The Restoration of King's Gate

A LABOR OF LOVE

In May of 1898, the City of Boulder agreed to host the Colorado Chautauqua. Approximately fifty-two days later, on July 4th, nearly 5,000 visitors flocked to the area to celebrate its inauguration. The main gate for check in and ticketing was located on Baseline Road at the current location of the Chautauqua Trolley Stop, known as King’s Gate. King’s Gate functioned as a drop off point for passengers on the trolley from  downtown, as well as those arriving by horse and buggy.

Chautauqua buggy parking, c. 1899, photo: J.B. “Rocky Mountain Joe” Sturtevant. Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua Association Archives.

HARVESTING THE STONE

In 1900, two pillars made of field stone harvested from the area were constructed to define the entry to the site. The stone pillars were topped with decorative “lanterns” made from pre-cast concrete, giving the columns a distinct presence. The lanterns were decorative only and did not actually light up.

Street car to the Chautauqua, c. 1899 – 1926, photo: J.B. “Rocky Mountain Joe” Sturtevant. Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua Association Archives.

RELOCATING THE GATE

During the first decade of Chautauqua’s existence, increased pedestrian and buggy traffic required greater access, and in 1912 the primary vehicle entrance was moved west to the intersection of Baseline Road and Grant Street. In response to this change, the King’s Gate entry was reconstructed (1917) and the spacing between the stone pillars was reduced to create a more “formal” pedestrian entry, which included a semi-circular rose garden. The eastern most pillar remained in place while the western pillar was reassembled to the east, where it is seen today.

Entrance Gate to Chautauqua, c. 1900. Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua Association Archives.

RECONSTRUCTING THE PILLAR CAPS

While the iconic columns have welcomed visitors to the Colorado Chautauqua for well over one hundred years, sometime in the early-mid 20th century the rose garden was lost and the lantern staves (or uprights) were removed, truncating the historic pillars. Fortunately, the caps and base ring were left intact. In January 2019, following approval by the Landmarks Board, the Colorado Chautauqua reconstructed the pillar caps in collaboration with a Boulder-based structural engineer and local stone mason, both restoration and preservation specialists.

Entrance Gate to Chautauqua, c. 1900. Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua Association Archives.

RESTORING THE ROSE BED

The second phase of the King’s Gate restoration project included restoring the historic rose bed at the center of the plaza and the plantings at the base of the semi-circular stone walls. This second phase was completed during the summer of 2019 and included planting heirloom roses that would have been available in 1900. 

King’s Gate before “lantern” reconstruction, 2018. Photo courtesy of Jeff Medanich.

King’s Gate post “lantern” reconstruction, January 2019. Photo courtesy of Bill Briggs.

King’s Gate pedestrian entrance, c. 2019. Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua Association Archives.