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America's Switzerland

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, the Growth Years

By James H. Pickering

Publication Year: 2005

"James H. Pickering… chronicles Estes from 1903 to 1945 in this fact-filled, nicely written volume...America's Switzerland is the most extensive work to date on the area. If Pickering overlooked a fact, it's probably not worth knowing."—Sunday Denver Post & Rocky Mountain News

"Anyone interested in the Estes Park area, or in national parks and national park policy, will enjoy America's Switzerland."—Mark Barringer, University of Texas

The author has conducted impressive and wide-ranging research in primary and secondary sources at area libraries, archives, and historical societies; he has tapped oral histories, articles and monographs, photographs, theses and dissertations, diaries, government reports, and newspapers." —John R. Jameson, Kent State University

America's Switzerland, a companion volume to "This Blue Hollow," is the first comprehensive history of Rocky Mountain National Park and its neighboring town, Estes Park, during the decades when travel became a middle-class rite of summer. Drawing on a wide variety of primary sources and extensive archival research, James H. Pickering reveals how the evolution of tourism and America's fascination with the "western experience" shaped the park and town from 1903 to 1945. America's Switzerland provides extensive information, much of it new to historical literature, on how Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park - the most visited national park west of the Mississippi - developed to welcome ever-growing crowds. Pickering profiles the individuals behind the development and details the challenges park and town confronted during decades that included two world wars and the Great Depression.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-6

AS EDITOR BOWLES OF THE Springfield Republican made his way through Colorado’s parks and mountains during his memorable 1868 visit and recorded his impressions, the comparison he repeatedly made was to the Swiss Alps. “We saw enough of it in our stage ride across the Continent in 1865,” he wrote in his preface, “to suggest that it would become the Switzerland ...

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1: Estes Park in 1915—New Beginnings

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pp. 7-22

AS THOSE BRAVING THE UNCERTAIN WEATHER TO ATTEND the dedication ceremonies were well aware, the afternoon of September 4, 1915, was a watershed event in the life of Estes Park. Rocky Mountain National Park was at last a reality. With the passage of the park bill, signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on January 26, 1915, came significant changes to town and region, including the continuing presence of the federal government. ...

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2: The Growth of “the Village”

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pp. 23-52

AS PANGBORN SUGGESTS, Colorado towns tended to spring up quickly. An unplanned assortment of houses and commercial structures claimed the vacant land, and seemingly overnight—“asparagus-like”—a community had put down roots. Such was the case with the village of Estes Park. In little more than a decade, the town had established a visible footprint that ...

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3: F. O. Stanley and the Development of Estes Park

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pp. 53-88

F.O. STANLEY’S DRAMATIC AND UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL in Estes Park on the morning of June 30, 1903, gave notice of a man with every intention of leaving his mark upon the place. From Billy Welch’s hotel-resort on the North St. Vrain above Lyons, where he had spent the night, Stanley drove his small steam automobile up the narrow, rutted wagon road to Estes Park, a trip of nearly twenty miles. He did so alone. According to legend the ...

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4: Building a Community

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pp. 89-118

WITH THE BUILDING OUT OF THE VILLAGE OF ESTES PARK in the years after 1905 came a slow but steady expansion in the number of residents. Between 1890 and 1900 the year-round population increased from 125 to 218. By 1910 the population of Estes Park had grown to 396; a decade later in 1920 it reached 539.1 In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, this population had been widely dispersed among outlying ranches and resorts. ...

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5: Rocky Mountain National Park: The First Years

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pp. 119-146

EVEN BEFORE THE OFFICIAL DEDICATION CEREMONIES in Horseshoe Park the new national park had begun to organize itself under acting supervisor Charles Russell Trowbridge (1865–1937).1 Like many other early superintendents, Trowbridge, a native of New York, had a military background. A veteran of the Philippine insurrection during the Spanish-American War, Trowbridge had chosen a career in government. For some years he worked ...

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6: Publicizing Park and Town: The “Eve of Estes” and Winter Sports

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pp. 147-178

The News’s concern was not the widely circulated National Parks Portfolio, a handsome clothbound view-book put together by Mather’s publicist Robert Sterling Yard and issued to coincide with the introduction of the bill creating the National Park Service. Rather, what provoked the editorial was the release of a publicity photo article, presumably approved by Yard, titled “Bandit Holds Up Stage in Yosemite,” which ...

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7: The Transportation Controversy: Rocky Mountain National Park, 1919–1921

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pp. 179-208

AT 9:00 A.M. ON WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 1919, Enos Mills phoned L. C. Way from Longs Peak Inn to inform him that he had dispatched one of his two touring cars on a sightseeing trip into Rocky Mountain National Park. The car’s destination, he told Way, was the end of the not-yet completed Fall River Road. It is unlikely that Mills’s driver, Edward Catlett, ...

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8: Rocky Mountain National Park: The Toll Years, 1921–1929

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pp. 209-252

L.C. WAY’S SUCCESSOR, Roger Wescott Toll (1883–1936), was superbly qualified for his assignment. A member of the first generation of Stephen Mather’s Park Service, he was among the remarkable group of rising professionals whose sense of pride and purpose would mark them forever as “Mather’s Men.” Of equal, if not greater, importance, Toll was a Coloradan, the son of ...

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9: Growth and Maturity: Estes Park in the 1920s

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pp. 253-280

BETWEEN 1919—WHEN THE PANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPH WAS TAKEN from Prospect Mountain—and 1926 the growth and development of Estes Park continued. Our understanding of how the village looked in that year rests on firm ground. Thanks to Sanborn fire insurance maps created from a survey completed in May and June 1926, we have a set of scaled drawings that ...

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10: Hard Times Come to Colorado: Estes Park in the 1930s

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pp. 281-326

FOR MANY IN COLORADO, the Great Depression of the 1930s seemed like more of the same, only worse. Mining and agriculture, the state’s first and third sources of income, after prospering during the World War I, limped through the 1920s when commodity prices fell. Manufacturing and trade, Colorado’s other economic mainstays, did better, but not well enough to ...

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11: The Years After Roger Toll: Rocky Mountain National Park, 1929–1941

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pp. 327-362

SUCCEEDING ROGER TOLL was not an easy assignment. Toll was the only park superintendent to have a memorial and a mountain named in his honor and his departure for Yellowstone in 1929 concluded a period of considerable activity climaxed by the successful resolution of the controversy over road jurisdiction that had clouded the park’s existence for a decade. Ironically, however, it was during the Great Depression of the 1930s after ...

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12: Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park: The War Years . . . and After

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pp. 363-386

THE 1941 TOURIST SEASON throughout Colorado had been the best since 1929. Estes Park’s hotels and resorts were filled to capacity in July and August, and Rocky Mountain National Park welcomed 685,593 visitors traveling in 208,398 automobiles, nearly 64 percent from out of state. Although the average stay of tourists was somewhat shorter than in the past, their ...


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pp. 387-430

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 431-436


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pp. 437-457

E-ISBN-13: 9780870818622
E-ISBN-10: 0870818627
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870818066
Print-ISBN-10: 0870818066

Page Count: 472
Illustrations: 72 B&W photographs, 3 B&W illustrations, 8 maps
Publication Year: 2005