Local history on display at historic Thompson House

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado- History buffs can immerse themselves in local lore tomorrow, when the Mt. Sopris Historical Society holds its annual meeting and an open house at its newest asset – the historic Thompson House on the south side of town.

The event takes place at 5:30 p.m. and will feature mini-tours of the Thompson House, as well as music, snacks and the company of other history buffs. The house is on the west side of Highway 133, at the northern end of the River Valley Ranch subdivision.

The museum can be reached by taking the main entrance to the RVR subdivision, then the first right after that at the tennis courts, and look for balloons. Parking for cars is available, although the organizers are hoping people will ride bicycles if they can.

According to a poster announcing the gathering, “Old-time dress optional!”

In addition to tours, music from a barbershop quartet, food and beverages – and, of course, the annual meeting of the society – the open house is the inaugural event for the society’s newly hired executive director, Beth White.

Built in 1885, the structure “is one of the few remaining buildings that connects to our merchant, ranching and farming heritage,” according to a flyer announcing the event.

A two-story home built by the late Myron Thompson, it was the longtime home of Hattie Thompson Holland, Myron’s daughter, who died childless in 1944 and passed the house on to her relatives.

“It’s a turn-key museum,” said Lew Ron Thompson, Hattie’s great-nephew, who lived in the house for much of his young life, starting at the age of 2, when Hattie died.

The Thompson family gave the contents of the house to the society in 2009, according to outgoing director Linda Criswell.

But the house itself is owned by developer Frieda Wallison, who in February obtained development approval to build a 45-unit project on the ground surrounding the house, known as Thompson Park. Turning the historic house over to the town was part of the deal, and the town ultimately expects to turn it over to the society.

Walking through the rooms, a sense of history is palpable as a visitor passes an old Victrola crank-operated record player with a collection of 78-RPM records underneath.

In an upstairs bathroom (reportedly the first indoor bathroom in the area), a rare old foot-tub rests on the floor, and the cupboards contain an intriguing collection of patent medicines, old-time implements for personal hygiene, and a claw-foot tub over in one corner.

Every room, in fact, contains artifacts of a bygone era, which Lew Ron Thompson explained is his family’s legacy gift to the community.

“Hopefully, the community appreciates it,” said Thompson, 70,.

He credited Wallison for having a big hand in preserving the structure.

“She agreed that this should be saved,” he recalled. “If she hadn’t wanted to see it done the way she did it, we would have been hard pressed to save it.”

Looking around the ground floor on Monday, Thompson said in a somewhat subdued voice, “It’s a big transition.”

Criswell noted that, at Wednesday’s open house, Hattie will be on hand in the form of historical interpreter Merilee Hindman, dressed up in some of the clothes Hattie left behind, which now belong to the museum.

White was hired on a half-time basis by the society’s board of directors. She has lived in the Carbondale area since 2008, studying photography at Colorado Mountain College and assisting the historical society as a volunteer for the Junior Docent program teaching high school students about local history, according to Criswell.

She also conducted an oral and video history project for the society, according to her resume.

White is from Boston, Mass., has a graduate degree in museum studies from Harvard University’s extension program (2004), and a BA in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst, Mass. (1986).

She also has interned at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, was assistant director and then director of special-events marketing of The Commonwealth Museum in the same town.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to have her here,” said Criswell, who has been the face and voice of the society for six years.

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