Monday, September 1, 2014

The Wonder Tower


Sitting on a ridge in eastern Colorado is the Genoa Tower.  At an elevation of almost 6000 feet its claim was one could see six states from the tower roof top. 

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It was built in the 1920’s as a roadside attraction.  America was discovering the car and traveling cross country in their automobiles.  Being on the ridge top the tower was sitting at an abundant spot for break downs.  Up the hill the tin lizzies would chug, spurting steam out the radiator.  It was a tough climb for the early cars and the builder of the stop was sharp enough to understand this.

The view in the pictures is the backside.  Old highway 24 went on the other side.  This the hillside where a prairie zoo tour was built.  There was a sequence of three hills for the early day traveler to navigate with each one a bit higher.  Many an early day traveler was ready for a break and the tower beckoned.

It was until Ripley’s Believe It or Not did a blub on the Wonder Tower that it gained International fame.  After that there were travelers that would stop at the place of wonder and see if they could see the six states from the top. 

The tower was added on to, there was a gift shop, coffee shop, service station, curiosities and the prairie animal collection.  The cross country bus would stop here here for breaks or lunch.  The driver used got comped a meal for stopping and the bus travelers would spend some money in the shops.

It was nice little businesses out on the high plains.  Across the country, travelers sent post cards, stories were written.  Its fame was growing over the land.

The west bound travelers were treated to an awe inspiring view of Pikes Peak from the summit of the ridge.  The east bound motorists wanted a break after struggling up the hills, that many referred to as a mountain. 

Then the highway department decided to straighten out the road and eliminate the little hills and have one big swooping hill.  To do that, the highway had to go wide of the tower and it was built as a four lane road.  Making access difficult.  Then a few years later the Interstate was built, isolating the prairie icon.  No longer were weary travelers passing by, they now whizzed by on the high speed roadway. 

For a time the Wonder Tower set vacant on the high ridge.  Then it was purchased by a character, that operated it as a part time operation of a museum and curio shop.  He had a very distinctive style and there were a few that would stop in just o hear what stories he had to tell that day.  He was also an arrowhead hunter and amateur archeologist.  Soon the main building and the adjoining rooms were full of arrow heads and assorted antiques. 

Groups would schedule torus out from the city to look at his collection of stuff and occasionally buy some arrowheads.  It had become a crusty looking business, weather beaten, looking on the brink of collapse and rather dangerous looking but people still stopped in.  Not by the droves but sporadic. 

As he grew older, there were numerous people who offered to buy the place.  The offers were refused and he kept the place open, even after he came down with cancer.  A battle he did not win.  He passed away just over a year ago. 

None of his children showed any interest in operating the place so after his death, it was closed. 

The process of going through and clearing thing out began.  Stuff was loaded up and hauled to an auction.  The money garnered was significant and eye opener for the children.  They always thought he had no money.  He had squirrelled away cash they were finding and the money from the auction was a surprise.  All of a sudden there was some interest in reopening the place… but.

They still have an on site auction scheduled in the middle of September.  One of his daughters if fighting cancer and apparently wants the money.  There is the family dynamics going also.

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What will happen after the auction is a big question mark.  It is a local land mark that is known throughout the country.  Some locals are trying to persuade the family to sell it or keep the place open. One of the biggest struggles is money for preservation. 

It is a puce of early americana that has survived many a storm throughout the years.  To lose it for some is like losing a part of them. 

Along the ridge are numerous springs.  Indian camp sites have been found in the area.  There are tepee rings and fire pits.  It was a great area for buffalo to graze and the water made it a place for Indians.  Indian artifacts have been found in the area.  Here is a place that is very unique and the history that surrounds it is beyond peer. 

Right now it is destined to become a hollow ghost rather a walking talking ghost.  The near by town of Genoa is a ghost.  The Interstate isolate the little prairie burg and it has settled into the dust.  Only one business left unless you count the part time post office and town hall. 

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This is where the old highway used to be.

Is it doomed for dust or will it rise from the past?

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