Re-Release of Mary Elitch’s 1932 Biography

The story of an early-Denver pioneer & entrepreneur ~

[Denver, May 6, 2024] — Denver had only been a city for 30 years, and Colorado had only been a state for 15 years, but ambitious entrepreneurs with names like Larimer, Gilpin, Gunnison, and Tabor were shaping the future of this young city and state. Among those entrepreneurs, John and Mary Elitch had been running the largest restaurant in Denver and helping to establish some of the first major city institutions, including the Denver Athletic  Club and the Denver Woman’s Press Club.

In 1890 John and Mary Elitch opened their summer resort — Elitch’s Zoological Gardens — northwest of the city.  Sadly, John passed away just one year into this venture, and at 34 years old, Mary Elitch was left to run a zoo, a botanic garden, and a theatre. Mary was the first woman in the country to run a zoo, and while there were several women running theaters in the east, Mary was certainly the first woman in the country to run a zoo, botanic gardens, AND a theater! 

In celebration of the determined spirit of Mary Elitch — and to celebrate her 168th birthday on May 10th – we announce the re-release of her fascinating biography, The Lady of the Gardens: Mary Elitch Long by Caroline  Lawrence Dier. This remarkable story delves into the extraordinary life of Mary Elitch, a woman ahead of her time whose influence on the early days and the culture of Denver cannot be overstated, and still impacts us today.  

Originally published in 1932, this re-release offers a chance to enjoy a Western History biography that has been out of print for decades.  

“Those of us who love Mary, and who want to celebrate her legacy, search out copies of the original book. But copies are rare, and when one does become available, it sells for $100 or more,” says Historic Elitch Theatre board member, and book editor, Greg Rowley. “After a couple of years of working on this, we’ve confirmed the rights to reproduce this book and we can now offer affordable copies of Mary’s biography, and as a bonus, purchases benefit  the preservation of Mary’s theatre.”  

“Today we celebrate Mary’s birthday and the re-release of the biography of one of Denver’s original female entrepreneurs,” said Rowley. “There were many amazing pioneering and entrepreneurial women prior to Mary — such as Clara Brown, who was one of the very first female entrepreneurs in Colorado — but today we add a remarkable piece to the puzzle of our history. With this re-release of her biography, Mary Elitch will add to the mostly  lost history of Denver’s noteworthy women pioneers.”  

The book is now available on the Historic Elitch Theatre website, or buyers can save the shipping and purchase a copy at an event at the theatre this summer. (List of summer events: https://historicelitchtheatre.org/events)  

The author, Caroline Lawrence Dier, captured Mary Elitch’s life, from her early days as a pioneering entrepreneur to her legacy as the matriarch of Elitch Gardens. Readers will be transported to the vibrant world of turn-of-the-century  Denver, where Mary Elitch’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to take on the challenges of Elitch Gardens.  

On May 1, 1890, John and Mary opened their Zoological Gardens, and months later they celebrated an incredibly successful first summer. However, tragically, John Elitch passed away in 1891, prior to their second summer.  Following the death of her husband — just one year into their venture — Mary took on the management of one of 

Denver’s first major cultural and entertainment venue. She ran the park for a quarter of a century and, today, her theatre still stands as Denver’s oldest cultural venue.  

Dier’s engaging narrative – which is largely quotes from Mary Elitch — paints a vivid picture of Mary’s multifaceted life, covering her accomplishments in business, her love for the arts, and her commitment to her community. 

“This re-release is an opportunity to discover one of Denver’s trailblazing women whose impact resonates through  time,” says Rowley, “we celebrate Mary Elitch’s enduring legacy and the inspiration she provides to all of us who are  working to preserve the history of Denver.” 

“The original publication describes the book as ‘profusely illustrated’ and we’ve tried our best to reproduce the dozens of photographs in the book” states Rowley. “Nearly half of the book is a section titled the ‘Family Album’ and it  includes photos spanning decades from the 1890s to the 1930s.” 

Mary Elitch Information: https://historicelitchtheatre.org/history/mary/  

Historic Elitch Information: https://historicelitchtheatre.org/history/story/

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