Tucked-in amidst some of Colorado’s tallest mountains, at 10,200ft rests the unique town of Leadville. Leadville’s rich history is unsurpassed, with mining many minerals, economic booms and busts, romantic sagas, famous shoot-outs, and much more. In the last 1870’s, thousands of miners and entrepreneurs came to Leadville, and the local directory in 1880 showed a population of over 31,000. Harrison Avenue became the downtown “Main Street”. In August, of 1881, Manville and McCarthy opened one of six hardware stores in town at 431 Harrison Avenue. The store sold mining supplies, tools, dynamite, coal, house supplies, etc., all in high demand.
The 100ft long main floor was heated with three pot-bellied stoves, had copper tacks in the floor to measure items such as rope and chain, samples of hardware wired to the fronts of over 1,000 drawers, long walnut counter tops with nail bins underneath, large cast iron safe in the back accounting room, many glass display cases, and four sliding ladders that went almost the length of the store.
Still intact (like so many of the fixtures), the marble directory informs visitors of the offices of mining engineers, dentists, accountants, etc., that used to be upstairs. There, the walnut and maple flooring, vintage wallpaper, and extraordinary “faux marble” mantle are left untouched. Later, the offices were closed, and the upstairs became a storage area for the store. In the basement there was a tin and glass shop.
In 1883, the building changed hands to Henry H. Tompkins.
In 1919, the building changed hands again to Will Harvey and became the Western Hardware Co.
In 1962, an explosion at the Stapleton’s garage south of the hardware store, destroyed the rest of the block and left the Western Hardware
slightly damaged,but still standing.
In 1985, Western Hardware closed.
In 1990, the building re-opened as Western Hardware Company’s Museum and Emporium.
1n 1995, Bruce and Hillery McCalister purchased the property and re-named it Western Hardware Antiques and Variety.
The building has been virtually unchanged since Leadville’s hey-day. As you pass through the 10ft tall front doors of the store
(itself an example of master craftsmanship), you can feel and see some of Leadville’s past that has stood the tests of time.
Come to Leadville today, and visit Western Hardware, a museum and treasure trove of history!
For more history on Leadville check out these sites: