If you’ve ever driven west across the plains of Kansas, the panhandle of Texas, the tribal nations of Oklahoma or the corn fields of Nebraska, it’s a sure bet that at one point you wondered what those early pioneers thought. They would travel miles and miles on horseback, in a wagon or even on foot, questioning: When will it end? Where is water? Is it worth it?
And just when they thought they were imaging things, they realized… Those clouds were actually mountains. Great. Now what?
Many obstacles stood in the way of those in search of gold, but those early adventurers forged trails that others would follow, among them the Santa Fe Trail, Oregon Trail, and Cherokee Trail. The latter of these spanned Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana from the 1840s through the early 1890s until the railroad replaced their usefulness.
In Colorado, some individuals substituted a thirst for gold for a home along the trail where they provided food, lodging and other services for weary travelers. In the 1860s, there were six of these “Mile Houses” along the Cherokee Trail, each named for their distance from Denver. Today, two of these have been preserved — the Four Mile House and the Seventeen Mile House.
If Denver’s Four Mile House Museum is old (164 years old to be exact), then the art of Chinese lanterns is ancient spanning back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.). Despite the differences in their age, these two previously unrelated historical treasures have forged a relationship steeped in mutual admiration and tradition.
The Four Mile Historical Park is located on Forest Street just off of Leetsdale Drive in Glendale. Originally a 400-acre tract, the preserved site is now a 12-acre working farm and museum. It includes the original house, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, various replica structures, gardens and expansive grounds that play host to a number of cultural events year-round.
In a new multi-year partnership, this SCFD-funded organization will host Bright Nights at Four Mile from July 26-October 1, 2023. Produced by Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc., this Chinese lantern installation will feature more than 40 larger-than-life displays. Tianyu Arts & Culture is the largest Chinese lantern festival producer in North America featuring a team of artists with decades of experience creating authentic and interactive lantern events that have entertained more than 4.5 million visitors in the U.S.
With a focus on conservation, Tianyu often partners with zoos, botanical gardens and natural science institutions to showcase a sustainable world. Just as their displays often feature lanterns of endangered and extinct wildlife, so too will the Denver engagement highlight a bygone era in America’s history. The display will feature four distinct sections: From the Ocean, Chinese Lanterns, Interactive Delights and The Farm, which is being produced specifically for this engagement to celebrate Denver’s Western heritage.
Experience Denver’s own slice of history as it embraces the ancient tradition of Chinese lantern design. Tickets are currently on sale and the event run through October 1.
Four Mile Historic Park is generously funded by citizen support of the SCFD.