Silver Plume / Central City, CO — The weather was so-so but I remembered that the weather in Denver is essentially irrelevnt to the weather in the mountains. So after some morning errands, it was off to the mountains. Unfortunatley the clouds obscured the peaks so typical awesome landscapes filled with the grandeur or the rockies were out of the question. Something more like architecture and smaller subjects was called for so it was off to the old mining town of Silverplume. Once a bustling mining comnunity in the Georgetown district Silverplume has fallen on hard times.
I once set a screen play in the town it is so unique. A ghost town of sorts but with a very much alive, if small, community. On the weekends in-the-know local “tourists” flock to the antique stores and a wonderful bakery but this was Monday so everything was closed. Motorists on I-70 flew on by unaware of the town, Grumpy’s Off Road Rescue and Repair Shop, or even the railroad depot where in season one can ride the old steam locomotive over the famous Georgetown Loop, an engineering marvel in its day.
But it was a case of clouds with a patch or two of blue now and then that would open up then close down making shooting a bit tricky. Not to mention that it was fairly cold and with a wisp of snow starting to appear in the air.
Anyway, here is a shot down Silverplume’s main street.
And here is another of the unfortunately closed stores.
And finally this store getting ready for the Christmas Rush (See the santa in the window?) of tourists and shoppers. At the small scale of this blog image it is hard to see but there are white streaks all through the photo… that is snow.
One of the more impressive structures is the old town hall now turned into a mining and area museum but also closed.
After shooting for a bit the clouds were settling in totally flattening the light abd the snow was picking up — it IS winter after all. We decided that more such stuff would be fun and I knew the obvious place so we headed back to Idaho Springs and with a bit of luck I found the start of the old Virginnia Gulch Stagecoach road over the hill to Central City. Once a ledge road that caused Walt Whitman, on a visit to the area to declare the only way to go over Virginia Gulch was on your hands and knees.
The road was initially a road for ore wagons from the mines in Central City to the mills in Idahow Springs so to keep grades to a minimum, it switchbacks up the face of the mountain and then goes through another little forgotten spot named Russell Gulch which in its day boasted a still standing two story brick schoolhouse. The Glory Hole, the worlds largest shovel and pick dug open pit gold mine is close by. It must have been a thrill for a stagecoach to pass an ore wagon on one of the ledge sections…
I really needed some newcomers with me to ask me to stop to take pictures; I know this area so well it was old news, like I had just been here last week since nothing had changed, and I simply drove on through and it was not until I started to write this chapter that I realized i should have gotten some photos of it.
I did stop on the hill overlooking Central City to take a shot.
From here it looks much like it did in the mid 1800s when it housed “the richest square mile on earth.” The gold rush actually started here and then prospectors, shoved out of contention by earlier arrivals pushed on through to California, found gold at Sutters Mill and than THAT gold rush was on.
There was a period in the late 1970s and early 80s that this famous area almost drifted back into oblivion like Silverplume. But then another sort of gold rush happened in Central City and the downstream mining camp of Blackhawk. At about that time, Colorado let several historically important but dying towns such as Central City, Cripple Creek, Blackhawk, etc. open low stakes gambling casinos. Now, 30+ years later, the towns, especially Blackhawk, are casino heaven.
The light in the town was now gone when we got down the hill and parked in front of the famous Teller House, site of the “Face on the Bar Room Floor” (also closed) so we decided to endulge in the local sport — gambling — and first Central City and then in Blackhawk, wandering around the old building and into a few of the casinos. And to answer the obvious question, of course we had to play the slots.
It turned out OK for me. I walked in with $70.00 in my pocket, got $10 worth of quarters and walked out with about $140.00 in my pocket… so I was elected to buy dinner.
Seemed only fair…
Next couple of days are town days as I need to go to some local stores for myself and then on Thursday I’ll head back slowly and hope to get some of the shots on the way back I could not get coming out.
Happy Thanksgiving David. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog these last couple of days. I particularly enjoy hearing about the history of the area. Best of luck on the rest of your journey!