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.
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