Leadville, Colorado, one of the highest incoporated cities in the world at 10.152 feet elevation, and the Silver Queen of Colorado actually began life as a gold camp in 1859 when 49ers from California found rich deposits of gold and named the spot, appropriately, “California Gulch”.  By 1860, California Gulch had morphed into “Oro City” and mining was hot an heavy for the next few years. When the gold deposits played out, Oro City declined, but in the 1870s massive deposits of silver-bearing lead and galena ore were discovered. Silver was more complex than gold, and rarely appeared in a “pure” form like placer gold in river and creek beds- Silver ore required processing to extract the precious metals contained within.

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Stringtown, just a mile southwest of Leadville proper, was born to handle the processing of ore from the booming Leadville-area silver mines which radiated outine every direction for miles. a massive smelter was built at Stringtown, and crude worker housing- Usually primitive log cabins and clapboard shacks sprang up around the smelter property. Railroad lines intersected the smelter site from the east, north, and south.

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Workshop at Stringtown smelter: Correction, a viewer informed me this is the old Leadville Train Depot which has been moved to the smelter site at Stringtown.

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Stringtown was the largest of  Leadville’s three ” smelter suburbs” which included Little Chicago, and Malta. These wre the places the poorer families lived and died during the silver boom of the 1870s-1890s. When the silver market crashed in 1893, Leadville’s suburbs suffered and many families were left destitute. Malta faded away almost completely. Centrally located Little Chicago was swallowed up by Stringtown and Leadville. Stringtown hasmanaged to hang on until today, a collection of abandoned and occupied dwellings, now considered part of Leadville.

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Colorful dweiiling at Stringtown

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The legacy of Stringtown is mountians of ingots of black slag, the byprodcut of the smelting process, which dominate the landscape today. Colorado’s Highway 24 which connects Leadville and Buena Vista passes right through the heart of Stringtown, and tourists pack a popular gas station-convenience store-sporting goods shop across Highway 24 from the old Malta schoolhouse every summer weekend.

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Malta schoolhouse, just a mile beyond Stringtown

A few years ago, by random chance,  I met a retired body guard for the late-Ross Perot, former Presidential candidate and eccentric Texas billionaire- In the sahdows of Stringtown he scrolled through his phone showing me candid photos of Perot and telling tall tales of his days as a bodyguard.

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Malta

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Crystal Lakes schoolhouse near Stringtown

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Crystal Lakes schoolhouse

 

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Comments
  1. marylou1950 says:

    The building you have listed as a workshop at the Stringtown Smelter is the Denver and Rio Grande train station, moved from its location in Leadville.

    • J.D. Eberle says:

      Excellent! Thank You for the information, I thought it looked like an old depot, but wasn’t sure. I will correct that.

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