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In the early 1930s, a man named Charles Gregory built a tower in the middle of the Eastern Plains, near the town of Genoa. That might not sound particularly exciting but then again, this wasn’t just any old tower. From the top of the seven-story World’s Wonder View Tower, you could allegedly glimpse six different states: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not even promoted the claim, which drew drivers passing on U.S. 24—the precursor to I-70—to the bizarre landmark. (The fact that Gregory also ran a gas station and café on his property also helped.)
The attraction seems like the kind of thing that would have dissolved with Gregory’s death in 1943, but instead it cycled through a few different owners before Jerry Chubbock purchased the structure in 1967. That’s when the Wonder Tower took on new life, thanks to Chubbock’s habit of hoarding curios—thousands of arrowheads and fossils, a two-headed calf, an actual mammoth skeleton, more than 1,000 pictographs by Lakota Sioux woman Princess Raven Wing—and, well, crap (countless bottles, tools, rocks, and who knows what else.) He hung the antiques on the walls and even the ceiling of the complex, charging a dollar for customers to explore his museum and, of course, climb to the top of the tower for that spectacular view.
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But then, in 2013, Chubbock died. The valuables in his collection were auctioned off, and the rest of his precious museum and tower fell into disrepair. That could have been the end of the story, too. Yet Westword cofounder and editor Patricia Calhoun, whose alt weekly had covered the Wonder Tower plenty over the years, wasn’t ready to see such an eccentric part of Colorado history die. She and four other fans bought the place and set about preserving it.
So far, the crew has managed to get the tower named as one of Colorado’s Endangered Places, but they’re not sure yet what the next chapter of the Wonder Tower will be—perhaps a tourist attraction once again or an Airbnb or a spot for writer and artist residencies. First they have to sort through all of Chubbock’s remaining stuff, piled up in more than 20 rooms, and repair the structural deficiencies. But they’ve already started opening it up to visitors on select occasions, including during the self-guided Christmas on the Plains Tour ($8) this Sunday, which stops by nine different sites in Lincoln County. You won’t be able to climb to the top of the tower (it’s far too unstable), but you will get a cup of steaming hot chocolate and the chance to marvel at this strange yet special place.
Follow this link to watch 5280 assistant editor Mary Clare Fischer climb to the sixth story of the tower.