- History -

Fairy Caves History

The Fairy Caves were the start of it all! Before the olde tyme photos, rides, or gondola were on Iron Mountain, there were the Fairy Caves.

Charles Darrow, A lawyer in Glenwood Springs, had a family homestead on Iron Mountain where the Caves were hidden. He found them in 1886.
Darrow wanted to open them to the public so he installed overhead electric lights in the Fairy Caves. Quite a spectacular accomplishment! Glenwood Springs was one of the first cities in the US with electric lights.

He opened the Caves to the public in 1895. Visitors made their way to the Fairy Caves by hiking, or riding a horse or burro.
To make it even more enticing, Darrow blasted a tunnel through the Cave to the outside canyon wall in 1897. You can even stand in the same spot today and look down on the Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado River. He dubbed it Exclamation Point.

The Fairy Caves were operated by the Darrow Family until 1917. They closed them to the public at the start of WWI. Luckily, Steve and Jeanne Beckley opened them again to the public 82 years later in 1999.

The Fairy Caves are a living cave. But, unfortunately in Darrow's time, preserving the cavern was not something he knew to do. The dry outside air that made it's way in was quite damaging and stopped the growth of the formations. After the Beckley's reopened the Caves they implemented modern preservation methods and now the Caves are living and growing once again!

It is unknown why Darrow chose to name the caverns the Fairy Caves. Some say it is because the glittery helictites found in the Caves look like fairy wings. Others claim it is because the lantern he carried made the water droplets on the stalactites sparkle. No matter the reason, they are a magical place.

Glenwood Springs History

Before the town existed, the area was a healing destination visited by the Ute tribe. The Utes would make treks to the area for the geothermal hot springs. They named the springs "Yampah" which means "big medicine". We still call the largest spring by its original Ute name.

Chief Ouray was highly regarded by the tribes in the area, as well as the white settlers. Ouray negotiated a treaty with the US government in 1868 that limited the Ute territory but preserved their hunting grounds in the area that would become Glenwood Springs.

As the area drew more settlers the White River Ute tribe was pushed close to retaliating with violence. However, Chief Ouray convinced the tribe and other Ute tribes to agree to a treaty in 1874 that gave them $60k in annuities and goods in exchange for the four million acres of land. They never received payment.

James Landis was the first white settler to make a home here. In 1882 the land was purchased from him by Isaac Cooper and John Blake and was established as a township called Defiance. At first it was nothing more than a camp of tents, with brothels and saloons being some of the only established buildings. As cabins and lodging increased so did the gamblers, gunslingers, and prostitutes.

The name was changed to Glenwood Springs when Sarah, Isaac Cooper's wife, wanted to make it a more alluring location for a more law-abiding group of folk. Glenwood Springs was named after Sarah's hometown - Glenwood, Iowa.

The location made it a prime place to add a railroad stop. After that it rapidly became a center of commerce and a luxurious resort destination. Glenwood Springs has seen many famous faces, such as President Teddy Roosevelt, Kid Curry, Buffalo Bill, and the unsinkable Molly Brown.

Perhaps the most beloved legend to visit our town is John Henry "Doc" Holliday. He was a gambler, gunfighter, and dentist. He's best known for the part he played in the most legendary standoff of the Old West, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He moved to Glenwood Springs to take advantage of the healing hot springs because he was dying of tuberculosis. He lived in the Hotel Colorado until his death in 1887.

Colorado History

Interestingly, Colorado has some of the most ancient history, all the way back to the age of the dinosaurs! We even have a town called Dinosaur because it is a prime location for archaeology.

Colorado's human history goes back more than 13,000 years. It was first inhabited by Native Americans. There are many human artifacts around Colorado, the oldest dating back to 8710 BCE.

Spanish explorers came through in the late 1500's. Next came the gold rush, beginning in 1858. At the beginning of the gold rush Colorado was still a part of Kansas. We became the 38th state to join the union on August 1, 1876.

Beginning in the 1930's Colorado then became popular as a ski destination. Resorts began to pop up all over the state. And since then we've been known for our unparalleled outdoor recreation.

History of Photography

Photography comes from Greek and translates to "Drawing with Light".

It's fitting then that the history of photography began in ancient times with the discovery of "Camera Obscura" which is when images are formed on the wall of a darkened room via the light from a pinhole. You can even make your own!

A French inventor named Nicéphore Niépce made the first permanent photograph in 1826 using silver and chalk which reacted to the exposure of light. It took several days of exposure to form a crude image. 

Niépce's associate, Louis Daguerre, perfected the process by using silver-plated copper coated with silver iodide that was then developed with warmed mercury in 1837. His invention required only minutes of exposure to light and is known as a Daguerreotype. It was made available commercially in 1839. This is the generally accepted birth year of photography.

In Britain, Henry Fox Talbot invented the Calotype in 1834. His process used paper soaked in silver chloride that was then stabilized with a salt solution after exposure to light. The Calotype and Daguerreotype were the main competing photographic processes for a while. You may have noticed the year the Calotype was invented precedes the Daguerreotype, so you might also guess that there's still debate today about who really is the father of modern photography!

The Daguerreotype became extremely popular for creating portraits during the Industrial Revolution. It created a clearer picture than the Calotype did. However it was on metal so the image had to be viewed from just the right angle, which is why some photographers preferred the Calotype for other uses like landscapes. Both were cheaper, faster, and more readily accessible than oil painting for a growing middle class.

Many more processes emerged over the next few years. The collodian process was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. It was done by spreading a mixture of collodian (nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcohol) with chemicals on a sheet of glass. Wet plate collodian photographs made it possible to make crisper images that were also cheaper. It also made it possible to create unlimited copies of images, something that couldn't be done with Daguerreotypes or Calotypes. Printed copies of images were made on albumen (egg white) paper until the introduction of gelatin in 1871.

However, the processes for making photographs was still quite complex and only done by professionals. That was until 1888 when George Eastman introduced the Kodak camera, the camera that anyone could use. Their slogan said "You press the button, we do the rest." In 1901 the Kodak Brownie became available which revolutionized the photography world by making it truly accessible to everyone.

Photography has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. Could any of the first pioneers have imagined a phenomenon like Instagram, a camera phone that fits in your pocket, or that we would be replicating their style of portraits in an olde tyme photo studio?

Historical Fashions

People have been using clothing to express themselves for thousands of years. We’ve discovered archaeological findings documenting how humans have worn and used fashion throughout history.

Humans who migrated towards Europe favored warmer material, with males using armor for protection.

After coming to the Americas there was no way for textiles to be produced so clothes were sent by ships from Europe to the New World. Suits and leggings for the men, and long dresses and chaste hats for the women. As times progressed clothing became softer, more voluminous and women began to favor high waisted dresses.

In the 1800’s Godey’s Lady’s Book was all the rage for women. French fashion became very popular in the US. Advances in dyeing technology made it possible to create clothing that was brighter and more colorful.

Up to this point clothing was custom-made by hand. But Abba Gould Woolson revolutionized the industry by inventing the first bulk made clothing that came “ready-to-wear”.

Our costumes are mostly the styles worn during the Western expansion, allowing you to experience fun items like leather chaps, holsters, hoop skirts, and corsets.

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All images and information is copyrighted property of Silk's Saloon, Inc.

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