The year 2000 has gotten a lot of press because of that millennium thing. It’s a big deal, I know, but the past few weeks have caused me to turn the clock back and dwell on the first few years of this century. 1904 to be exact.
As many of you know, I enjoy renovating houses as a hobby. The older the better, not only for the architectural character but the hidden history. While tearing apart walls in some of the older homes, I’ve found all kinds of tidbits about a building’s history and the people that lived in it. Everyday objects like postcards and letters are common. I’ve always hoped to find a forgotten stash of hard-earned money, but, at least for me, the treasure has proved elusive.
Conceived in 1913 as a direct motor route between the West Coast and the East Coast, the Lincoln Highway became the first cross-country roadway. At conception, the road traversed California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. A designation of an alternate route, or loop, from Cheyenne to Denver, then back up to Julesburg was also included in the initial route.
Lafayette was on the route of the Cheyenne to Denver leg, but in 1915 the Lincoln Highway Association formally withdrew sanction for the “Denver Loop.” Colorado’s Gov. Ammons protested the delisting, but the association prevailed.
Lafayette’s dirt streets circa 1910 didn’t see a lot of traffic. Although trains ran daily between Lafayette and Denver, local travel was primarily via horse and buggy, and only a handful of households could afford a Ford Model T. Residents getting around on bicycles had an ally in the Arc Light Bicycle Shop in 400 block of East Simpson, and horse hitching posts fronted almost every commercial establishment.
With lunch pail in hand and ready for his shift in the Columbine mine northeast of Lafayette, coal miner, inventor and Serene coal camp resident Lito Gallegos began the day by dropping his 7-year-old son from his first marriage, Gilbert, at the three-room Serene school. The two walked down the hill along John J. Roche Street, turned right on George T. Peart Street, then walked another half block north along Harry M. Jones Street to the school’s front door.
Lafayette’s first decade after its 1889 incorporation was fairly uneventful, at least according to town board meeting minutes. The board concentrated on acquiring a reliable water supply for the town, first sinking an artesian well in the northeast corner of town, then securing water rights from the Davidson Ditch Company, founded in 1872. Two reservoirs were built to retain the ditch water and were located at the intersection of today’s Baseline Road and U.S. 287. One lake acted as a settling lake and (cleaner) water was directed into that second lake. Water from that lake flowed through a primitive filter connected to wood pipes and was used primarily for irrigation and to charge Old Town fire hydrants rather than for drinking.
The Jan. 25, 1900, fire that destroyed 13 commercial buildings and two homes along two sides of the 400 block of E. Simpson Street didn’t garner much mention in Lafayette Town Board minutes. Town board members were more concerned about a repayment demand from the Louisville Hook & Ladder Company, who helped battle the Simpson Street fire. The Louisville crew wanted $100 for a hose burned in the fire, but eventually accepted a $60 settlement.