The theatre brought a variety
of marching bands, vaudeville and light opera. Mary eventually formed the
country's first summer stock company and its stage became host to a who's
who of stage and movie legends such as Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks,
Sr. and Jr., Vincent Price, Gloria Swanson, Ginger Rogers, and Lana Turner.
In 1906 Sarah Bernhardt was brought to Denver to play "Camille"
Music was always a big attraction
at the gardens. Not only were brass bands popular with visitors, but soon
outdoor symphony concerts were drawing large crowds. By then, the garden’s
facilities had expanded to include swings, a merry-go-round and a train.
Elitch's was the first theatre
in the American West to show Edison's Warograph - animated pictures that were
the precursors to movies.
For more than a century, Elitch
Gardens Amusement Park was a place where families gathered in the summertime
for entertainment and picnics.
After John Elitch’s untimely
death in 1891, Mary Elitch at age 34, found herself short on cash and was
forced to sell the majority of her garden's stock to a group of Denver investors.
She remained in an administrative
capacity with the operation, but by 1894 she once again had regained total
control of the gardens.
She continued to manage the
gardens over the next 20 years and provided high quality, low cost entertainment
for the thousand of visitors, who flocked to Elitch Gardens from around the
Mary gained a reputation as
an astute businesswoman, during the male-dominated late 19th and early 20th
centuries. She became a powerful role model for women of her day and was the
only woman in the world who ran an amusement park.
Mary lived in her home at the
park until she died in 1936 at the age of 80.
In 1995, Elitch’s became
Six Flags Elitch Gardens and was moved to new location near downtown Denver.
The memory of what Elitch Gardens was to Denver will live on in the minds
of those who experienced its heyday, but the turn of the century ambiance
of the Gardens is gone forever.