Decades of this city's history gathered last night in the stunning Gates Reading Room at the Denver Public Library to honor historian Tom Noel, aka Dr. Colorado, who received this year's Eleanor Gehres Award. And the fact that Noel had served on the Eleanor Gehres Award Committee for 2011 was only a coincidence. Really.
The award was started in 1999 by the Denver Public Library commission in honor of Eleanor Gehres, the longtime head of the Western History/Genealogy Department at the DPL; Gehres, who passed away in 2000, was the first to receive the award. Since then, it has been bestowed on individuals and organizations ranging from the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division to former Denver Department of Parks and Recreation heads Carolyn and Don Etter.
Noel, a popular history professor at the University of Colorado at Denver who's written dozens of books, was a logical next recipient. After all, as fellow author and historian Stephen Leonard points out, "Tom spends much of his time making history accessible to the community." And how: Some of his early scholarship focused on the historic saloons of this city, and he still visits them regularly. Just last week, for example, Noel and City Auditor Dennis Gallagher were at the Ghost Plate & Tap, blessing that new incarnation of a very old building.
"Thousands of people have enjoyed Tom's tours, watching him glide from tombstone to tombstone and float from bar to bar," Leonard notes. "His latest endeavor, the Center for Colorado and the West, a collaboration with the Auraria Library, proves bibliographies, reviews and other Colorado history resources for students and scholars."
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You can find out more about that at coloradowest.auraria.edu, and more about Noel at drcolorado.auraria.edu. Or just keep your eyes open when visiting watering holes downtown: You're bound to catch sight of Noel, indulging in some more historic scholarship.
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