Visitors are safe and welcome at our museums. Please click here for details and tickets.
National and State Register
The Mining Industry in Colorado
Mining was far and away the most significant industry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Colorado and has remained important since that time. The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush brought unprecedented numbers of people into the region and that in turn led to powerful social, economic, and political changes that brought about the creation of Colorado Territory in 1861, culminating in the admittance of Colorado to the Union in 1876.
Mining in all its phases remained the great engine of the Colorado economy until the early twentieth century. The industry also contributed to significant technological advances and that, combined with the professional studies of all aspects of the industry, had powerful ramifications in the industry’s global expansion in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though sometimes derided as a “mom and pop” industry and one of quaint ruins, mineral development in the Centennial State both reflected and contributed to the dramatic industrial and technological advances of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Moreover, the powerful advance of industrial metal mining, coupled with immense coal production, contributed immeasurably to state, national, and international development.
This document provides a basic historical overview of mining activities and related technology in order to assist cultural resource professionals, landowners and managers, and the general public in identifying and evaluating mining and mining-related properties in relation to the eligibility criteria established by the National Register of Historic Places. The document focuses on the three closely related mining industries-precious and base metals, coal, and industrial metals. The geographic area includes the entire State of Colorado, although mining activities, particularly of metal ores, occurred primarily in the mountainous western half of the state. As the document’s title infers, the historic contexts relate to the business and technology of the major mining functions of extraction, beneficiation and refining. The development of railroad transportation is also discussed, as railroads and mining grew, prospered, and declined in a symbiotic relationship.
The document develops four historic contexts:
Precious and Base Metal Mining Industry in Colorado: 1858-2005
Coal Mining Industry in Colorado: 1858-2005
Industrial Metals Industry in Colorado: 1870-2005
Mining Technology, Methods, and Equipment in Colorado: 1858-2005
The document defines eight property types associated with the four contexts:
Mining Settlement and Residence
Cover documentation accepted by the National Register on 9/18/2008.
The following properties currently listed on the National Register are formally linked to this multiple property submission.
Located in the Pine Creek mining district, structures in the complex include a cabin, a burro shed/bunk house, a forge, and several related outbuildings. All date from the 1880s and are constructed of hand hewn logs with A and V joints. Low pitch gabled roofs were made of logs, mud, dirt, and grass.
In 1879, the Smuggler was among the first strikes made by Charles Bennett when he and other Leadville miners first came to the Roaring Fork Valley, and the Smuggler Mining Company was incorporated in November 1881.
The Independence Mine and Mill is located on the south slope of Battle Mountain at an altitude of approximately 9,780 feet. In 1891, Winfield Scott Stratton made the first major strike of gold in the Cripple Creek/Victor area. The most intensive period of development of the mine coincided with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the restoration of the gold standard of currency.
The circa 1890 Modoc Mill is a good example of industrial architecture associated with Boulder County’s mining history. This concentration mill of wood and metal reaches four stories in height. The uppermost story of hewn logs received the ore. Here gravity bins held the ore until it was fed into a crusher and the stamping apparatus below.
The Paris Mill is significant in the area of industry, engineering and architecture, from 1895 when it first opened, to 1937, when mill operations ceased. The facility was instrumental in the success of the greater Paris Mine, a major gold producer important to western Park County.
The Rocky Mountain Mammoth Mine is significant for its association with the mining industry in the mountains of Boulder County. As a telluride gold ore producing mine, the Rocky Mountain Mammoth contributed to a major mining revival experienced in the Magnolia Mining district and elsewhere in Boulder County in the late 1890s and early 1900s.
The 1920 Valley View Leasing and Mining Company Mill, commonly known as the Matterhorn Mill, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A in the area of industry at the local level of significance for its contribution to the 20th-century silver mining in Colorado's San Juan Mountains where it related directly to mining within San Bernardo Mountain. When constructed the Matterhorn Mill was a state-of-the-art flotation mill that utilized new technology to produce a higher grade concentrate than could be accomplished by the old-style stamp mill with concentration (s
Although a large rambling, log and wood frame building on the approximately 8½-acre site dates from earlier ranching operations, the property primarily reflects its association with the mining activities occurring there from 1906 to 1923. Ditches, ponds, and tailings piles continue to dot the landscape.
The Martin Mining Complex is associated with the mining industry in the San Juan Mountains and the Eureka Mining District. The complex displays the development of industrialized hard rock mining and the transportation infrastructure needed to make such mining profitable in a rugged region. The Martin Mining Complex is representative of the boom and bust cycle that was always present with industrialized mining. The 1929 Martin Boardinghouse is one of the best-preserved and largest boardinghouses still standing in the San Juan Mountains. More precisely, the Martin Boardinghouse can be cal
The circa 1904 -1910 Minnie Gulch Cabins site, including the cabins, dugout, and associated artifact scatters, represent a typical small residential and industrial complex associated with nearby mining during the turn of the 20th Century. Intact groupings of this sort from the hard-rock mining period in Colorado are unusual.
The circa 1905 Placer Gulch Boarding House is a rare surviving example of a 1½ story boarding house from the hard-rock mining era in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. The building originally had private living quarters, a kitchen, dining room and large storage room on the first floor with benches and individual beds on the second. An adit to the Prospect Mine is just down the slope from the boarding house and the Gold Prince aerial tramway passes through this site.
Although little remains today, the camp site is representative of the boom and bust cycles typical of many Colorado mining communities. With a history paralleling the Tellurium / White Cross Mining Camp, it was never formally platted as a town site.
A silver strike in 1879 prompted the arrival of prospectors and entrepreneurs such as Benjamin F. Burnett and William Baker from Fort Collins. They organized the Middle Park and Grand River Land Improvement Company for the purpose of establishing Lulu City, which was named for Burnett’s daughter.
The townsite is significant as the remains of a prosperous Roaring Fork Valley mining camp of the 1880s. Originally known as Castle Forks, the town of Ashcroft was incorporated in 1882. Its peak population of approximately 1,000 supported a variety of commercial enterprises.
Located in the Rocky Mountains approximately 100 miles west of Denver, Breckenridge is an example of a mining boom town that experienced a new era of prosperity as a result of the post World War II boom in the ski industry. Settlement in the area began in 1859.
Cokedale is a significant example of a company-owned coal camp and is associated with the coal mining and coke industry that served as the predominant basis of the southern Colorado economy around 1900. While most similar coal camps were dismantled as mines ceased operation in the Las Animas-Huerfano district beginning after World War I, Cokedale continued to thrive as a company town until 1946.
Settlers looking for precious metals were in the area as early as 1874. As the number of mining camps grew, Crested Butte thrived as a supply center, and the town was incorporated in 1880. As the gold and silver played out, the mining of nearby high quality bituminous coal supported the economy. The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company and its predecessors developed coal mines and coke ovens, making the Crested Butte area the state’s leading mountain coal operation by 1882.
The district consists of 86 contributing buildings which collectively reflect the late 19th- and early 20th century history and architecture of the downtown area. Since its founding in the early 1880s, with the arrival of the railroad, Durango grew first as a mining supply and smelter center. It soon became a focal point for agriculture and logging in southwestern Colorado.
In 1880, Durango was platted by employees of General William Jackson Palmer of the Denver Rio Grande Railroad. East 3rd Avenue, known prior to 1893 as the "Boulevard", remains a prestigious residential area located along the bluffs overlooking the downtown commercial district.
Organized in 1859, Gold Hill was one of Colorado’s earliest mining camps and remains an excellent example of the pattern of settlement and community development within the 19th century metal mining communities of Boulder County.
Established in 1875 as a supply center for the heavy mining activity in the area, people found their way to Lake City via the Saguache-San Juan Toll Road built by Enos Hotchkiss, one of the town founders.
The district encompasses a scattered collection of architecturally distinctive and historically important masonry buildings supported by numerous residential and commercial buildings that contribute to the overall appearance associated with late 19th century western mining towns.
St. Elmo owes its existence to the development of silver mining, which began in the Chalk Creek area in the 1870s. Originally platted as Forest City, its brief era of prosperity occurred during the 1880s with the coming of the Denver South Park & Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande railroads.
The Redstone Historic District is a rare, intact Colorado example of an industrial company town, with examples of buildings ranging from worker’s cottages to the large estate of the industrial magnate John Cleveland Osgood.
The town is situated at the center of the San Juan mining district. Prospecting began in the 1860s, but it was not until 1871 that the first profitable silver vein was discovered in nearby Arrastra Gulch. The late 19th and early 20th century residential and institutional buildings within the district reflect the prosperity brought about by one of Colorado’s richest mineral producing regions.
The district contains many relatively unaltered and contiguous commercial, public, fraternal and religious buildings of late 19th and early 20th century design. They form the commercial core of an important mining community that composed part of the Cripple Creek-Victor Mining District.