In the middle of the Rocky Mountains it may seem like you couldn’t be farther away from London, Frankenstein’s Castle, or Nazi Germany. However, at the historic Baldpate Inn in Estes Park, Colorado, all three of these places are represented….in a curious different form: the Inn is home to the world’s largest collection of key! If losing your keys is a your habit, probably this is not a place you should visit. If you misplace your keys in the key room of the hotel, there is a huge possibility that you will never find them again. With a total of about 30,000 specimens, the collection is hung on the inn’s ceiling and walls and has been receiving “donations” since the end of World War II.
Its story starts from the love of reading.
The inn, in fact, owes its name to the first owners, Gordon and Ethel Mace, who were inspired by the fictional book “Seven Keys to Baldpate” written in 1913 by Earl Derr Biggers.
The book tells the story of a man who visits the then-fictional Baldpate Inn to find some peace and seclusion. However, unbeknownst to this man, six other characters also have a key, and they promptly open to door of the inn, even though each of the seven people thinks he has the only key to the house where the story takes place.
Due to the similarity of the Estes Park lodge to the inn described in the story, the former owners decided to name the hotel, opened in 1917, after the Baldpate Inn.
In keeping with the story line of the novel, the Mace family gave each visitor to the Inn their very own key, a tradition that continued until the outbreak of World War I, when the metal became so expensive that the Owners were no longer able to give keys away to their guests.
The loyal guests who returned yearly, however, were so disappointed with this turnabout and, as a result, they began their own tradition of bringing a key back to the inn with them each year. It is said that the competition between guests became so fierce to bring the best and most exotic each year.
Since then, the inn has welcomed adventurers, sophisticated travelers and spontaneous passersby and subsequently, the key room was created to honor the importance of keys in the book, a literary tribute that has been transformed into a world record.
Featured in the room are small metal gift from a variety of European hotspots, including Westminster Abbey, Mozart’s wine cellar, Frankenstein’s Castle, and Adolf Hitler’s bunker. There is an extensive U.S. collection as well, with keys from the Pentagon and the White House bathroom, and the international collection includes a key to a Peruvian monastery, a key made in Egypt and even a submarine’s key.
But that’s not all! If you look closer, keys from even more precarious circumstances can be found, like keys to robbed banks, the dressing rooms of Hollywood actors, and yes, also a piano key.
Although the key room has more than 30,000 keys, there have been arguments about who brought the first two keys.
It was thought that the first was brought by playwright George M. Cohan, the responsible for the play and the earliest movie adaptation of Seven Keys to Baldpate. The second is from lawyer Clarence Darrow, who is perhaps best known for his work in the Scopes Monkey Trial, an American legal case in July 1925 in which a high school teacher, John T. Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which had made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. The two famous guests of Baldpate donated their keys in 1923, but since the exact dates of the donation are not known, it seems impossible to know which key was first donated to the Inn.
In any case, most of the keys have been donated by the guests of the Baldpate Inn, spanning a wide variety of states and countries.
If you visit, you can make a donation too!
Images from web.