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Illustration by Sean Parsons; source photos: Denver Public Library/Western History Collection (Taft, Eishenhower, Roosevelt); Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division (Grant, Wilson); iStock (bathtub, road, ambulance, Collegiate Peaks, cook fire); Courtesy of Wikipedia (Brown Palace)

Hail to the Chiefs: 5 Presidents’ Moments in the Centennial State Sun

From hunting trips to golf balls gone awry, the state has had no shortage of presidential history.

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If U.S. Senator Michael Bennet wins the White House, he’d become the first commander in chief from Colorado. Just because the Centennial State has never produced a leader of the free world, however, doesn’t mean it lacks presidential history. From impromptu meals to golf balls gone awry, we compiled five of Colorado’s noteworthy brushes with the executive branch.

Body Shamed

Lore surrounding the, um, robust President William Howard Taft includes a potentially tall tale about him getting stuck in a White House bathtub. But the 326-pound president’s time in Colorado is notable for a dip he refused to take. During a 1909 tour of the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, Taft declined exclusive access to the hot springs pool, saying, “I’ve found it’s much better for a man of my size not to bathe in public.”

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The Silver Brick Road

In February 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Coinage Act of 1873 into law, effectively choosing to back the national currency with gold—which was not welcome news to Gilpin County’s silver barons. When Grant visited the Colorado Territory later that year, Central City’s residents paid $20,000 (roughly $430,000 today) to make a silver-bricked sidewalk for the Civil War hero to walk across. Undeterred by the irony, Grant gladly strolled across the glittering promenade.

Home Away from Home

President Dwight Eisenhower, a Texas native, married Denver gal Mamie Doud at 750 Lafayette Street, and the Brown Palace served as his presidential campaign headquarters during the 1952 election. The famed hotel also became the White House West during his term: According to his autobiography, Eisenhower signed 488 bills into law during an eight-week stay in 1954. (Records indicate that was an exaggeration.) On another trip, Ike launched a golf ball into the wood lining around his suite’s fireplace. The dent in room 825 remains today.

The Last Word

A century ago this month, President Woodrow Wilson embarked on a grueling 8,000-plus-mile, 27-day tour across the country to sell his grand League of Nations plan to Americans. The trip proved to be too demanding: After a speech in Pueblo, an exhausted Wilson collapsed and was rushed back to Washington, D.C. A week later, he suffered a stroke that left him incapacitated and effectively ended his presidency.

Breakfast of Champions

In 1903, the residents of tiny Hugo convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to step off his Denver-bound train for a meal. Top-hatted and dressed in an overcoat, Roosevelt ate a hearty, fire-cooked “cowboy breakfast,” praising the “bully” meat and telling newspaper reporters it was the “best meal” of his entire trip. It wasn’t the first or last time Teddy visited the state. The avid outdoorsman made frequent trips to hunt mountain lions and bears near Glenwood Springs while in office.

Winter in Colorado

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