World’s Wonder View Tower

compilation
Year Listed: 2017
County: Lincoln County
Construction Date: 1920s
Threat When Listed: Demolition by Neglect 
Status: IN PROGRESS

Video courtesy of CBS4

America’s highways were once speckled with what has come to be known as roadside architecture- buildings and resources that catered specifically to travelers exploring the country with the newfound freedom of the automobile.  While this architecture often included diners, motels and filling stations, unique roadside attractions became popular places for travelers to stop.   The World’s Wonder View Tower stands as a lasting vestige of this unusual and distinct architecture that has intrigued tourists traveling across Colorado’s Eastern Plains along Interstate 70 and Highway 24 near Genoa for nearly a century.

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Charles Gregory and his partner Myrtle LeBow began building a roadhouse, café and filling station at the site in 1926; they soon started constructing an “observation tower and elaborately equipped recreation camp.”  The tower would become the highest point between New York City and the Rocky Mountains (a fact confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey).   The claim that one could see six states from the top of the tower (Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico) was published by Ripley’s Believe It or Not in 1933.  The tower quickly became the primary attraction in Lincoln County, CO featured in guidebooks from the 1930s until 2013.  Not only did visitors marvel over the view, but they could study paintings by a real Indian princess or venture past a rattlesnake pit.

“At one time the Tower was the main attraction not just in Genoa, but all of Lincoln County.  It was a must-stop for travelers headed across Colorado….there will never be another World’s Wonder View Tower, a monument to the pioneering spirit of the state’s entrepreneurs and Colorado’s rich tourism history.”  ~ Patricia Calhoun

fullsizerender5In addition to serving the interests of travelers, the World’s Wonder View Tower became a hub for the local community with its gas station, market and restaurant where locals could shop, socialize and even hold community dances.  During World War II, the property was open 24-hours a day to serve as a bus stop between Kansas City and Denver.  World Wonder View Tower continued to serve as a gathering place through a succession of owners from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Jerry Chubbuck purchased the property in 1967, and began to transform the site.  He connected the various buildings and filled them with memorabilia that he had collected through the years.  His “new” attractions included such wonders as a two-headed calf, tens of thousands of arrowheads and the skeleton of a wooly mammoth. The World Wonder View Tower continued to draw visitors with its curiosities, quirks, amenities and the iconic tower for the next 45 years.

The World’s Wonder View Tower closed in 2013 after the death of Chubbuck, and has been vacant since.   In July 2016, a creative group of Colorado artists and residents purchased the property with plans to rehabilitate and reopen the site. They hope that doing so will help revive the local economy and create a tourism triangle in Lincoln County to connect nearby attractions.

In early 2018 a Historic Structure Assessment was completed for the property and redevelopment efforts on moving forward including a master plan. Mothballing took place in August 2018 of the entire lower level of the building and the site was opened to the public in 2019 for a tour, as well as being featured in the annual Pedal the Plains bike route. In 2022, the site received a grant from Major Creative Industries for $1.5 million!

“The long history of the Genoa Wonder Tower transcends 5 generations of local and visiting families appreciating the spectacular views of Pikes Peak, and being entertained by the oddities and antiques that largely originated from the plains tribes of Native Americans and early pioneer settlers.” ~ Troy McCue
 

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