History Behind Ophir Lodge

Peter Leyner originally built the Ophir Lodge as "The Leyner House Hotel” in 1879. Mr. Leyner was also Frisco’s first Postmaster and one of Frisco’s leading citizens.  At the time, there were only 50 town residents and 100 in the canyons nearby.

  In 1880, there were three hotels in the newly incorporated Frisco, but “ The Leyner House” was the largest.  It was large enough to hold 50 guests and used as a stagecoach stop. The hotel built of logs, consisted of 11 rooms upstairs, 6 rooms and a large cellar on the first floor. It was a two-story building with first and second story balconies.  There was a livery just behind it and the hotel stood just west of the present Frisco Lodge.

Frisco did well in the 1880’s. Gold and silver were discovered nearby. Frisco was a “Halfway Stop” for travelers because it was 32 miles from Georgetown and 32 miles from Leadville.  The railroad brought new life to this area.  There were nearly 50 coke ovens at Ohpir Mountain. At one time, Ohpir mountain was completely logged out for the kilns at the foot of Ophir.  All the new forest you see on Ophir is second growth pole pine.

In 1885, V.J. Coyne had taken over the “Leyner Hotel”. He did some renovations by adding new rooms, new bedding, and wall- papering.

Frisco saw the first business slowdowns in the late 1880’s with the decline of silver prices. Logging helped keep Frisco alive but businesses and buildings fell into disrepair. The “Leyner Hotel” was bought by John & Jane Thomas in 1887. This welsh couple bought the hotel when it was advertised for sale for the back taxes.

The hotel was in terrible condition. The roof had caved in and the walls were open to the weather. The couple repaired the hotel and Jane Thomas ran it for many years. John Thomas supervised the stagecoach station and the livery stables.  John Thomas died in 1900 but the hotel continued to thrive, becomingFrisco’s social center and the site for weddings. It was now known as “The Thomas Hotel”.

The winter of 1898-99 became known as the “Big Snow Winter”. This was an especially hard time for Frisco but times improved after this winter of snow tunnels and isolation. “Deep mining” produced more gold from the mountains. The early 1900’s were Frisco’s heyday. There are stories of the town having 8 saloons, although there are reports of 20 saloons and as many as 19 dance halls. The telephone arrived in 1904 and electrical power followed in1907.

Unfortunately, the early teen years again brought more bad times. Frisco lost its electricity, the railroads quit running, and mining deflated. The town was dying. Townsfolk would not quit and found a great diversion SKIING!

Times were rough through the 30’s. It was in 1930 that Bill Thomas wrote his famous letter offering a free ranch lot to 100 individuals. “He was long on land and short on good neighbors”. This provided Bill with a guaranteed market for his milk, butter, and cream. He offered to give away a dozen choice cabin sites. Two men, Rev. Dexheimer and Mr. Boggs, from Kansas took his offer. Rev. Dexheimer then convinced the Maddy, Mckee, Mix, Ninneman, Niemoth, and DeSellem families to come to Bill’s ranch.

In 1931, Evelyn Mix bought three lots in Bill’s ranch and purchased the “Thomas Hotel”. In July, Mrs. Mix moved part of the hotel to Bill’s ranch and renamed it “THE OPHIR LODGE”. It became a retreat for vacations, weddings, and parties beside the man-made Bill’s Ranch Lake.

skysm.jpg (6147 bytes)In the late summer and fall of 1931, the hotel building was carefully dismantled. Each log was numbered and all usable material hauled to the ranch site, using a wagon and a team of horses. The first floor of the hotel building was used for the lodge’s living room. The upper story, built adjacent to the living room, became the dining room, and the two rooms were connected by a large screened porch. All room partitions were eliminated, leaving large, open rooms. The walls of the living room and dining room were constructed from the original hand-hewn timbers.

“OPHIR LODGE” opened to tourists and vacationers June 1, 1932 and continued in operation until 1958. Evenings were spent in the living visiting,playing games, and singing. The granite-faced fireplace was built from rocks gathered at the King Solomon Mine dump. The surrounding hillsides provided rocks for the chimney. Reverend Dexheimer often conducted Sunday evening services at “OPHIR LODGE”. Mrs. Mix often invited neighbors for meals and an evening of singing. Neighbors also remember dancing lessons in the living room.

In 1940, there were only five or six permanent residents of Frisco. The population swelled to 50 in 1946. One favorite resident was Anne Woods, who became a nurse and cared the sick since there was no doctor.
“She came in her white cotton uniform, white nylon stockings, and white nurse’s shoes. She always wore a black cape. You felt better when she came in the door”.  Anne and her husband Hal later became friends of the current owners of “THE OPHIR LODGE”, Jim and Marcia Little. The Woods’ introduced the Littles to the town of Frisco.

Running water came to Frisco in 1955 and the population of Frisco increased with the building of the Dillion Dam in 1963. Frisco now entered a period of growth and change as ski resorts began to open. Copper Mountain opened in Nov. 1972. The interstate I-70 progressed to Frisco in the early 70’s.

In 1974, Mrs. Pearl Mix Garvin sold “THE OPHIR LODGE” and two adjoining log cabins, to Jim & Marcia Little, Max & Lorraine Leetzow, Jan Kassel, and Don & Elaine Rayburn. The lodge became an active place with many wood gathering parties, Thanksgivings with hockey games on the frozen lake, charades in the living room, singing to guitars, and many, many fun times.

By 1996, Jim & Marcia Little were the owners of 106A and 106B the first little cabin and the original “OPHIR LODGE”. Jim’s brother Ben and his family own the top cabin 106C.

The summer of 1996 saw the ground breaking for the winterization and restoration of “THE OPHIR LODGE”. constructionsm.JPG (8137 bytes)The kitchen in the back was removed and an addition started. Cement footers were added under the living room floor and heating coils put underneath. A basement was dug where the kitchen used to be and covered for the winter. An underground stream was hit so a French Drain was built to take the water to the pond. The “pool table room” originally had three steps to the screened in porch so the ground was shoveled out to make the two rooms level.

The next summer in 1997, George Strong of “Strong Built Log Homes”, brought in hewn logs that had been standing dead for sixty years in Carbondale, Colorado. The addition was built and logs from the original kitchen were added to the floor of the “pool table room”. The dormers, roof, and ceiling were all worked on that year.

The first project of the summer of 1998 was the cleaning of all the logs. Many stains were experimented with and the addition of different stains made the new logs blend in with the old. Windows, doors, and roofing also added that summer. Fall of 1998 saw decks added, windows painted, plumbing, gas lines, and dry walling. Kitchen cabinets made by The SchoolHouse Gallery and brought from East Aurora, New York, went toward the improvements. Interior walls constructed and logs chinked.

1999 proved busy with finishing work and the addition of a hot tub off the back deck. The first big occasion for the new OPHIR LODGE was the marriage of Jack & Kim Weinrauch in July of 1999. Jack was the main carpenter for two years and Kim helped with much of the chinking. By Thanksgiving of 1999, the lodge was furnished and ready to go for many more years of fun, festivities, and family get - togethers.



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Jim & Marcia Little