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TIME Magazine, January 20, 1947, p. 83:|
THE WEST: Ghost on Skis
Just before it became a ghost in 1894, the crowded, rough mining town of Aspen, Colo. had a last burst of excitement. From Smuggler Mine on a nearby slope, prospectors took out a nugget of almost pure silver weighing 2,060 pounds.
Last week, after years of deathlike quiet, the boarded-up ghost town had stirred in its creaking coffin-- and emerged into a new life. In a three-day-long celebration, Aspen (pop. 1,500) marked its rebirth as a skiing center. Colorado's Governor Lee Knous gave Edith Robinson, daughter of Aspen's mayor, a push off to open the 15,000-ft. ski tow, longest in the world... With six 14,000-ft. peaks near by, plenty of dry, powdery snow, and multi-million-dollar backing, Aspen was out to become the top winter-sport playground in the U.S.
The prospector who mined this lode was eupeptic Walter P. Paepcke (pronounced pepkey), founder and board chairman of Container Corp. of America. He first saw Aspen about a year and a half ago, on a skiing expedition from his Colorado dude ranch. The dilapidated houses, barns and chicken coops-- remains of a town that had once had 16 hotels, an opera house and three theaters-- were depressing. But the breathtaking scenery made Mr. Paepcke, a deep-breathing man of many ideas, take a deep breath.
Before he went home to Chicago, Paepcke bought one of the old houses, soon returned to buy or lease most of the other buildings. He thought of rebuilding the whole town. But the more he looked at the buildings, the more their quaint, ghostly flavor got him. Result: when he hired Designer Herbert Bayer as architect, Mr. Paepcke (who is the principal backer of Chicago's arty Institute of Design) gave orders that Aspen... was to be preserved to the last piece of gingerbread.
Bayer, who bought an Aspen house himself and promptly settled in it, followed orders. In refurbishing the Jerome Hotel, he kept the water-powered elevator, run by ropes pulled by the passengers. While blonde & beautiful Mrs. Paepcke hunted Victorian furniture in Chicago, dormitories, 20 guest houses and a sundeck were built, the ski slopes were cleared, a movie house, roller rink and art gallery were constructed. Paepcke imported a chef from Switzerland, a wine expert from Chicago. Ski instructors, plumbers and mechanics trooped in. Overnight, the moribund little town became the liveliest spot in Colorado.
Keep in Balance. Paepcke invited such friends as United Air Lines' William A. Patterson, Hilton Hotels' Connie Hilton, Palmer House Manager Joseph Binns to invest in the project, up to $5000. But most of the bills, more than $1,000,000 so far, were paid by Paepcke. During the first week of business, the gross return on this investment was about $2,500 a day (hotel rates ran from $4 to $14 without meals). With 25 lakes and 1,000 miles of trout streams within a 20-mile radius, Aspen should do equally well during the summer.
But Paepcke is not overly concerned about figures. He believes that Americans are too extreme both at work and at play. At Aspen he would like to create a symbol of balance. To do so he plans to promote industries in Aspen that will make woodwork out of native aspen, jewelry out of native silver, clothes out of mountain sheep's wool, cheese from the milk of local cattle. It will be no accident, however, if Paepcke, whose Container Corp. does some $75,000,000 worth of business a year, also turns Aspen into a tidy profit.
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