History of Aspen
Aspen, which originally was named Ute City, was erected as a mining town in the mid 1800s, and was renamed in 1880 after the abundance of aspen trees in the area. The first inhabitants of Aspen were a group of headstrong miners who, in 1879, ignored the pleas of Frederick Pitkin, then governor of Colorado, to return across the Continental Divide due to an uprising of the Ute Indians.
Silver was discovered soon after Aspen was founded, and by 1891, it was considered the largest silver mining district in the US. What was once a small mountain town of 300 residents had exploded into a busy populous of 12,000 people, six newspapers, two theaters, an opera house, and, an old-west tradition, a small brothel district.
Between 1891 and1893, Aspen was at its peak both in terms of riches and people, but the good times weren’t meant to last. In 1893 the Sherman Silver Act was repealed which demonetized silver, with significant repercussions for the town’s economy.
Aspen almost became a ghost town as most of the mines closed, thus putting thousands of people out of work. A few remained open, but wages were cut, and by 1930 only 705 people chose to stay. Ironically, one year after the Sherman act was repealed, one of the largest nuggets of silver ever mined was pulled from the Smuggler mine, weighing in at 2,350 pounds!
Following World War II, Aspen had a re-animation when the visionary Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke arrived. In 1949, Paepcke started the Goethe Bicentennial Convocation, attracting 2,000 musicians and humanitarians to Aspen. In 1946, Paepcke and Friedl Pfeifer, a member of the 10th Mountain Division, started the Aspen Sking Co, thus transforming the town into what would become an international resort destination. In 1950, Paepcke also started the Aspen Institute, driven by his desire to have a “utopian community for the mind and body.”
Today, Aspen offers three additional ski areas, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass, and has become a year-round destination for recreation, arts, and businesses alike.