rockies. Eventually, more than One Hundred Million dollars worth of gold would be extracted from the mines in the Central City area. But Horace's wealth was to come from another mineral--silver--and another locale--Leadville. 

Nevertheless, Central City plays two important roles in the story of the Tabors: the real Baby Doe spent roughly three years there between 1877 and 1880, just prior to meeting Horace, and the opera The Ballad of Baby Doe was given its world premiere there in 1956.

Intriguingly, the Central City Opera House inhabits both moments. It provided the stage on which John Latouche and Douglas Moore introduced their unique take on the Baby Doe story to the world. And it was also the focus of much civic celebration when, in early March of 1878, it was itself dedicated, with a series of performances that most certainly saw Baby Doe in the audience, accompanied by either her husband Harvey or her good friend Jacob Sandolowski, (aka Jake Sands), or both. 

The Opera House still stands, proudly hosting summer performances by the Central City Opera Company, including the 50th anniversary production of The Ballad of Baby Doe in 2006. Indeed the town's epicenter, near the intersection of Eureka and Main Streets, has changed very little in a century and a quarter. Treeless hills and tailings piles still dominate the surrounding landscape. The four-story Teller House, though no longer accepting overnight guests, remains the most identifiable structure. And no 20th-century architectural anomalies intrude along entire blocks of Victorian storefronts, thanks largely to the arrival, in 1991, of casino gambling, the trade-off for which was the preservation of the town's original structures.

The benefits of such an awkward attempt at urban planning have been mixed, and not unlike the 19th-century boom days that were responsible for the town (and the opera house) in the first place. For a while in the 1990s, speculation in land prices forced some long-time residents and merchants, who could no longer afford to stay, to leave town. The influx of new visitors also strained the municipality's capacity to provide adequate infrastructure. Some of the pressure on the town's 19th-century core has lately been alleviated by a spate of massive new casinos that have been built further downstream toward Black Hawk.

But, in the end, Central City today personifies the classic Colorado dilemma: urban development outcomes imposed on an extreme and sensitive rural environment, mixed with the clash of high and low culture in a setting straddling three centuries.  Who knows what the future holds for such a place!     

This 2003 photo, looking north toward Eureka Street, shows the in-tact Victorian storefront facades along Central City's Main Street.


In this 2003 picture, looking east on Eureka Street, the massive Teller House, built in 1872, is the red brick building on the right. Horace Tabor's business partner Billy Bush, who probably introduced Horace to Baby Doe, was proprietor of the Teller House until 1879, after which he opened the famous Clarendon Hotel in Leadville. On the floor in the Teller House Bar is a painting called "The Face Upon the Floor" done by newspaper illustrator Herndon Davis in 1936. Based on an 1877 ballad by Hugh Antoine d'Arcy, the painting inspired its own opera-- The Face on the Barroom Floor --by Henry Mollicone, with a text by John S. Bowman, which was commissioned by the Central City Opera Company and composed in 1978.
More information on Henry Mollicone can be found here