Mineral Palace Exhibit Comes to El Pueblo History Museum
Beginning Friday, Sept. 9, Puebloans can explore the colorful and little-known history of the Colorado Mineral Palace, a state and city icon in the first half of the 20th century.
The exhibit at the El Pueblo History Museum, 301 North Union Ave., has been in the works for several years and curated by Devin Flores, “the foremost authority on the Mineral Palace,” according to Zach Werkowitch, director of community relations. for History Colorado.
“We are thrilled to launch the Mineral Palace exhibit and give museum visitors the opportunity to learn more about an iconic building that once stood here in Pueblo. The Palace represented the hopes and dreams of the people of Pueblo, and how they saw their own present and future future,” Flores said in a press release.
“It’s a story worth telling as the legacy lives on in the name of the park and surrounding businesses, the enduring mystery of the Silver Queen, and the future of the historic Mineral Palace Park, which continues to be affected by the expansion of infrastructure and roads.”
Museum curators have collected oral histories, artifacts, archival documents, historic photographs, newspaper clippings and more to tell the story of a palace built to showcase Colorado’s mineral wealth, according to the press release.
Originally offered as a mining exchange for investors to view Colorado’s geological assets, the Mineral Palace has evolved to house the largest collection of rocks, metals and gemstones in the world. The surroundings of the Mineral Palace included an artificial lake, extensive flower gardens, public baths and even a small zoo.
The palace opened on July 4, 1891, to coincide with the city’s Independence Day celebration and attracted thousands of visitors.
Swedish immigrant Otto Bulow designed the palace to include huge columns and 21 domes reaching 70 feet high.
The palace also housed statues representing Colorado’s mining industry, including King Coal, a 16-foot-tall statue funded by the city of Trinidad, and the Silver Queen, an 18-foot-tall statue funded by the city of Trinidad. Aspen. Both statues were designed by Pueblo sculptor Hiram Johnson.
The years after the Palace opened in Pueblo were unpredictable and chaotic due to a crash in the silver market and later the Great Depression. The building fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 1943.
The contents of the palace mysteriously disappeared, according to History Colorado. For decades there have been rumors and urban legends about content, especially King Coal and Silver Queen, being stolen or hidden.
The exhibit encapsulates the history of Pueblo, Werkowitch said.
“It was designed in the late 1880s, when it seemed like the sky was the limit, when we were competing industrially and demographically with Denver and were much bigger than Colorado Springs,” Werkowitch said. “So they built it here to showcase the wealth of the whole state. The fortunes of the palace kind of went down with the fortunes of Pueblo in many ways.”
The exhibit will be housed in the museum’s International Hall and will feature a bejeweled miniature of the 27-acre Mineral Palace. Other highlights of the exhibition include life-size tapestries by Silver Queen and King Coal, a jewelry box made by Charles Otero, which was displayed at the 1893 World’s Fair, and works of art original, archived and community photos, etc.
More than 80 years after the demolition of the titular Mining Palace, Mining Palace Park is still an important part of Pueblo life, hosting events such as Pueblo Pride, the Cinco de Mayo cruise, and the Pueblo Multicultural Festival. The park also welcomes visitors every day who enjoy its swimming pool, its playground or simply the beauty of the park.
However, it’s important to enjoy the park while it lasts, Werkowitch said, as he says a planned Interstate 25 expansion threatens the park.
“(The Colorado Department of Transportation) has shared some plans as they straighten out I-25, including the Lake Clara reduction, strip demolition, and bridge,” Werkowitch said. “The park is always changing and we certainly want it to be there for posterity, for recreation.”
CDOT spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said CDOT had “no projects planned in our pipeline that would disrupt Mineral Palace.”
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