A Sign Of The Times: We ? Leadville (Still)
by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today contributor
Heading into Leadville from the north end, it’s impossible to miss the “Leadville Wall.” Standing nearly 10 feet tall and 100 feet long, it reads “WE ? LEADVILLE GREAT LIVING @ 10,200,” in giant black capital letters.
Yesterday, May 22, volunteers gathered at the Leadville landmark with ladders, paint, and rollers to touch up the wall, whose face was weather worn, and recently tagged by a rogue artist. The graffiti read, “In Loving Memory, Jordan Gausman” referring to the recent death of the local 31-year-old bartender. While the graffiti may have sparked the action to restore the wall, plans had been in place to repaint the sign long before Gausman’s death. More appropriate locations to properly memorialize Gausman are being considered. Read Jordan’s story HERE.
But yesterday, under bright blue skies the sign was restored to all its glory, ready to provide the backdrop for hundreds of visitors this summer, capturing their trip to America’s highest city.
Of the hearty group of volunteers, three were original painters of the sign: Julie and Henrik Lundgren, and Frank Bradach. Bradach and the Lundgrens laid the first coat of paint in 1988. That year, the Leadville Raiders spearheaded the initiative, hosting an open contest to choose what the wall’s message would read. Of course, between bad memories, and bad record keeping, no one can recall who came up with the message we see today. But, thanks to the Leadville Lions Club who put up the money to repaint and restore the well-known sign, it will continue to welcome people in from the north portal to town.
Publisher’s Note: Thanks to the social media exchange on the Leadville Today Facebook Page, reader Mandi Lee was able to provide some helpful information regarding the wall’s message creator: Longtime resident Helen Hurkes – my mother-in-law – was the one who came up with the message on the sign, she won $50! Now you can put this in your records so you know who came up with this!!
Though the wall is currently on private property, permission to manage its condition has been granted several times through the years. And a host of rumors circulate concerning the fate of the wall: from complete redesign, to the city obtaining its ownership, to the destruction of it, in efforts to develop the property into hotels and low-income housing.
Yesterday, the goal was to keep it looking as it always has, and the volunteers, donned in overalls and painting clothes, finished the job in a few hours. For the three original painters, returning nearly thirty years later, it must have been a special experience. Among story-swapping under a bright spring sky, Henrik Lundgren said, “This is why we love Leadville. We all stick around and get to know each other.”
Brennan Ruegg loves Leadville, which has been his home for just under two years.