Back when Trish Langley was a youngster, her family used to drive out from Kansas to visit grandma in Denver, Colorado. They’d always pass the Wonder Tower of Genoa just off Interstate 70 with its looming structure and huge sign – SEE SIX STATES!
But Trish’s dad was always deaf to pleas to pull off to see the vintage tourist trap. Last September, Trish learned the old place was for sale and knew she Had to Have It.
“When I get obsessed with a thing, it becomes a problem,” Trish says. “And I feel this is a part of our history that shouldn’t be lost.”
Trish runs her own business, which manages maintenance of Kansas rest stops. Her husband is a short-haul trucker. You can say they’ve got experience with what highway travelers look for. Her bid for the Tower was gladly accepted by Gordon Real Estate Group out of Limon.
The firm’s broker/owner Tim Andersen explains: “I grew up in northeast Colorado so I’ve always known about the Tower. When the family asked us to be their agent, my first thought was ‘WOW!’ and then, ‘How do we sell it?’ ”
With a lot of patience, as it happened. Previous owner Jerry Chubbuck died in 2013. After an attempt to auction enough of the Tower’s contents to keep the place, his family knew it would have to go to someone else. The hope was that it would remain as the unique piece of history that it is.
Built in 1926 by enterprising railroad engineer Charles W. Gregory and his silent partner, Myrtle le Bow, it was originally named The World’s Wonder View Tower. It was known in the tourism biz as a “one-stop” – offering a Greyhound bus station, cafe, gas, restrooms, lodging, dance hall and museum of oddities to locals and travelers on U.S. Highway 24 in one package.
Most of the commercial operations were conducted in a long, rambling building to which was attached the Tower – 60 feet high, tapering to a small flat roof with an unobstructed view in all directions. In 1954 it was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey as still the highest point between New York City and Denver. And, yes, on a clear day with a good telescope you could see landmarks in six states, according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
By the time I first visited around 2009, what by then was called the Genoa Tower and Museum was a sad shadow of its former glory. The building of Interstate 70 shunted impatient traffic past the attraction. Many of the children of local farmers and ranchers who used to hang out at the place now raised their families elsewhere.
Former cattle rancher Chubbuck (at right as he stood on the old dance hall stage), bought the place in 1960. He still lived on the premises in a separate apartment with his wife, Esther, their three kids grown and moved on.
He kept up the place as best he could, adding to the vintage oddities collection of earlier days with a mixture of garage-sale junk and valuable artifacts from a myriad of interests — archaeology to ranching history. Admission was, and always had been, one buck.
An account of my visit is given in “Weird Colorado.” It still stands out as one of the highlights of my research, and I will always remember the sweet, mischievous Jerry Chubbuck with fondness.
So, what does the future hold for what Trish is now calling The World Wonder Tower at Genoa, Colorado?
“I want to restore it,” says Trish. “I want a free museum of the Tower’s history, an RV park, maybe a pumpkin patch. But first we have to get some things done just to prevent it from falling apart.”
Like some new roofing, rewiring and a new septic tank. Which is why she has a couple of donation links to raise the money by January 2016 on the Facebook page for the Tower. She’s also got the Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation at her back, and a whole lot of locals wishing her the best.
One of them is Alan Chubbuck, Jerry’s son, who still lives in Genoa.
“It was the greatest place to grow up,” said Alan. “I met so many people and had such great times with my friends there.”
Hard to let it go, yes, but “We’re all relieved to have someone so interested buy it to make it something like it was. We had some strange offers – one guy wanted to turn it into a restaurant and do something with fireworks there, too, I forget just what. And then there was this guy who wanted to turn it into a haunted house attraction.”
Let’s hope that was the worst of what threatens the Tower. Time, deterioration, lack of money, vandals and lack of initiative are its other enemies.
If you can make even a small contribution as soon as you can, folks, know that you’ll be helping to save a rare and very wonderful piece of Americana