Great Depression-era safe now on display in treasurer’s office

Lack of bank access led county to purchase the safe in 1933

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/29/20

At the height of the Great Depression, the Jefferson County Commissioners authorized the county’s treasurer to purchase a 4,000-pound safe.  “They bought it because of the stock market crash,” …

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Great Depression-era safe now on display in treasurer’s office

Lack of bank access led county to purchase the safe in 1933

Posted

At the height of the Great Depression, the Jefferson County Commissioners authorized the county’s treasurer to purchase a 4,000-pound safe. 

“They bought it because of the stock market crash,” said current Jefferson County Treasurer Jerry DiTullio. “They weren’t putting money in banks anymore, so they actually bought the safe so they could put gold and silver in it.” 

That safe, which was made up of extra thin magnesium steel walls that were harder to blow up with dynamite, remained in the Treasurer’s office for decades before eventually being moved into a storage facility. 

And that’s where it would remain until last year, when DiTullio took office and learned about the existence of the safe from Mark Hubbard, a Treasurer’s office employee who remembered the safe being in the Treasurer’s office when he started his career there around 30 years ago.

That story piqued DiTullio’s interest, so the two made a trip to the county facility where the safe was being stored. When they found it was still in excellent condition, DiTullio resolved that it should  be moved into the current Treasurer’s office, where it could be viewed and enjoyed by those who come to the office, giving them a window into its history. 

“You come into the county building and there’s a lot of historical information about the Clerk & Recorder and elections and past county commissioners,” DiTullio said. “But there really isn’t anything about the Treasurer’s office at all, even though we are an integral part of the county operation, because we are the county banker and we collect and disperse almost a billion dollars a year in taxes.”

Since the relocation of the safe to the office, DiTullio has kept it stocked with gold chocolate coins that are free for visitors to take (he notes that he pays for the chocolate himself rather than using taxpayer funds). He hopes making the coins available for withdrawal makes for a more pleasant visitor experience. 

“When people come into the office they are usually paying their taxes or having to deal with something else like that and so we are trying to make the office as friendly and compassionate as possible,” he said. 

DiTullio’s administrative assistant, Natalie Townsend, said the safe has been a big hit, with some even coming to the office specifically to visit the safe after hearing about it.

“We get a lot of people asking about it and they are always like `wow, that’s what held all that money during that time?’ and we are like `yeah, isn’t that crazy?’” Townsend said. “People think it looks like a washing machine.”

The relocation of the safe was particularly exciting for the county’s archivist, Ronda Frazier, who recently worked with Townsend to dig into the history of the safe in order to create a collage of historical documents relating to it. That collage, which includes the county contract to purchase the safe from Denver’s Charpiot Safe Company, will be displayed alongside the safe in the Treasurer’s office once it is finished being framed. 

“It’s just a really, really cool piece of history to have on display,” Frazier said of the safe. “And now it has been in all three Jefferson County buildings, which is kind of a neat thing too.” 

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