On Wednesday, January 17, sixty-five Aspen kindergarten students, accompanied by nine of their teachers, enjoyed a captivating late-morning storytelling event at the Wheeler Opera House.

Aspen Historical Society‘s Nina Gabianelli led the engaging session.

Ms. Gabianelli kicked off the tale with the story of Jerome B. Wheeler, a Civil War veteran and heir to R.H. Macy’s profits through his wife, Harriet Macy Valentine. Witnessing the flourishing silver mines in Aspen, Mr. Wheeler recognized the need for entertainment, leading to the completion of the Wheeler Opera House in April 1889. Unfortunately, Aspen later experienced the decline of its silver mining community. In 1912, a series of fires, likely for insurance purposes, devastated the theater. It would take many decades before the Wheeler underwent a true structural overhaul.

children smiling

During the storytelling, Ms. Gabianelli shared intriguing anecdotes, including tales of elephants hoisted up on pulleys and the back wall featuring a mix of old and new bricks due to damage caused by the fire. Surprisingly, bricks are not fireproof.

Malia Machado, the Wheeler’s programs administrator, played a crucial role in organizing this event. Reflecting on her time working with the Wheeler, Machado expressed, “It’s been an absolute delight steering the expansion of our outreach network. What an incredible journey it has been, teaming up, enlightening, and igniting the passion for performing arts among the vibrant youth and local community in the Roaring Fork Valley!”

children sitting under mirror

Photo credit Jordan Curet