Genesis & Exodus



A noted author once said, “Give me men to match these mountains.”  In 1952, noted Denver businessman Walter Francis Cobb and sculptor John Calvin Sutton dreamed up the idea of a new, fun, family resort for the Denver area, called Magic Mountain.  Their vision:  to build an entertaining, recreational and educational theme park for the people of the Denver area and beyond to enjoy.  Its visionaries certainly were capable gentlemen.  Cobb, a native of Denver, was a graduate of Regis College and a Navy veteran of World War I.  He went into the plumbing and heating contracting business in 1930, eventually becoming a successful self-made developer.  Sutton was born in Nebraska and came to Pueblo in 1920, and learned the sculpture arts.  An accomplished wood carver, Sutton headed the art department of the Paradice Decorating Company.


Walter Francis Cobb with his twin daughters
and granddaughter

John Sutton

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood Jr. spent 2 years researching the economic feasibility of building another such theme park, for a person well-known to the world as Walt Disney.  Disney liked what he saw, and decided to go ahead with his plans. He hired C.V. Wood to serve as Vice President and General Manager to help create a 62-acre, $16 million facility in Anaheim, known as Disneyland.  When it opened in 1955, the theme park critics said would not last proved a huge success.

After 6 months of managing Disneyland, Wood quit the park and decided to go into the theme park creation business himself.  As the Wall Street Journal put it:  “His idea:  Take the Disney concept of a family-type amusement park devoid of thrill rides and small hucksters of the hot-dog-and-soda-pop variety, and plant such parks at the doorsteps of other communities.”  The young executive hired away over a dozen of Walt Disney’s staff and created a new theme park development firm, Marco Engineering Co., Inc., based in Los Angeles.  The company, which managed enterprises as diverse as soil conditioners and a diamond mine in Venezuela, offered aspiring entrepreneurs a complete 15-man package of theme park-creating talents.

Meanwhile, in May of 1957, Magic Mountain Inc. was organized, selling stock to people interested in making this theme park a reality. Cobb chose the northeast alcove of South Table Mountain just east Golden for the park’s location, purchasing 220 acres, gaining the necessary building permits and pouring the first foundation. Controversy unexpectedly erupted over this South Table Magic Mountain proposal, so while Magic Mountain had the rights to build there, Cobb chose to walk away instead, and to a new, and better location. This place was Apex Gulch just southwest of Golden, the historic locale of the frontier gold rush town of Apex, which wagon road had traversed the property. Given time to think over his plans, Cobb’s attention was quickly grabbed by Marco, and all that its talented people had to offer Magic Mountain. By June 600 acres were snapped up, Marco brought on board, and Magic Mountain was born.


The team of Magic Mountain creators, September 18, 1957

Upper row, left to right: Allan Abbott, Frank O. Barnette, Robert Stahler, Glen McComas, Roland Hill
Center row, left to right: William Dreiss, Jerome Bowen, Theodore Angel, Joseph Babolnay, Harry Johnson
Lower row, left to right: Richmond (Dick) Kelsey, John J. Thompson, Wade B. Rubottom

Atop this page is the artistic layout that represents the original plans for what became the Heritage Square of the future, as created by art directors Wade B. Rubottom and Dick Kelsey, leaders of the design team of around 5 members which included art directors Allan Abbott and Roland Hill.  From the parking lot patrons entered beneath the Magic Mountain Railroad trestle, through the guardian frontier Cavalry Post buildings, into the Victorian village of Centennial City.  Straight down the main street at the upper end of this layout was to be the Magic Mountain Fairgrounds.  To the lower right is the racetrack; above that, the Outer Space Lines ride and the Magic of Industry exposition area.  On the lower left side was a lake surrounded by fur trappers and an Indian village of tepees in a circle.  At the upper left was Storybook Lane, entered by walking beneath the giant gateway of Paul Bunyan. A virtual tour of Magic Mountain, as narrated by its promoters in 1958, awaits later on in this exhibit.

What They Built