Built in 1926, the six-story World’s Wonder View Tower in Genoa served for many decades as a tourist attraction and way station along US Highway 24. Visitation declined after Interstate 70 rerouted traffic farther away from the tower in the 1970s, but owner Jerry Chubbuck continued to operate the building as a museum for his collection of antiquities and curiosities. The tower closed in 2013, when Chubbuck died, but it still stands as a prime example of early automobile tourist facilities on the eastern plains.
Charles W. Gregory and his partner, Myrtle LeBow, built the World’s Wonder View Tower along US 24 and the Rock Island Railroad at Genoa Hill. The 1920s witnessed an explosion of roadside businesses as car ownership tripled over the course of the decade. Entrepreneurs such as Gregory and LeBow tried to take advantage of the new market. In addition to the tower, which offered views in all directions, they gradually added other traveler amenities, including a gas station, trading post, and café. They enlarged the original structure to include rooms studded with rocks and decorated in a variety of themes.
The tower blurred the boundaries between a useful stop for weary travelers, a gimmicky tourist trap, and a legitimate point of interest. During the 1930s, the tower’s café offered an all-you-can-eat buffet for forty-five cents; for an extra fifteen cents, travelers could get a T-bone or sirloin steak. For those willing to climb eighty-seven steps to the top, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! demonstrated in 1933 that it was possible to see six states—Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota. The next year, the US Geological Survey confirmed that the top of the tower, at an elevation of 5,751 feet, was the highest point between Denver and the Midwest.
The tower changed hands several times in the middle of the twentieth century. Under owner Bill Stone, it stayed open twenty-four hours a day during World War II and served as a major bus stop on the route between Denver and Kansas City. In 1967 Jerry and Esther Chubbuck bought the tower. Within a few years, visitation fell off because of the end of passenger rail traffic to Genoa and the construction of I-70, which was about one-quarter mile south of the building. The tower started to offer fewer services, and the café closed.
Despite the end of rail traffic and the relocation of the highway, the Chubbucks kept the tower in operation for more than forty-five years. An amateur archaeologist, Jerry Chubbuck owned thousands of Native American arrowheads as well as a mammoth skeleton, artifacts from a prehistoric bison kill, and other antiquities and curiosities. He expanded the tower’s base to house his collections and charged for admission.
The tower closed when Chubbuck died in the summer of 2013. Most of its contents—an estimated 100,000 items—were auctioned off in September 2014. In late 2015 the Chubbuck family put the tower up for sale, but as of January 2016 its future remained uncertain.