New Year’s Eve fun in Central City

Celebrating history at the old Weekly Register-Call office and a new beginning for Peak to Peak Players

By Jaclyn Schrock

New Year’s Eve 2019 in Central City may have been celebrated with some consistencies even though it began as just another tent city in the area for prospectors back in 1859. Last year a Victorian New Year’s Eve celebration was held in the Little Kingdom Room of the Teller House, where Robby Wicks played solo songs.

This year, on December 31, a small gathering began the New Year’s Eve celebrations at 9 p.m. on the second floor of the Masonic Lodge #6, located at 111 Eureka Street, built in 1864. The four front rooms are undergoing a new transformation for the Peak to Peak Players, who are also celebrating new beginnings.

Dangerous roads from the snow and ice restricted some from traveling to Central City to participate in the celebration. However, more than a few local colorful characters were having intriguing conversations, or more likely tall tales, in the elegant Peak to Peak Players reception area.

Celebrating New Year’s Eve, guests of Peak to Peak Players went in the door with ancient signage on the windowed door saying Weekly Register-Call. The door is sandwiched between display windows for Ermel’s Thrift Store. We climbed up the long, steep center stairwell to the 2nd floor. A coat rack in the hall landing connecting the six main rooms let the icy chill stay with the wraps as guests moved into the warmer rooms freshly revitalized. There was also a central water closet at the top of the stairs with old porcelain commode and sink to make guests feel welcome.

A comfortably sized room, left of the stairs, had a table with elegant and delicious goodies, including some sampling donuts from Mayor Willies new store on Main Street. The front rooms with windows to Eureka Street and views of the Opera House and Teller House were the most prepared rooms. We gathered in the gorgeous Victorian styled reception area.

Some discussion of the history of the building and tours of the 2nd floor made time pass quickly before the magical hour of midnight sounded. Party guests recognized the vast changes made for the four rooms leased to the P2P Players, grateful for the charitable support from the Masons toward the children’s stage performing arts group.

We were especially privileged to be among the first to respectfully view the space where the Weekly Register-Call was published from 1862-1980’s. Displayed were some of the posters, flyers, and newspapers produced in the back rooms where Colorado’s oldest continually-published weekly newspaper was printed.

Few changes have been made in the space that was closed down when the Weekly Register-Call moved operations to more modern facilitates at the 121 Spring Street location in the 1980s. The building floors are more than a bit worn in the back by the presses and typesetters from decades of supporting the heavy printing equipment.

We viewed photos in the general offices with well cared for old furnishings. The press room’s belt driven equipment, plates for setting type, drying racks, bell on the wall announcing that day’s productions, and so many more items were all there from the paper’s operations.

The ever-popular Turning Back the Pages section of the newspaper, still reprints stories today that were originally printed 30, 60, 90, 120, and now 150 years dated the same month and week from the words printed on this equipment. Turning Back the Pages was the article on the yellowed full-size newspaper page displayed from March 14 1975.

The second floor has been used for a range of office spaces, while on the right of the center stairs and in the back where the printing presses ran. In 1862 it started as the Tri Weekly Miner’s Register. In 1868-1881 it became the Daily Central City Register. According to Gilpin Historical Societies director David Forsythe it has been printed as a weekly paper since 1878, and of course now is called the Weekly Register-Call.

Although printing presses were used in another location when the oldest Colorado weekly paper began printing in 1862, the presses were moved in to the 111 Eureka Street location in 1864. The Weekly Register-Call printed from the 2nd floor of Eureka Street until the 1980s, when typesetting was done on computers and pasted with hot wax onto layout galley boards. These waxed layout boards were driven to Denver presses in the cool of the night (to avoid having them peel up in the daytime heat) to have the paper printed on their large web presses more efficiently and quickly, letting the large single sheet presses site idle for the first time in 120 years.

When the previous publisher Bill Russell, Jr. passed away in June, 2009, his estate sold the paper to David Spellman and Aaron Storms. The latter merged his Gilpin County News newspaper with the Weekly Register-Call to keep the 146 years of continuous publishing history going, and continues as the Publisher/Editor to this day with 157 years and counting. Of course now publishing is done with sophisticated layout software and files are uploaded from his Gilpin County computer to the Denver press servers to run digital separations direct to plate, and print on modern digital web presses with full color capabilities.

This Masonic Lodge building was completed in 1864, then in the Territory of Kansas. Originally it was only two stories, but before 1865 the third floor was added with a steeply pitched roof to assure a solid structure below our heavy snow loads, according to Eric Chinn’s research. Colorado freemasons have managed the building they own for 155 years.

Currently on the first floor of the Masonic Lodge building, St. James Methodist Church has facilitated a resale shop called Ermel’s for many years. The first floor was also a variety of offices over the years.

The second floor had been rented by prominent lawyers in Central City from the 1800’s and into the 1900’s. Lawyers Leroy J Williams, Kenneth Montgomery, and others have been tenants of the rooms now rented by the P2P Players. This floor has been nearly untouched for 10 years. Previously, rooms on the 2nd floor not used by the newspaper produced silk screened t-shirts by a member of the Mason. Peak to Peak Players, Gilpin Historical Society, and history enthusiasts hope to cooperate to prepare the 2nd floor Weekly Register-Call printing operations for tours in the near future.

The third floor has kept its traditional Masonic Lodge meetings going strong for over 155 years. This floor has been exclusively for the local Masons use, preparing and facilitating charity activities. The fraternal organization designed to bring unity to communities, as well as death insurance privileges, has its own traditions. Each lodge has the freedom to establish their own local traditions as well.

Next door and just up hill, P2P Players are leasing the Old Williams Livery Stables from the Opera Society during 2020 off season, convenient for practice, performances, and storage space. The Central City Opera Society had constructed seating and a stage area for small performances a few years ago in the William Livery Stables. P2P Players acquired permission from the Masons to lease the 2nd floors of their Lodge. The Players, with local craftsmen’s efforts, and supported by the Masons, has refurbished some “Players” space for events on Eureka Street.

Seven short hours later after the New Year started with 2020, many Gilpin and Central City residents took the early morning stroll down Eureka Street past the Historical Society, Golden Rose Antiques, and Gilpin’s Visitor’s Center.  Along the way, you easily could have admired some 160 year longevity of the Old Court House, St. James Methodist Church, Central City Opera House, the Teller House, the Masonic Lodge, and Washington Hall Art Gallery, reflecting on the way life was in years past.

Strolling along Central City’s Main Street, near Gregory Street there are some fondly remembered and new to reminisce shops. Across from Dostal Alley, Charlies Place, and Easy Street, we find the Mountain Goat Gallery with unique glorious glass and other arts. Heading toward Annie Oakley’s next to the old Belvidere Theatre, we come to the reorganized Hawley’s Mercantile, which had been the Mountain Menagerie. On Main Street, they headed to the fine establishment of Mayor Willie’s Donut Shop to celebrate New Year’s Day at 125 Main Street, with a grand opening and yummy donuts for all!

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