Tales from the Tread: Extraordinary Eleanor Bliss | SteamboatToday.com

Tales from the Tread: Extraordinary Eleanor Bliss

Candice Bannister
Tread of Pioneers Museum
Marjorie Perry and Eleanor Bliss c. 1938.
Tread of Pioneers Museum/Courtesy photo

In celebration of Women’s History Month in March, this article features an extraordinary woman in Steamboat Springs history — trailblazer Eleanor Bliss.

Candice Bannister, executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, created this first-person narrative adaptation using the writings of Glenn Poulter and Christine McKelvie.

I was born in the horse and buggy days on June 25, 1900 in Long Island, New York. Though my true passion was horseback riding, my aunt and mother wanted me to be a dancer.

Following my graduation from Smith College, my mother and I went to Denver and made the arduous daylong journey to Steamboat Springs, so that I could attend the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp, commonly known as P-M.

At P-M, I quickly learned how to rough it in the rugged Rocky Mountains. Though most of the students attended the camp to study dance or drama, my love of horses pulled me toward the corral where Marjorie Perry, older sister of the camp’s co-founder Charlotte Perry, ran the equestrian program. Marjorie and I became close friends, and I returned for many summers to P-M, to serve as Marjorie’s riding assistant.

Years later, in October 1926, Marjorie and I decided to embark on an epic journey: We rode horseback from Steamboat Springs to Denver.

It was a harrowing adventure as we encountered severe weather crossing Jones Pass. Our horses were slipping, the blowing snow made it difficult to breathe, our feet were numb, and the snow drifts made it nearly impossible to continue.

We knew our lives could be in jeopardy, but thankfully, we finally made it to Marjorie’s home in Denver. As you can imagine, this journey became one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

As the Depression loomed and my father experienced financial troubles, I returned to New York to run his business. Later, during World War II, I was offered a job as the executive secretary for the Explorer’s Club.

This elite, male-only club, was founded in 1905 at the time of the North Pole expedition. The club changed its bylaws to offer me, a woman, the job. I had some extraordinary experiences as the club’s only female member of this distinguished group of world explorers and scientists.

When my parents died in 1948, I moved back to Steamboat Springs to join my dear friend Marjorie. Moving back to Colorado was one of the most satisfying times of my life. I purchased a ranch overlooking Strawberry Park and lived in the existing ranch house until I built my home on top of the ridge in 1958 — a home I called “Sky High.”

Another highlight of my life was in 1972 when I was part of a group who formed the Steamboat Springs Council for the Arts and Humanities. I headed the committee to renovate the old train depot, which became the Arts Council’s home, now known as Steamboat Creates.

When I heard that the depot’s future was uncertain, I knew I had to do something to preserve this beloved and deteriorating historical landmark. So many of us had arrived at the depot on the passenger train over the years, and I felt it was one of our community’s most important landmarks, designed by premier Denver architect Frank Edbrooke. We wanted to create a community arts organization, and a permanent home for art in all of its many wonderful forms.

We succeeded and the depot still is a thriving arts center 50 years later. I am grateful that I could give back to a community that has given me so much.

Candice Bannister is the executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. For more, go to TreadOfPioneers.org.

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