MAHOMET — A key to the village has made its way to an appropriate place: the largest key collection in the world in Estes Park, Colo.
In June, Mahomet village President Sean Widener and his family — including their three-legged dog — made a trip out West.
“We enjoyed a full week of day trips and Rocky Mountain National Park,” he said. “One of those day trips included a visit to the Baldpate Inn.”
According to the inn’s website, the establishment was named after a mystery novel, “Seven Keys to Baldpate” by Earl Derr Biggers, who, upon visiting the property, stated that the inn was so similar to the heretofore “imaginary” Baldpate Inn that the hotel would become the “real” Baldpate Inn.
In the novel, each of seven visitors traveled to the closed-in-wintertime hotel and thinks that he or she has the only key to the inn. In keeping with the story line of the novel, the owners, the Mace family, 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 owners were no longer able to give keys away, the website states. The loyal guests who returned yearly were so disappointed that they began their own tradition of bringing a key back to the inn with them each year.
It is said that the competition between guests became so fierce to bring the best and most exotic each year that the Maces decided to begin a display of all the keys.
This was the beginning of the world’s largest key collection, the website states. The collection boasts over 20,000 keys, including examples from the Pentagon, Westminster Abbey, Mozart’s wine cellar and even Frankenstein’s castle. The owners are working with American History Savers to preserve and catalog the collection.
Now, a piece of Mahomet is part of the famous inn and its tradition.
“Instead of taking a souvenir home, we left one instead,” Widener said.
“So now you can find a little piece of Mahomet out at Estes Park. So if you’re ever out there, the key to our city is actually in the collection now.”
He said the inn’s collection made for a good tourist stop.
“They’re hanging everywhere — from the ceiling, walls — from very unique or important parts of history keys all the way to just someone bringing in their key to their 1992 Toyota. Or kids’ first keys — little baby teething keys. Stuff like that. It’s just kind of neat,” Widener said.
“Illinois has their own section. They have a whole wall for city keys, so that’s where the village of Mahomet (key) should be hung. They don’t hang them right away.”
Once staffers at the inn do an annual inventory, they will hang the key to the village of Mahomet among the others.
Widener said the family trip also included adding a destination to the travel log for their three-legged dog.
He also noted that he played golf and had a frost delay on the game — a first for him — as was hitting over a herd of elk while on the course.