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Area History


The area was originally named "The Shining Mountains" by the Ute tribe, but when this magnificent Colorado town was founded by European settlers, it was renamed Ute City. Aspen got its present name in 1880 and soon became the nation's leading silver mining location. The economic windfall spurred the creation of Aspen's magnificent Victorian era buildings, including the Wheeler Opera House and the Hotel Jerome, which were both financed by Jerome B. Wheeler, a partner in New York City's Macy's Department Store.

By 1893, over 12,000 people were living here and enjoying a typical Western boom-town economy along with six newspapers, four schools, three banks, ten churches, a state-of-the-art hospital, and an opera house. Unfortunately, that same year The Panic hit and much of the West's economic vitality was wiped out. Roughly 15,000 companies, 500 banks, and several major railroads went bankrupt. Aspen's mining was decimated, even though in 1894, the year after The Panic, the mines here produced one of the world's largest silver nuggets, weighing almost 2,200 pounds. By 1930, only 705 residents remained, mostly involved in various ranching and farming interests and keeping Aspen from becoming a ghost town.

The Aspen Skiing Corporation was founded in 1946, opening the world's longest ski lift the very next year and quickly grew on the post-War boom. By 1950, the town was hosting the FIS World Championships and was now a bright and shining star on the world's skiing map. Three additional areas, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Aspen Highlands soon sprung up around the original Aspen Mountain and the seeds were sown for a world-class resort.

With the founding of the Aspen Music Festival and School in 1949, the area became a world center for classical music, instrumental in establishing the Aspen Festival Orchestra, the Aspen Chamber Symphony, the Aspen Sinfonia, and the Aspen Concert Orchestra, as well as the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. At the same time, the University of Chicago teamed up with local business people to present the Goethe Bicentennial Convocation, which attracted artists, musicians, celebrities, personalities, and dignitaries from around the world.

By the 1970's, Aspen had developed into "the" Colorado ski resort where the jet set flocks to hurtle down the slopes. Hunter S. Thompson was a product of Aspen and John Denver immortalized his home town with world-wide hits "Starwood In Aspen" and "Aspenglow."

 

Aspen Music Festival and School