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Upcoming Estes Park Archives Program

Architectural elements of the old post office on Moraine Avenue owe much to Jesse Jay’s vision of the utopian “Shangri-La” adapted from James Hilton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” Photo credit: Sanborn real-photo postcard R-1506.

Architectural elements of the old post office on Moraine Avenue owe much to Jesse Jay’s vision of the utopian “Shangri-La” adapted from James Hilton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.” Photo credit: Sanborn real-photo postcard R-1506.

It is unfortunate that so little is known or remembered about Jesse Jay, one of Estes Park’s most dynamic residents in the late 1930s and 1940s. His life and career as a young adult prior to coming west is well-documented, but researching his Rocky Mountain sojourn is a bit like sifting through stone artifacts left behind by the Ute or Arapaho to understand their history.

The buildings Jesse Jay was responsible for downtown are either torn down or greatly modified, his beautiful murals and fountains (including a model of the Alva Adams Tunnel recreated in Bond Park), a distant memory. The supper club “Chéz Jay” was virtually the only thing passing for refined elegance during Estes Park’s war years, so what was it about Jay that caused Estes Park to so quickly discard his vision of “Shangri-La”, worked out on the corner of Elkhorn and Moraine, once he departed?

The three-part illustrated lecture series “Jesse H. Jay’s Lost Horizon”, hosted by the Estes Park Archives, kicks off this Saturday, January 25, at the George Hix Community Room of the U.S. Bank building, across from the downtown Starbucks. The first installment begins at 1:00 p.m., and the series at the same time and place on following Saturdays.

Fortunately, some of Jesse Jay’s architectural plans survive, and sets designed for Frank Capra’s classic 1937 film “Lost Horizon” provide more evidence of what Jay hoped to accomplish. Portions of this movie will be viewed each Saturday to try to understand what it was about the mythical “Shangri-La” that influenced Jay so strongly, causing him to abandon a paradise he had created in Miami Beach for one he hoped to create here.

As with all Estes Park Archives programs, admission is free, and everyone is invited. No reservations are required. Directions or more information, if needed, can be obtained by calling 970-232-4145, or on the EPA website eparkhives.com.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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