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GILLASPIE HOUSE

A young doctor proposed to his beloved, the tall red-headed Grace Fairchild. His prudent wife-to-be would not agree to wed until there was a house to live in. Dr. Carbon Gillaspie purchased a small plot of land on a south-facing slope in Nederland for $65. The year was 1905. Carbon enlisted his friend William Loach of the Wolf Tongue Mining Company to help build the house. Loach was an active figure in the area involved in the tungsten business and later became President of First National Bank in Boulder. William Loach’s wife was Violet Todd. The Todd family was well known in the founding days of Nederland history.


Carbon and William built a simple little L-frame house, with the kitchen at the rear, as was typical of most mining cabins of the period. It had no electricity or plumbing at that time. By 1906, Dr. Gillaspie and Grace had moved in to the house and were prominent figures in the community. Carbon was a true pioneer physician who practiced from home and visited patients when needed. He treated everything and everyone. Dr. Gillaspie rode up to Caribou to treat patients during an epidemic in which many people died. He was the local doctor, pharmacist and for a time, Mayor of Nederland.


Grace Fairchild had been among the first year of graduates from the newly established Boulder Business College in 1901. Grace was active in several groups, including the D.A.R., (Daughters of the American Revolution), American Legion Auxiliary, and her church, the Disciples of Christ. Grace’s daughter-in-law Caroline would later describe her as an efficient lady with very definite ideas. “:She was a very dominant lady,” said Caroline, during a 1987 Oral History Interview, on record at the Boulder Carnegie Branch Library for Local History.


Carbon ran for Mayor in 1908 on the “dry ticket,” and won his position as Mayor during a period when practically every other building in town was a saloon. Construction on Barker Dam had begun in 1907, and was finished in the summer of 1910. Mayor Gillaspie was likely present at the opening ceremony, even though it was Boulder Mayor, Alfred Greenman who threw the lever to signal the start of generating hydro-electricity. Grace and Carbon’s son John was born in the house in 1907.


Around 1909, when John was two or three, Dr. Carbon Gillaspie moved his medical practice to Boulder while the family still lived in Nederland. Dr. Carbon was a surgeon and general physician, and was in practice with Dr. Houston. Carbon originally rode horseback for his commute to and from Boulder, then horse and cart. He kept a horse at the TreeSide Livery Stable. The horse knew the way to Nederland so well that Carbon could sleep on his way up in the cart.  In those years, Carbon would sometimes ride his bike down the dirt road to Boulder, and then take the narrow gauge train back up the Switzerland Trail via the mining town of Sunset. The Colorado & Northwestern Railroad had been hauling out ore and bringing tourists into the mountains for several years by that point. The train left from Boulder, travelled up Four-Mile Canyon to Sunset, and on to Ward. The railroad branch line to Eldora opened in 1905. After the silver price collapsed in 1893, the nation had been thrown into a depression, but by the 1900’s, tourism had taken over. The railroads into the mountains that were built to haul in coal for steam-powered mining equipment and bring out ore offered new opportunities for tourists and residents. When John was still very young, the family moved to Boulder.


John followed in his fathers footsteps and became a doctor. He met Caroline Henry at grade school piano recital, they remained friends throughout High School and married June 14th, 1930.  He interned in Portland, Oregon but returned to Boulder when his father Carbon died in 1933.


John and Caroline kept the house to be used as a summer home, but in reality, it was rarely used. Sometime during the late 20’s/ early 30’s, an extension was added to the rear, and an in-home lavatory eliminated the need for the outhouse and expanding the size of the house to four rooms.


Dr. John Gillaspie and his wife Caroline donated the house to the Town of Nederland in May, 1975 on the express condition it be kept open to the public as a museum. There was very little inside the house at first, but over the years, many local people have donated period furniture, clothing, and other treasures to the Nederland area Historical Society for display in the house.


The museum showcases an outfit belonging to Nederland’s first and longtime postmistress, Marguerite Shellhaus, Mary Flarty’s wedding outfit, christening gowns, bonnets, boots, trunks, top hats, a vast collection of historical Donald Kemp photographs, tintypes, coins, books, opera binoculars, early Nederland jailhouse lock and keys, a phonograph, rocking chairs, a reed pump organ, sewing machine, early washing machine, wood-burning stove and oven, kitchenware, physician and dental tools, bone saws, a foot-powered dental drill, an early telephone, a pressure cooker, print press, typewriters, a trombone, a trumpet, a washboard, cobblers equipment, vintage skis, a sled, one of the first ever in-home refrigerators and much more! Many of these objects and artifacts came with their own stories, and we are still receiving donations today.


Over the years, it has been staffed by volunteers from the Historical Society, although involvement dwindled to almost non-existent in more recent times. At the start of 2020, a new Nederland Area Historical Society Board formed, which brought in new enthusiasm and interest in investing in time and repairs to the museum. Volunteers rebuilt the flower beds out the front this year, and replanted a wonderful flower garden. The Historical Society continue to support the museum through gardening, maintenance, paying the electricity bill and more! The house has no annual budget, so we encourage visitors to make a donation, and we have donation jars throughout the building.