Silver Plume is tucked into a narrow canyon at over 9,000 feet. It’s just a few miles from its well-preserved neighbor, Georgetown Colorado. In-fact both towns are part of the “Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic District”.
Initial development of the town was slow and it was composed of only a few buildings. The Pelican mine gave rise to Silver Plume in 1869. The Pelican mine was situated near a competitive mine, the Dive. It was so close the owners of the mines fought often about each other encroaching on what they perceived as "their" vein of gold. This spirit of rivalry and eventually resentment plagued the town for generations.
By 1872 the town bloomed into a community of over 500 residence. It boasted a thriving commercial district and many modern amenities. Disaster struck Silver Plume in 1884 when a fire destroyed most of the business district. The damaged totaled up to $100,000 ($2,821,504 in today's currency) and many lives were lost. Fortunately, the town continued to grow, and by 1893 they had over 2,000 residence, boasted a playhouse, post office, and new church. At this time they also open the town newspaper, “the Coloradoan”.
Tragedy returned to the town in 1899 in the form of a giant avalanche. The newspaper reported that on February 12th, “two mighty avalanches, combining into one, swept down Cherokee Gulch carrying away a dozen or more mine buildings, cabins, and machinery”. This caused a great loss in life. Just how many died is unknown. However, the paper goes on to say, “How many dead bodies lie in this great mass of snow and debris will not be known before spring”. At that time they were able to recover eight bodies and an official count was never released.
As the town grew into a small city it began to notice its neighboring city; Georgetown, was growing faster and retaining more wealth. This was a sobering and bitter fact for the town-folk because all of the local mines were located in Silver Plume, not Georgetown. Much later, a study by the National Park Service revealed the tangled relationship between these two communities. The study states that Georgetown was a “center of concentrated wealth”. Whereas Silver Plume “was the work center”. They when on to state, “Majority of the mines were located in Silver Plume, but the homes were far less permanent or impressive when compared to Georgetown. As the ore was removed from Silver Plume so was the wealth”. This is a fact that does not escape the community to this day. This working relationship between the towns has been the source of much resentment; however, one town would not exist without the other.
Today there isn't a lot of commerce in Silver Plume, but there's still a whole lot to see and experience. Today only a few businesses exist, including a cafe, a boarding house, and a recreational marijuana clearance center. The Silver Plume Tea Room is a must-see if you happen upon it when it is open. They serve home-style foods and baked goods. However; most people visit today to marvel at the relics and take in the atmosphere. I strongly recommend you visit Silver Plume and support the local institutions.
Photos from the day:
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