Harriet Burgess (1925-2012) will be remembered on Wednesday, May 8 as the 2019 recipient of the Pioneer Award, which recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the celebration and preservation of Estes Park history. The reception is part of the Estes Park Museum Friends & Foundation Annual Meeting, which takes place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. that evening at the Museum. New members are invited to purchase a Friends membership by May 3 to attend.
In 2007, Harriet recorded her memories in an oral history interview conducted with former Museum Director Betty Kilsdonk. Harriet had researched the history of Elkhorn Avenue, and noted that in 1933 (one year after her first visit to Estes Park as a young girl), Estes Park’s main street had this inventory:
“On Elkhorn Avenue [in 1933], we had eight restaurants, six garages and filling stations, six hotels, four liveries with 1500 horses, two drug stores, four groceries, twelve gift shops, six clothing stores, one hardware store, two barbershops, three realty shops, and two art studios.”
Harriet remembered automobile rides with her family in the 1930s, in the days before even Lake Estes had been created by a Bureau of Reclamation project:
“[W]e used to ride and we could ride for miles, you know, without seeing anything. We would ride in the meadows where the lake is now…that was all meadow and you could ride in there. And we could ride all the way down to what’s now Dry Gulch and one house and store; so that was about it.”
Her father had purchased a fully-furnished cabin and several acres from Donald MacGregor, within the ranch boundaries. Harriet recalled a childhood exploring those surroundings:
“[T]hey forgot to tell us that Lumpy Ridge was technical climbing. So my sister and I plus the two girls who lived next door to us would spend almost our entire time on Lumpy Ridge or on horses…. My sister had a horse that she rented from the Stanley Livery downtown. They would deliver it every morning and we would set it loose every afternoon at 5:00 and it would go back to the stable.”
“We would get on our horses,” she recalled, “go to town, and between our houses and town there was nothing but the Stanley Hotel. No other houses. There was Storer Ranch a little to the east, but nothing else. And you’d ride and just meadows and rocks and flowers, and…it was great.”
Harriet spent almost her entire life as a resident of Estes Park, and her contributions as a volunteer and civic leader were tremendous and extensive, spanning dozens of organizations and touching many lives. Upon her death, over one hundred locals signed their name to a tribute message in the newspaper, noting that whenever someone had a local history question, the common refrain for over fifty years was, “Ask Harriet Burgess.”
Harriet and her husband Bill Burgess raised their family in Estes Park, a family that now spans generations. Their children are Deborah Burgess Richardson of Estes Park; William Burgess III of Durango; and Virginia Burgess of Bloomfield, New Mexico.
Their grandchildren are Sarah Richardson Hanna of Johnstown; Brandon Richardson of Denver; Will Burgess IV of Durango; and Katelyn Burgess Jackson of Niwot. Great grandchildren are Dylan and Courntey Hanna; Logan Richardson; Britton, Harper and Canaan Burgess; and Dwyer and Sloane Jackson.
In addition to the Pioneer Award presentation, the May 8 program will also include a presentation by Museum staff on the renovations to the museum and the work of moving thousands of artifacts from temporary storage into the Annex building. The gathering will include light food and refreshments.
The Annual Meeting event is open to current members of the Museum Friends. Anyone who is not a Museum Friends member is encouraged to purchase a membership by May 3 to attend. Membership information is available at www.estesparkmuseumfriends.org under the “Be a Friend” link. To RSVP for May 8, call (970) 577-3766.
The Estes Park Museum Friends & Foundation, Inc., is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit dedicated to supporting the museum through fundraising, publications, volunteerism, special projects and events.