The great social-amusement event of the season in the far West is the opening of the Ice Castle at Leadville. Colorado, under the auspices of the Crystal Carnival Association, and life in the Carbonate Camp is, for the months of January, February, and March, to be one continuous round of pleasure, fun and entertainment for all who have leisure.
The present season marks a new era in the camp, in its recovery from the effects of the silver slump, and in its attaining new fame as a great gold producer. It also marks a temporary departure from the intense attention to mining and money getting that has possessed the people of the camp for nearly two decades. It tends toward an appreciation of the artistic, toward indulgence in amusement for amusement’s sake, and to a too unfrequent recognition of the social side of life.
The Leadville Carnival, according to its managers, bids fair to be the most successful concern of its kind ever undertaken in America. The idea was born of the restless energy that characterizes the people of the high, altitudinous portion of the West. It was seized, in lieu of a mining boom, with rare avidity and enthusiasm, and. backed by the plethoric purses of bonanza kings, it has crystallized into a magnificent structure of cold splendors—an artist’s chef d’ouevre in ice. It is a veritable palace, patterned in a measure after those of St. Petersburg and Moscow. Its site is nearly two miles above sea level, on a ridge in the Leadville basin, and overlooking the city of Leadville and the valley of the Arkansas, picturesque in winter snow and belts of sombre conifers. The grim snow-clad peaks of the Musquito and Saguache ranges rise to majestic heights on either side of the valley, and the cycloramic view from the ice castle is one of alpestrine, wintry grandeur.
For two months about two hundred men have been employed in erecting the building, which is of the Old Norman school of architecture, and in which three hundred thousand feet of lumber and five thousand tons of ice are used. The greatest length is four hundred and fifty feet and the width is three hundred and fifty feet. It is a permanent frame structure, encased with solid walls of ice. Two massive octagonal towers ninety feet high flank the main entrance. Flag-staffs rise from the towers to the height of one hundred and twenty feet.
The effect is of massive architectural beauty. Within the portals stands a huge female figure in ice, representing the glorification of Leadville. With one arm she points to the eastern hills, and in the other she holds a scroll bearing the legend “$207,000,000.” These being the figures which represent the total metallic wealth produced by the camp—since its conversion front a placer-mining into a lode-mining camp.
Ice statues in the Leadville ice palace
The main chamber is a skating rink with fifteen thousand square feet of ice surface. Its ceiling is decorated with a heavy frost-work of artificially produced rime. Corinthian columns of solid ice, inclosing incandescent lights before tin reflectors, support the roof.
The grand ballroom has a floor of grooved Texas pine. The annexes include an auxiliary ballroom and dining hall, and a complement of modern conveniences; icicle effects are given in the decorations. The eastern annex is finished in terra-cotta and blue, and the western annex in orange and blue. Throughout the edifice an effort has been made to combine beauty of scene with comfort, a fitting abode for the devotees of the Frost King.
A museum annex has a lot of snow statuary carved out of snow slushed solidly and then sprayed, and exhibits of fruit. flowers, and mechanical appliances in solid cakes of ice. A programme of divertisements throughout the winter on an elaborate scale has been planned, and a season of festivities, glittering pageantry, and winter sports has been inaugurated. Chief among them will be the storming of the ice castle by the Snow-Shoe and other clubs, the castle being held and defended by the Leadville Press Club. Various gala and occasional days have been set, and brilliant balls and receptions will be given from time to time. Among the outdoor attractions is a toboggan slide two thousand feet long with a double rush.
Leadville is gay with bunting, the colors being old gold, silver, copper, and lead, representing the royal and chief base metals produced by the camp. The official souvenir badge is of silver and gold, a bucket of ore hung on a bar composed of a shovel, pick. and hammer, emblematic of the miners’ calling. On the streets gay carnival costumes mingle with the picturesque garb of the miners.
The director-general of the Crystal Carnival. Mr. Tingley S. Wood, is a representative and successful miner, operating on a large scale, and owning productive properties in the gold belt and silver contact zone. He is a native of southeastern Ohio, and resides with his family part of the time in Springfield, Illinois, where he is a member of the famous Sangamon Club. Mr. Wood is a gentleman of dignified demeanor, handsome, courteous, and urbane. Always well dressed, he is thoroughly versed in geology, mineralogy, and the mysteries of smelting, and is the ideal successful miner.
That the fair sex will be brilliantly represented at the Carnival will be understood by any one who will glance at our page of pictures of the prominent women of Leadville.
Julius Von Linden
The Illustrated American 11 January 1896: p. 345
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Undoubtedly a glittering occasion, to judge by the lavish prose of Mr Von Linden. Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the fancy-dress skating carnivals of Canada and the luxury ice hotels of the frozen north. While acknowledging the novelty (and the appeal of seeing the Northern Lights in their native habitat), Mrs Daffodil is at a loss for why one would travel so far to spend the night in an unheated chamber, when one might experience the same sensations at any week-end spent at an English country-house.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.