Halloween Tales: The Gargoyles of West 7th Street
by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor
By far the most Halloween-spirited street in Leadville is West 7th Street. Not only home to the Stapleton Haunted Manor and the one-and-only Trick-or-Treat Street, West 7th is speckled with oddities that on a cold, fall night raise neck-hairs and quicken a step. Towering tangled cottonwoods, crooked staircases, and more than a dozen gargoyles – all on the first block!
At the beginning of West 7th Street on historic Harrison Avenue stands both the Masonic Lodge and The Tabor Grand Hotel. The Tabor Grand claims itself the tallest building in the city, with its daunting height and architecture, along with the stories one might overhear from residents about the alleged tunnels and pathways that run beneath it – make for a grand entrance to Halloween Street. But no gargoyles stand guard there.
Head west, and next door is the Stapleton Haunted Manor, at 118 W. 7th Street: three houses of horror and curiosity, complete with a miniature representation of Leadville, including a running train stop and drive-in movie theater, a skeleton-driven steam engine, a truck from Area 51, an obscure and nefarious doctor’s office, eerie lights, sounds, and boogeymen. Here most of West 7th Street’s gargoyles can be found.
Some are squat, some winged, some in collar and chains, and some dragons with lanterns in their mouths. Not all are on the street level; keep an eye out high above for the best hidden gargoyles overlooking the street.
Gargoyles were a centerpiece of Gothic architecture, popularized during the Medieval Age between the years 1200 and 1500 AD. They were designed as an early decorative gutter, spouting water clear from the walls and foundations of a structure. Technically, such a creature that does not serve as a waterspout is not called a gargoyle, but a grotesque. While gargoyles primarily served drainage for stone castles, it is believed their secondary purpose is to represent and ward off evil entities from trespass. The bestial features of a gargoyle were determined by the stone mason alone.
After Stapleton Manor, West 7th then climbs high to overlook all of Leadville around the 700 block. Large Victorian homes tower on the north side of the street, reached by narrow recessed staircases which lead to massive lawns. Other spooks and guards of the netherworld keep watch, including a glam-rock skull in a rainbow wig on a pike, and Chinese guardian lions or “foo dogs.” A view south-and-east offers Leadville between a wrought-iron fence and the Mosquito mountain range.
West 7th Street then descends a hill and intersects West 8th, which brings the nightwalker back around to Harrison to start in a loop over again. It would take several trips to spot all of the more than fifteen gargoyles and grotesques that live on West 7th Street.
There are gargoyles in other places around Leadville. Anyone who’s faced the wrath of the living pug-gargoyles perched on top of the Silver Dollar Saloon now walks quietly and carefully under their gaze.
The Stapleton Haunted Manor at 118 W. 7th St. will be open for one night only: Saturday, Oct. 29, from 6 – 9 p.m. Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult. See you there if you dare!
Brennan Ruegg is now a substitute teacher at the Lake County School District, taking good care of your children.
Trick or Treat Street on Halloween, October 31
Also please note: According to the Leadville City Clerk Bethany Maher, Trick-or-Treat Street will be held on West 7th Street on Halloween: Monday, Oct. 31 from 5 – 8 pm and earlier from 4 – 5 p.m. on Harrison Avenue from 8th Street to 6th Street, on both sides the businesses will be handing out candy.