Moving along, we make our way westward towards Leadville and it begins to snow. Aye, yi, yi -- the last time I was here in September, I didn't get to see Leadville because it snowed so much the roads were closed. But we're going anyway. Mosying through Buena Vista, we stop for gas and the temperature is hovering around 30 degrees but the sun begins to shine and by the time we reach Leadville, it's out full force. Then it snows, then the sun comes out, then it snows some more. But, we get to see the sights and though bundled up, it is beautiful.
Leadville, Colorado, often called "The Two Mile High City" and "Cloud City," is situated at 10,430 feet, and we probably climbed another 1,000 feet exploring the mining remains outside this quaint little town. Designated as a National Historic Landmark District, Leadville is comprised of seventy square blocks of Victorian architecture and is adjoined by the twenty square mile Leadville mining district, where many old mines and cabins dot the landscape.
The settlement began in 1859, when gold was discovered in California Gulch. However, the placer deposits quickly played out and even though the Printer Boy Mine successfully opened in 1868, the area was almost deserted by the 1870's. However, in 1875 a metallurgist named Alvinius Woods and his partner William Stevens discovered that the local sands which had made sluicing gold so difficult were composed of carbonate of lead with an extremely high silver content.
Thousands of prospectors again flooded the gulch which, eventually led to the founding of Leadville. In January 1878, the city of Leadville was incorporated and by 1879, the population had reached 18,000. In the summer of 1878, Horace Tabor struck it rich after grubstaking two miners on a small claim. Quickly he became the alleged Silver King of Leadville.
By 1893, the estimated population reached almost 60,000. At it's very height, Leadville was doomed to become a ghost town once again, when in 1893, the United States moved to the gold standard, which created a great depression in the area and resulted in the closing of most of the silver mines. All of the smelters closed, with the exception of one, which became the great Arkansas Valley Smelter, the largest in Colorado, which continued to operate until the 1960's. By 1896, the area mines had produced more than 200 million dollars in ore.
One of America's last remaining authentic mining towns, Leadville has a wealth of historical attractions, including the federally chartered National Mining Hall of Fame Museum, the Healy House & Dexter Cabin State Museum, and the Tabor Opera House.
Then we're off to Central City, and along the way, it begins to snow again, badly in some parts. By the time we reach this old boom and bust town, it is blanketed in snow. Then we become two of the worst customers known to the casino hotel that we stay in, as we've booked their bargain basement room, that comes with $20 in food coupons, and gamble not a single nickle -- hehe. Tomorrow, we tour Central City before making our way north to Estes Park to stay in the extremely haunted Stanley Hotel.
For lots more on Leadville, click HERE.