Thursday, July 17, 2008

At the Roadside Attraction

I've been away from the blog for a week visiting my family in Colorado. Shana and I drove out together to see our respective families in the Centennial State. We share a liking for roadside attractions, and this time we visited one I've been passing for years. We stopped in Genoa Colorado to visit the World's Wonder View Tower (See Six States!) just off I70 in Genoa, Colorado. Because the day was hot we asked, and were granted, permission to take The Amazing Roxanne inside with us. Roxy is small and appears to those who do not know her to be a well behaved sort of dog. Larger dogs might not be so welcome because the tower and museum are rather small and cramped.

Built by Charles W. Gregory, in 1926, the Genoa Tower started life as a "one stop" to take advantage of traffic on the highway and proximity to the railroad. You could buy gas, eat a meal, and even at one time get a room. Gregory would stand on the tower with a megaphone calling out to passing cars to encourage them to come in. Charles W. Gregory was known as the P. T. Barnum of Colorado, which probably explains why I've run across sources claiming that the tower was built by P. T. Barnum himself. As time went by many additional "rooms" were added on the the original, many rocked in as "caverns". Collections sprung up the the various rooms. When I70 was built the tower was no longer on the actual highway, although it's still quite close and clearly visible.

The tower itself does indeed offer a view of six states on a clear day: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Mexico and South Dakota. The fact that the views are of the flattest, most boring, and undistinguished parts of each state is irrelevant. You climb up a series of increasingly narrow and steep stairs to a viewing platform that measures perhaps 7' x 7'. If you venture up there be aware that eastern Colorado is windy. At the top of the tower was windy enough to nearly blow my glasses off my face!

The owners, Jerry and Ester Chubbuck, live on the premises, and keep the place alive by charging a one dollar admission and selling various of the curiosities on display. The tour includes an odd variety of jokes and "name this tool" by Jerry, plus the chance to browse around as long as you like. Jerry is an amateur rock hound and paleontologist, so the place is full of arrowheads, fossils, bones, and minerals of all kinds, including coprolites (fossilized dinosaur poop) and a mastodon tusk. The collections don't stop there, however. There are paintings, prints, and photographs ranging from the truly dreadful to the charming. There are books both collectible and worthless. I saw every kind of tool from every period of Colorado history, up to and including three decrepit bicycle pumps. There is taxidermy; you must take a picture of the two headed calf while you are there. There is a history of packaging and advertising. There are all kinds of ceramics both practical and decorative. There are kitchen chairs of every style and glass objects of every age and provenance. There are silver spoons and farm tools. Many of the items are for sale - maybe even most of them. There is a lot of junk and a lot of really appealing collectibles.

Because the rooms are small and the collections are overwhelming things are stacked up, hanging from the walls and ceilings and displayed in cases. There is an order of sorts to it, and although the place in jammed literally to the ceiling and beyond there is a surprisingly small amount of obvious dust. I think I can safely assume that for the owners this place is a labor of love. The Colorado Historical society is contributing a bit for the building upkeep as a historic site, but anyone who comes by this way should make a stop - it's well worth an hour of your time!

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