Top Hats and Tenderloins - Leadville, Colorado

Top Hats and Tenderloins - Leadville, Colorado

Top Hats and Tenderloins

Leadville - Harrison Ave It was an era referred to around the world as the era of "Top Hats and Tenderloins" and there was no place in the world that better depicted that marvelous era than Leadville, Colorado during its Silver Boom years in the late 1800's.

Although Leadville's first boom was in 1860 with Abe Lee's discovery of gold, which he named the California Gulch, it was a temporary boom that lasted only a few short years. Gold was suddenly discovered over the Mosquito Range at Buckskin Joe (near present day Fairplay), and the Leadville area quickly became virtually deserted as thousands headed for the new-found gold fields over Mosquito Pass.

It wasn't until 15 or 16 years later in the late 1870's that the discovery of massive quantities of lead carbonate (rich in silver content, and much of it in the tailings left from the countless holes left in California Gulch the mountains from the earlier gold mining activity), caused the Leadville mining district to explode into a community of instant millionaires, (now wearing their stylish top hats so popular back east). Leadville became a community composed Man wearing top hat of a thriving red light district, countless saloons and miners willing to spend their wages for the pleasures of a wild night out. Although prostitution was never really legal in Leadville, its red light district was huge... and the streets of Leadville were lined with saloons. It was estimated that during its peak, Leadville residents were consuming over 200 kegs of beer alone... EVERY DAY!

elaborate room in the red light district

It is said that every legitimate (and illegitimate) western character came to Leadville at one time or another... and although names like the Cole-Younger Gang, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Texas Jack, Oscar Wilde, and countless others are known to have stayed in the wild Leadville community, there are other names that perhaps tell best why Leadville truly was a community of "Top Hats and Tenderloins..."

Horace TaborAugusta Tabor Horace & Augusta Tabor, who became millionaires overnight from a Baby Doe Tabor grubstake at the Little Pittsburg Mine in Leadville, later became the subject of an international story of scandal as then Senator Tabor became involved with Baby Doe in a love tryst that made front page news across the country... it is perhaps the most famous story of rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags in the annals of early western history.

Doc Holliday There was Doc Holliday of Tombstone fame, once a noted dentist from Georgia, who dealt faro Big Nosed Kate at Leadville's famous Hyman's Saloon (still located on Harrison Ave in Leadville) and who was involved in his final shoot-out at that same saloon with Billy Allen... a broke and dying man, Holliday spent 54 days in the Leadville jail after the shooting, unable to post bond... Big Nosed Kate, a prostitute who long claimed to have been married to Doc, was at his side when he eventually died from his nagging tuberculosis.

Margaret (Unsinkable Molly) Brown Margaret (Unsinkable Molly) Brown and her husband JJ Brown found instant wealth in the mines right here in Leadville. Although Molly Brown is perhaps best remembered for her role in the Titanic disaster, her roots are right here in Leadville.

Jefferson Randolph 'Soapy' Smith

And perhaps one of the most infamous of all documented con-artists of the early west... Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, who ran cons on the streets of Leadville with his "tender" wife, until asked "politely" to leave... and was later shot dead by a vigilante group in Skagway, Alaska...

Matchless Mine There is no place like Leadville, Colorado where you can experience these past tales of days gone by... visit the world famous Matchless Mine, the Tabor Opera House and the Tabor Home... the National Mining Hall of Fame will keep you entertained for hours, and the Healy House and Dexter Cabin will take you back to yester-year as no place in Colorado can... and yet, there's one more place you CAN'T miss...

The Golden Burro Cafe & Lounge

Stop in at the Golden Burro Cafe Lounge located at 710 Harrison Ave for a REAL step back in time. Here you can enjoy a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner, or relax in our lounge for a break from your travels.

Old Tyme Photos If you're into Olde Tyme Photos, play the part of Leadville's most famous personalities... Custom made costumes provided which depict the most famous (or infamous) of Leadville's amazing history. Portray the part(s) of:

  • Tycoon Horace and Baby Doe Tabor...
  • rainbow riches
  • Gunslinger Doc Holliday and his self proclaimed wife, Big Nosed Kate...
  • Con man Soapy Smith and his "wife"...
  • J.J. and Margaret (unsinkable Molly) Brown...

Reserve Now!
These one-of-a-kind olde tyme photo sessions can only be found at the Golden Burro Café & Lounge in the one and only Leadville, Colorado!

Melodramas Into melodramas? Here's nightlife in Leadville at its best. Dinner served in our historical restaurant, followed with cocktails or soft drinks in our "Brass Ass" theatre, while you boo, hiss and cheer in the "not-so-true" adult world of Leadville's past (we're really not so sure that Doc Holliday's mistress, Big Nosed Kate was actually friends with Augusta Tabor, but what the heck... it's adult fun at it's best!). Enjoy an evening of dinner and entertainment as a "dinner-theatre package" or just come by for the performance. (Reservations suggested - because of adult theme, children under 16 are not advised).
Click here for performance dates and times.
Reserve your spot now!


Poker is also played on selected nights here (Texas hold'em). Because of Colorado gaming laws, these games are just for fun and there is no charge of any kind to enter the games, but we feature the dealers, cards, chips and tables, and you'll enjoy playing in historic Leadville where the honky tonk piano and bubbly waitresses will make your poker playing a true Leadville experience you won't soon forget. We'll even snap a photo of you playing at the table if you'd like, to show your friends you gambled in the nation's highest poker game at 10,186 feet above sea level!

For more information on dates, prices and options please drop us a line. We'll respond quickly with answers to any questions you might have. Olde tyme photos are taken all day and walk-ins are welcome. Our performance schedules for our melodrama and other exciting entertainment features like our "Discover Leadville" production featuring Gretchen Scanlon; musical and comedy acts... photo cut out. If you'd like to Contact Thomas E Cooke, please folding reading glasses


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