Touring Colorado with the Colliers
It is easy to forget, in this modern world, that we walk through lands thick with history every single day.
The asphalt roads and contemporary homes hide the reality that native tribes, pioneers and generations of travelers and transplants have crisscrossed the state for eons, establishing towns and mines, building railroads and making their own, often ephemeral, marks on the land.
But the extent to which the landscape of Colo. has been changed over the last hundred years or so can be difficult to comprehend unless you have something to compare. For Denver based photographer Grant Collier comparing modern landscapes to their historical antecedents is something of a passion. Earlier this year Collier published a striking photography book titled “Colorado Then & Now”.
The hefty coffee table book features over 200 pages of beautiful color photographs of Colo. taken by Collier directly beside historic photos of the same location. Collier’s connection to the photographs he takes goes deeper than just his native roots in the state. Collier’s great-great-grandfather was Joseph Collier, a Scottish immigrant and early expert in the field of photography.
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Joseph Collier moved to Central City Colo. in 1871 and spent most of the rest of his life touring the high Rockies during summers, photographing miners, mule teams, railroad workers and the stunning landscapes of the high country. Often times Collier was the first person to ever photograph many of the sites.
With “Colorado Then & Now” Grant Collier has painstakingly recreated many of the photographs taken by his forbearer. The book is broken down into multiple sections spotlighting specific regions of the state including: Denver & Golden, South of Denver, North of Denver, Along Clear Creek, Leadville & Vicinity, and San Juan Mountains. There is also a biographical section detailing the history of pioneering photographer Joseph Collier.
The book takes readers on a tour of Denver, juxtaposing images of the state metropolis from the late 1800s with photos of the modern city that will be familiar to almost anyone who has spent much time “downtown”. The images of Golden provide stark contrasts between the hardscrabble mining down of a century ago and the upscale yet quant tourist destination of today.
The section focusing on the region South of Denver shows how human habitation and the construction of homes have drastically altered the landscape pioneers once traversed between Denver and Colorado Springs. The section also delves into the more popular recreational regions around Colorado Springs including the Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs.
The section covering the area North of Denver will be of particular interest to residents of Grand County. Along with photos of the Boulder and Estes Park region part of the section delves into Middle Park.
If any residents of Grand County pick up the book they will likely recognize many of the spots highlighted in the photographs. “Colorado Then & Now” features photographic comparisons of both Grand Lake and Hot Sulphur Springs. The photographs of Hot Sulphur Springs appear to have been taken from a spot along where US Highway 40 currently runs as it rounds the final bend before entering Byers Canyon.
The site of the Hot Sulphur Springs hot springs is visible in both photographs with the historic photo showing only a small log cabin and flagpole where the larger hot springs resort now rests.
The remaining sections of the book (Along Clear Creek, Leadville & Vicinity, and San Juan Mountains) cover several sections of the high country further west from the Front Range. The “Along Clear Creek” section features many photographs Grand County locals will quickly recognize. The Leadville & Vicinity section highlights the vast mountain parks and large lakes of that region, mostly unchanged from the photographs taken by Joseph Collier over 100-years ago. The “San Juan Mountains” section of the book take a special interest in mountain passes in that region of the state and clearly shows that many of the infrastructure projects created in the late 1800s are still in use today.
If you love history and Colorado pick up “Colorado Then & Now” and see the story of this state through the eyes of a single family who witnessed first hand the striking changes humans have wrought on this majestic land.
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