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The 30,000 Keys of Baldpate Inn

In 1913, American novelist Earl Derr Biggers penned a comedic mystery novel titled “Seven Keys to Baldpate”, that became so famous that it inspired as many as seven film adaptation, and a smash Broadway stage play of the same name. It also inspired Gordon and Ethel Mace to borrow the catchy name, as well as the theme of the story, for their mountain hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

“Seven Keys to Baldpate” is a story about a writer who attempts to write a novel within 24 hours. Seeking some peace and seclusion, the novelist travels to remote summer mountain resort named Baldpate Inn, in the dead of winter, and locks himself in, believing he has the only key. But all throughout the night, visitors keep barging in through the door—seven times in all. Everyone had a key to the Baldpate Inn.

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Hundreds of keys with labels hang from the rafters in the Baldpate Inn's famous Key Room. Photo credit: Simon Gibson/Flickr

The Mace family not only named the inn Baldpate, they also tried to keep with story line and gave each visitor to the Inn their very own key. This tradition continued until the outbreak of World War I, when the price of metal became so expensive that the Maces were unable to give away keys. Instead, loyal visitors who returned year after another started leaving keys behind. Soon guests began to compete with each other—who could bring the most exotic key.

Today, among the 30,000 keys the Maces had collected from guests, there are keys to the Pentagon, Westminster Abby, Mozart’s wine cellar, Frankenstein’s castle and Hitler’s desk, to name a few. The keys are meticulously categorized and numbered like at the library. The "famous" keys are in display cases, and thousand of other keys are organized by state. An internet blog also offers insight into the collection by highlighting interesting specimens.

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Photo credit: Baldpate Inn

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Photo credit: Simon Gibson/Flickr

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Photo credit: Nora Lockshin/Wikimedia

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Photo credit: Simon Gibson/Flickr

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Photo credit: Dave Dugdale/Flickr

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