Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

The Wonders of the Wonder View Tower Are on the Block: Going, Going, Gone

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The town became a small but popular center not just for travelers and railroad workers, but for nearby farmers and ranchers, as well. In addition to the depot, Genoa boasted a newspaper, a hardware store, a post office and a hotel. And after U.S. Highway 24 came through it, the town got its most spectacular amenity yet.

Inspired by the lofty elevation, in 1926 Charles W. Gregory and his partner, Myrtle LeBow, built the Wonder View Tower on top of the rise. At the base of the wooden tower, they opened a cafe in a room made from rocks, with every state represented; over time, Gregory added additional rock rooms that sprawled along the rim. But the real wonder at Wonder View was the tower itself: a wooden structure with 87 rickety, ladder-like steps leading to a balcony from which you could see six states -- if the day was very clear, you had extremely good eyesight...and you were looking through the tower's telescope. Gregory liked to use that telescope to spy the license plates on cars laboring up the rise of U.S. 24, and would shout appropriate greetings over his megaphone: "How're things in the Buckeye State?" That and the billboard promising "Eat, drink, gas and pop at the Tower" were often all the encouragement drivers needed to pull over for a break at this unexpected roadside attraction.

But there was more: Gregory not only studded the tower's rooms with rocks, but he also had artisans decorate the walls. The Indian Room, for example, was painted with murals by Native American artists; Old West scenes adorned others. Gregory's marketing savvy earned him the nickname "Colorado's P.T. Barnum" -- no small accomplishment, since Barnum himself had worked out of Colorado for a time, platting his own development in west Denver.

Gregory wasn't all talk, though. The U.S. Geological Survey reportedly confirmed in 1934 that the tower's peak was indeed the highest point between Denver and New York City. And no less an authority than Ripley's Believe It or Not proclaimed that it was truly possible to see six states from the top of the tower: Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico...and Colorado, of course.

This magnificent edifice would have passed on when Gregory did, but Jerry and Esther Chubbuck bought the Wonder View and all its wonderful contents in 1967, and continued to add to them, renaming rooms to reflect the collections within. Jerry was an amateur archeologist, and he installed his stash of 20,000 Indian arrowheads, as well as artifacts from the 8,000-year-old bison kill he'd unearthed in nearby Cheyenne County and a 75,000-year-old Imperial mammoth skeleton, also found in Cheyenne County. The Animal Monstrosities Room held many more physical marvels, including a two-headed calf and an eight-footed pig.

Chubbock charged visitors a dollar to enter the Wonder View Tower -- but in addition to access to all the collections, that also bought them the chance to climb to the top and to spy those six states as well as all the fake people he'd installed along the balcony. The website RoadsideAmerica.com devotes a page to the "Wonder Tower," noting that visitors could get their money back if they won Jerry's "Guess What" game, successfully identifying the ten oddities he would show them. "The items include rooster eyeglasses, camel nose bells and a walrus penis," the site notes.

The railroad pulled out long ago, and Genoa suffered a near-mortal blow when I-70 took a route slightly to the south. The hotel closed up; the bank was shuttered. Today the town hall is only open part-time (and the clerk didn't return calls on Monday). But despite the challenge of being a roadside attraction that was no longer on the side of the road, Wonder View Tower kept bringing in visitors -- until last summer, when Jerry Chubbock passed away and the attraction closed. It is still shuttered (RoadsideAmerica.com has updated the page to note that the tower is "reported closed"), and its contents will be auctioned off at the site over three days next weekend. Keep reading for more on the Wonder View Tower.
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun