Bill Koch builds private old west town.
There’s a new town in Colorado. It has about 50 buildings, including a saloon, a church, a jail, a firehouse, a livery and a train station. Soon, it will have a mansion on a hill so the town’s founder can look down on his creation.
But don’t expect to move here — or even to visit.
This town is billionaire Bill Koch’s fascination with the Old West rendered in bricks and mortar. It sits on a 420-acre meadow on his Bear Ranch below the Raggeds Wilderness Area in Gunnison County. It’s an unpopulated, faux Western town that might boggle the mind of anyone who ever had a playhouse. Its full-size buildings come with polished brass and carved-mahogany details and are fronted with board sidewalks and underpinned by a water-treatment system. A locked gate with guards screens who comes and goes.
Koch’s project manager has told county officials that the enclave in the middle of the 6,400-acre Bear Ranch won’t ever be open to the public. It is simply for Koch’s amusement and for that of his family and friends — and historians. It is the ultimate repository for his huge collection of Western memorabilia.
I generally would not care that Bill Koch (the other Koch brother) has built his own private Olde Timey photobooth version of Cartmanland to display the historical artifacts he either views as toys or relics to be left unseen by the unwashed masses. This is par for the course in terms of socially detached billionaire behavior, but because of his (he’s contributed millions to Romney PACs) and his more notorious brothers’ obsession with forcing their vision of America on the world through political funding I consider mentioning this tacky extravagance of a boondoggle fair game.
I also just cannot help but want to compare this ridiculous private fantasy town to the Hameau de la Reine at Versailles built for Marie Antoinette who is the historical poster child for out-of-touch excess (and subsequent downfall). At least Marie’s peasant village was a function farm. This is a similar case of an elite person wanting to “play” at a sanitized rustic vision of life, because all the messy working people and social conditions that made such towns historically would ruin the fantasy. It’s a good thing he and especially his brothers work so hard to keep taxes low, or we might not get anymore backward, historically inaccurate amusement park like museums for one.