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Photo turns back time

Lynn BurtonStaff Writer

One afternoon around the end of the 19th century, a photographer planted his tripod on White Hill, pointed his camera west, and photographed a sprawling little town called Carbondale.The photographer used a stereoscopic camera, which produced side-by-side images that were placed in a handheld device for viewing. The overlapping images created a 3D effect, and stereopticons were commonly found in parlors from the 1860s and into the 20th century.Many of the images people looked at were bought from commercial photographers, and were of well-known sites such as the pyramids in Egypt. Sometimes, a photographer would just set out and photograph towns such as Carbondale, and sell the pictures to the residents.Martha Moulton, of New Castle, sent this reporter this stereoscopic photograph, after finding it in her late father’s things several years ago.”He was Dean Smith, and he was marshal in Carbondale for 25 years,” Moulton said. “He came to Carbondale in 1907.”In the decades since this photograph was taken, houses, apartment buildings, stores and other structures have filled in vacant lots, but many buildings shown in this picture are still standing.Luckily, lifelong Carbondale resident Wally deBeque, 80, remembers many of these landmarks from his childhood. He took a careful look at an enlarged copy of Moulton’s stereoscopic photograph and shared some entertaining memories of early-day Carbondale.We have reprinted the photo on page 7, where this story also continues, with numbered reference points. So turn the page for a stroll through old Carbondale.Old Carbondalecontinued from page 1The Stepstone Center, located at Seventh and Main, is No. 1. To the east on Main Street, the Near New Store and Odd Fellows Lodge is No. 2. What is now the Village Smithy restaurant is No. 3.The old town jail, which was moved from Second Street to Highway 133 a few years ago, is No. 4.DeBeque chuckles when he remembers the old brick jail.”Dean Smith (the town marshal) used to round kids up and lock them in there a few hours at Halloween to slow things up a little bit. That would keep kids from tearing up the town too much,” he said. “This was before trick or treat, when they just did the trick.”DeBeque’s grandfather, William Dinkel, built the two-story Dinkel Building in downtown Carbondale. DeBeque was born and raised in Carbondale, and he knows this picture “predates 1911, because there aren’t any power lines,” he said.The utility pole on Main Street, No. 5, was for a telephone or telegraph line. “It ran right down Main Street,” deBeque said.Main Street, which was dirt when this picture was taken, is No. 6.Carbondale was incorporated in 1887, and its growth was fueled mainly by agriculture and mining.By the late 1890s or early 1900s, Carbondale was becoming known nationwide for its potatoes. Ranchers raised cattle and sheep.Coal mines at Marion and Spring Gulch were running by the late 1880s or early 1890s, “and the miners came down to Carbondale to cash checks and spend their money,” the late Edna Sweet wrote in her 1947 book, “Carbondale Pioneers: 1879 to 1890.”Perhaps the most intriguing building in this picture is No. 7. “That’s the old planing mill,” deBeque said. “It was a finishing mill for lumber.”The two-story mill ran for about 100 to 150 feet along Main Street, right across from the house at 150 Main St., No. 8, which is still standing.DeBeque said finished products from the mill included baseboards and quarter rounds. “Most of it went to Redstone, I heard … Marble too, for that matter.”The equipment inside the building was powered by a steam engine. Its stack can be seen jutting up at the building’s east end.”A big turning axle went the length of the building,” deBeque said. “It drove the machines, with big belts that came up out of the basement.”The planing mill was no longer operating by the time deBeque was a boy, but the equipment, belts and pulleys were still inside. The whole package was quite a lure for youngsters in Carbondale.”We’d sneak in there and play around,” he said with a grin.DeBeque doesn’t remember when the mill was torn down, but it was still standing when Sweet published her book in 1947.DeBeque and his friends also frequented a blacksmith shop, now the Village Smithy restaurant on Second Street.”It was another place we hung out, with all the junk he had piled out. We’d pick through that. It was Roy Pattison’s … he worked on farm machinery, did a lot of shoeing. There were a lot of work horses back then. He was very good at it.”The 200 block of Main Street, No. 9, was a busy little group of shops in deBeque’s day. They included Tommy Atkinson’s shoe shop, located west of what is now the Purple Sage store.The Purple Sage building belonged to a cranky old guy, the kind of fellow who modern-day skateboarders sometimes come across.”Jim Legget lived right here,” deBeque said, picking up the photograph and pointing to the building.”He would sit in front of his building. The sidewalk was steep there. On roller skates, it was a great hill. We’d come down that hill and it would make him madder than hell. He had a cane he’d reach out and try to trip us. That made it even more fun,” he recalled.The Odd Fellows Hall at Second and Main Street was one of the primary sites for much of Carbondale’s social scene.”Upstairs was the Odd Fellows Lodge. Downstairs was used for basketball games, dances, plays … we had an operetta there one time,” deBeque said.The hall was barely big enough for high school basketball games.”But if you think this place was small, you should have seen Silt or New Castle,” he said.Carbondale Union High School teams also traveled to Aspen to take on those high school boys.”We played at the old armory, where City Hall is now,” he recalled of his youthful trips to Aspen. “They had big old steel supports there. You’d either have to shoot over them or under them.”Across the street from the Odd Fellows Hall is the current day Miser’s Mercantile secondhand store, No. 10. Next door to Miser’s was Tandy’s Drug Store during deBeque’s youth. The store’s soda fountain was a major attraction.”That was the place in those days,” he said. The image of a soda fountain with teenage soda jerks often comes to mind, but deBeque said he can’t remember young folks working there.”Not many kids worked there for some reason. It was always older people, it seemed like,” he said.The Miser’s building in the 1930s was a combination clothing store and general store. “There were a lot of them in those days,” deBeque said.DeGette’s, No. 11, was also a general store. “They owned it for as long as I can remember,” he said.One of Carbondale’s oldest buildings, No. 12, is located on Third Street. “I think it was the original stage stop, and hotel,” DeBeque said.The Dinkel Building, No. 13, anchors downtown Carbondale, and today its ground floor houses the Black Nugget bar, a bike shop, movie theater, two art galleries, a bookstore, a flower shop and a coffee shop. There are offices upstairs.DeBeque said the building was built in phases, starting in the 1890s, and concluding with the single-story addition at the west end in 1913 or 1914. The oldest part of the building is where Steve’s Guitars is currently located, on the alley at Fourth St.”The original Bank of Carbondale was there,” deBeque said.After the Dinkel Building was extended south to Main Street from the bank, the downstairs part eventually housed a grocery store where the Black Nugget is now located, plus the First National Bank of Carbondale, a hardware store and a general store. The one-story section was built to store potatoes, with offices for potato brokers in front.Before the one-story section was added to the Dinkel Building, there was a livery stable at the west end, not shown in the photograph.”It was a wooden structure with stalls … You parked your horse or buggy there when you went to shop,” deBeque said.When it came time to add the Dinkel Building’s one-story section, the livery stable was moved.”They hitched a huge team, and drug the whole thing across the street to where Peppino’s is now,” deBeque said.The Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad tracks are shown as No. 14. DeBeque said the area designated as No. 15 is where livestock was brought to be shipped out on rail.”It’s where Town Hall is now,” deBeque said.None of the backyard outbuildings in this picture are identified by number, but many were outhouses or chicken coops. “A lot of people kept chickens,” he said.Regarding DeBeque’s assertion about when electricity came to town, he would know. His family owned the Carbondale Light and Power Co.”We had customers in town, between here and Glenwood Springs, and up to the Big Four (ranch),” said deBeque, who ran the company after World War II and into the 1950s before it was sold to Public Service.DeBeque said the Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon started producing electricity in 1909, and the city of Glenwood Springs also ran a hydropower plant. Electric lines were extended to Cardiff, south of Glenwood Springs, when the coal coking operations started.”Then they ran the line to Carbondale,” he said.If every picture tells a story, this one tells a lot, especially to someone like Wally deBeque, who has spent his whole life in Carbondale.Still, the picture presents mysteries, other than the old planing mill, that are more difficult to solve.There are no leaves on the trees, so was the picture taken in early spring or late fall? There are no patches of snow on the north sides of buildings, and the scenery looks drier than it might be in the early spring, so late fall might be the correct answer.Judging from the shadows, which fall to the north, the picture was taken in early or mid-afternoon.If that’s the case, why are there no people in the picture?Where are the horses and buggies, or the occasional motorized vehicle, if they had come to Carbondale by the time this picture was taken?Maybe the picture was taken on a Sunday, when everyone was in church.If so, where are the churches? The town must have grown into them.


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