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.
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Georgetown is a breathtaking community that sits 8,530 feet above sea level. It is nestled on the upper side of Clear Creek Valley, in Clear Creek County Colorado. The town is referred to as a “Territorial Charter Municipality”; however, it is considered a semi-abandoned town. This is because it once housed 10,000 residents and now holds just over 1,000 people. This town is far from dead and is fortunate not to be a complete ghost town or have succumbed to wildfire. In fact, it is one of the most well-preserved mining communities from the mid-1800s.
The town was started as a simple gold mining camp in 1859 during the Pike's Peak gold rush. Gold gave Georgetown its start however, it was silver that made the town the largest silver producer in Colorado (until 1878 when Leadville surpassed it). Although the town is small today, it was a historic cultural, and industrial center through the 19th Century. Earning itself the nickname the “Silver Queen of Colorado”.
The town experienced less violence than its neighbors. Even though it had its share of undesirables and vagrants. Fortunately, it remained a mostly stable community. Allowing the economy and culture to flourish outside of the mine and its camps.
It was this fact that interested a young entrepreneur to heavily invest in the community, shaping it and the surrounding areas for centuries to come. In 1875 Louis Dupuy purchased and renovated an existing building into what we now call “The Hotel De Paris”. The hotel's opulence was unrivaled and unheard of in this region. The demand to stay at the hotel exceeded the rooms it had. Even during slow periods, Dupuy would personally approve each guest. Many were turned away for reasons only known to Dupuy. The hotel quickly became famous for its high-class atmosphere and sophisticated French dining.
The success of The Hotel De Pari was desperately needed by Louis. He was an heir to a vast fortune and had squandered most of his inheritance. During this period he dabbled in many things but succeeded at little. He entered the seminary in hopes of joining the priesthood. When that didn’t work out he went to culinary school. He settled for a time as a writer in New York City, before being caught for plagiarism. Next, he did a stint with the United States Army, but he deserted for unknown reasons. At this time he changed his name from his given name, “Adolphe François Gerard”; to the name, we know today Louis Dupuy. Days later he walked into Denver's largest newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News and began to work as a mining reporter. This is what leads him to Georgetown where he eventually became a miner himself. In 1873 he was working at the nearby 7:30 mine when an explosion injured him severely. He was unable to perform hard labor and had a very long recovery time. During this time the community of Georgetown raised enough money for Louis to rent what was called the “Delmonico Bakery”. This humble building and the adjacent structure is what Dupuy later renovated into the world-renowned Hotel De Paris.
Ultimately Dupy was a French native who cultivated a new life and home for himself by recreating the style of Inns he knew as a child. He had a hard start to his life but was able to live out his days as the administrator of a hotel that we still talk about and visit to this day. His hotel and the adjacent opera hall shaped the region for generations to come.
Today Georgetown enjoys a lively summertime crowd of tourists. You’ll find most of the stores on the main street are open and see hourly rounds of tour buses from Denver. However; in winter the town becomes less busy as tourist and locals tend to visit ski areas. But this is a great time of the year to visit if you want to take it all in without too much of a crowd.
One of the shops that rarely closes is the local grocery store, Kneisel Grocery. In fact, the store is still operated by members of the Kneisel Family. The structure houses three shop bays and was originally built by Henry Kneisel in 1892. The following year he moved his grocery business into one of the store stalls. He built the shelving in 1893 to his personal specifications and they are in use to this day. The Kneisel and Anderson Store is the oldest, continuously-operated business in Georgetown. Today, customers are served from behind the original counter.
The single-bay building to the west was built somewhat later, and it also was initially a grocery store. Around 1912, Kneisel and Anderson purchased it and established their hardware business there, where it continues to this day.
I highly recommend you visit and spend some time in this town. The people are welcoming, the food is good, and the architecture is amazing.
Photos from the Day:
What we see in this video is the remains of an 1800’s silver town. I will be bringing you a few stories and videos from this area. However; I would like to take a moment to focus on this 1885 home and storefront and its tale.
This area is what is referred to as a Statutory Town or “Living Ghost Town”. Many tales abound from this town and region. One of the most well-known stories involves this building and a much-beloved citizen from the towns mining days; Clifford Griffin. According to the story, Griffin came from New York City, where he was raised. Mr. Griffin became engaged in New York, but his fiancé mysteriously, died the night before their wedding. The tragedy was attributed to “unnameable” or what we now call "natural causes".
Like many do to this day, Griffin decided to escape the painful memories, by moving to Colorado. He moved with his brother, with the aim of forgetting his beloved. Eventually, he became the manager of the town's largest mine. He started his shifts at what was considered a very generous time, 7:30 AM. Later the mine was locally called and eventually renamed “The 7:30 Mine”.
lifford was very loved by his staff and was considered to be very kind. Each Christmas he bought all his miners a goose for their families. Every 4th of July, he paid off every bar tab between Silver Plume and what is current-day Bakerville. He did this so his miners and staff could enjoy their holiday without spending their family's money. In addition to taking care of his miners during the holidays, he provided them with nightly entertainment.
Legend has it that he could not bear the daily sight of his men with their wives and families after his tragedy. Clifford spent a great deal of time near the entrance to the 7:30 mine, which sits 1,500 feet (460 m) over the town of Silver Plume. Every evening he would sit on the edge of a nearby cliff and play his violin. The valley has incredible natural acoustics, which carried the sound down for the entire town to hear. People stated that they “could step outside and listen to his evening concerts”.
According to local legend, after a particularly beautiful recital, the residents heard a single gunshot. Assuming the worst, the miners of the 7:30 raced up the trail to its entrance. Once there they found Clifford Griffin, shot through the heart and in a shallow grave he'd dug himself. In the Manager’s Office, a note was found. The note asked the residents of Silver Plume to leave him where he lay because that's where he'd experienced the most happiness since his wife died. The town honored his request and later erected a 10-foot-tall Gunnison-Granite monument in his honor. Which still sits to this day, directly on top of his grave site.
Photos from the day
Winfield is an old mining town tucked away in the San Isabel National Forest, outside Buena Vista. There are several original buildings, including a schoolhouse.
It was founded on 120 acres at the junction of the north and south forks of Clear Creek. Lots of 50×100 were free to anyone who desired to build there.
A cabin was built as early at 1861 with the first prospecting done in 1867. Winfield reached its heyday around 1890 when some 1500 folks lived in town.
There were 3 saloons, 3 stores, 2 hotels, a boarding house, a post office, a church, school, mill, smelter & concentrator. Mining came to an end in Clear Creek Canyon in the early 1900s.
I had an amazing visit to Vindicator Valley and encourage you to also visit. However; be sure to call ahead to the main office (719-689-4220) to ensure no blasting is happening and you are ok to enter. Be sure that you obey all posted signs and enjoy. That being said; the “Vindicator Valley Trail” is one of the “Trails of Gold” outside of the town of Victor, CO. It is not a difficult trail but is distant from large cities. You can find lodging in Victor or Cripple Creek Colorado. Enjoy views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the countless abandoned mines, hoists, and buildings.
The Christmas Mine:
The first mine featured in the video is the Christmas mine. It was a privately held mine which began operations in the tum of the century. A portion of the claim was purchased by the Vindicator Consolidated Gold Mining Company in March of 1902. The Christmas Mine is reported to have produced gold valued at $1,335,000 or nearly 65,000 troy ounces during its life....
The shaft was reported to have eight levels with the lowest one at 605 feet below the surface (collar). The headframe was almost completely covered with development (or slack) rock from the Vindicator Mine until the 1980s when the frame we see today was exposed as the development rock was excavated and reprocessed.
The Theresa Mine:
The Theresa Gold Mining Company owned and operated this mine from 1895 until 1900. The company was purchased by the Golden Cycle Mining Company after the turn of the century. Subsequently, the property was sold to the Vindicator Consolidated Gold Mining Company in 1922, the Vindicator Consolidated Gold Mining Company was purchased by the United Gold Mines Company whose properties later became part of the Golden Cycle Mining Company. The property was operated through the years by various sets of lessees alternating with years of idleness. Much of the rock dump was removed for processing in 1946 at the Golden Cycle mill in Colorado Springs. In 1986, additional portions of the dump were removed for slack-heap leaching, the slopes graded and partially reclaimed. Production records indicate that the mine produced over $2,500,000 in gold ore which comes to over 120,000 troy ounces.
By 1920, the three-compartment Theresa shaft was 1620 feet deep and serviced by a Wellman, Seaver, Morgan double-drum steam hoist. Power was supplied by at least one 250 hp Babcock & Wilson water tube boiler. The four-post derrick type timber headframe stood over the shaft. Rock was transported through the shaft in mine cars on two small, double deck cages. The Theresa was idle from 1915 until a group of lessees took over and rehabilitated the mine in 1930. The group had to spile (a means of timbering to reinforce a tunnel) through waste filled stopes that had been mined into the shaft itself. The lessees retrofitted the steam hoist with a 75 hp, electric motor. Drill steels were sharpened in the Vindicator Mine shops and compressed air was supplied by the Teller County Air Company. The entire surface plant was destroyed by fire in 1934. The headframe was replaced with the present steel structure under the supervision of master mechanic, Bob Welsh. The plant was upgraded with a metal hoist house, a metal ore house incorporated into the headframe structure and a new change room. The shaft was equipped with a single but larger skip and a counterweight to provide balanced hoisting. Note that the overhead tramway is slightly inclined outward to the east, permitting cars of waste to roll out to be automatically dumped and then pulled back by a small hoist located in the ore house eliminating the need for one surface worker to do this work. Additional exploration carried out in 1961 failed to give promising results and, coupled with the closing of the Carlton Mill, led to the final closure of the Theresa Mine, in the 1980s, the Inactive Mined Land Reclamation Division stabilized the collar of the shaft, and in 1995, CC&V stabilized the ore bin foundation and added additional cribbing to the bank on the east of the headframe.
Victor is a ghost city in Teller County, Colorado, United States. Gold was discovered in Victor in the late 19th century, an omen of the future of the town. With Cripple Creek, the mining district became the second largest gold mining district in the country and realized approximately $10 billion of mined gold in 2018 dollars. It reached its peak around the turn of the century when there were about 18,000 residents in the town (The population was 397 at the 2010 census.). Depleted ore in mines, labor strife and the exodus of miners during World War I caused a steep decline in the city's economy, from which it has never recovered.
Although the population of Victor may be low, the towns-people spirits are very high. The people I spoke to were very welcoming and knowledgeable about their hometown. So much so that I am returning this spring to have a tour by some of the people I met. I strongly suggest that you pay Victor a visit. In fact, they have several attractions, outside of the breathtaking views and well-preserved architecture. Some of my favorites include the Lowell Thomas Mining Museum, the cities walking tour, and the "Vindicator Valley Trail".
In addition to several standing attractions, they have all of the seasonal events you would come to expect from a small mountain town. One that stands out to me as particularly unique is the annual Gems and Rock show that takes place each June on the streets of Victor. There is something about visiting a historic mountain town to buy gems and minerals that makes me feel like a 1800's prospector. Even if momentarily, it's well worth a visit! You can plan your trip using this link: https://www.victorcolorado.com
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Music from the Video:
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