Posts Tagged ‘Colorado history’

Just in time for the holidays is my latest photo book featuring 96 pages and 140 color photos-

Abandoned Western Colorado- Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of the Rockies

Over the past year I have teamed up with Fonthill Press and Arcadia Publishing to create three books for the Abandoned Union/America Through Time Series. This is the first of my three books in the series, featuring ghost towns and mining camps of the Colorado foothills and high Rockies. My two contributions to the series will feature Southern Colorado and the San Luis Valley,  followed by the Great Plains of Northeastern Colorado.

I hope you enjoy what I’ve put together for the series and Thank You!  ~Jeff Eberle

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Available December 9, 2019 at leading bookstores and online at:

Target

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books A Million

Book Depository

Booktopia (Australia)

Prospero (Hungary)

Angus & Robertson (Australia)

Indigo

Herringbone Books (Oregon)

 

Thank You!

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Just a quick group of photos from my recent visit to Brandon, Colorado on the eastern plains. Brandon was once a stop on the Kansas & Pacific Railroad, but has faded into oblivion. Today not much remains at Brandon other than some grain storage silos, two or three occupied homes, and numerous abandoned houses, businesses, and automobiles. The red brick bank building which is dangerously close to collapsing is the highlight of the town- A concrete vault built into the foundation which once housed the safe is visible in the back corner of the building.

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The bank at Brandon

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Another view of the bank, the concrete vault can bee seen in the back of the structure

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Abandoned business in Brandon

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Some of the many junk cars scattered around the townsite

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a modern grain silo and elevator contrast with a relic home from Brandon’s glory days

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A Quonset hut whipped by the prairie winds housed an old boat

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A close look reveals a building swallowed by shrubs, the antenna tower to the left suggests this may have been a radio station at some point in time

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Another old dwelling in the town

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Where time stopped in Brandon, Colorado

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Brandon, Colorado

My last photo blog about the ghost town of Aroya, Colorado led to a number of people mentioning, relating memories, and asking about Wild Horse- Another small eastern plains town just a few miles down the road from Aroya.

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Storm clouds and high winds welcomed me to Wild Horse in mid-October 2019. The only sign of life I found in town was a American flag flapping proudly and a car parked in front of the Post Office- the only remaining business in this tiny Cheyenne County town. The majority of the remaining buildings, seen here, at Wild Horse sit on the south side of Highway 287.

I visited Wild Horse on the same trip that I visited Aroya, and found a place, much like Aroya, that has seen its best days vanish in the rear view mirror. Wild Horse stills clings to life, though just barely, straddling Highway 287 in Cheyenne County, a little over two hours southeast of Denver.

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These buildings sit on the north side of Highway 287 which runs straight through the center of Wild Horse. A school house built in 1912, and the Post Office are adjacent to these structures.

Wild Horse is a cluster of old storefronts and shops and residential dwellings. With exception of the Post Office, every business and service in Wild Horse are but a memory. A quick drive up and down the streets of Wild Horse reveal that maybe four or five people still live there, but during my visit on a blustery October afternoon, I saw no one stirring.

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The Antelope Bar at Wild Horse.

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Another Shot of the Antelope Bar.

Wild Horse was originally an outpost for the U.S. Cavalry in the late 1860s, named for a pack of wild horses a cavalry detachment guarding railroad surveyors noticed at a water hole in the area. The Kansas-Pacific Railroad set up a section house at Wild Horse to house workers while tracks were laid from Kit Carson to Denver. 

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An old storefront in Wild Horse.

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It is rumored that this  building was the Wild Horse Dance Hall in more prosperous times.

Wild Horse boomed in the early-1900s, having a number of businesses, including a lumber yard, three saloons, a pool hall, a barber shop, hardware store, the two story stone Albany Hotel, and even a newspaper “The Wild Horse Times.” Sheep and cattle ranching, as well farming, and the railroad accounted for the majority of commerce centered at Wild Horse.

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An old postcard shows an image of Wild Horse during its peak years in the early-1900s.

A huge fire in 1917, which started in one of the town’s two creameries when a wood stove toppled off its shoring burned down most of the business district, spelling the beginning of the end for Wild Horse. The depression coupled with the dust bowl epoch of the 1930s further weakened what remained of Wild Horse, then the railroad went under. Today, one hundred years on from the great fire, Wild Horse teeters on the very edge of existence.

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An image taken shortly after the great fire of 1917 which obliterated much of Wild Horse. 

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On the eastern plains of Colorado’s Cheyenne County a tiny ghost town is whipped by the relentless prairie winds. A cluster of abandoned buildings ranging from the picturesque schoolhouse, with its double-arched doorways (considered by some to be the most photogenic abandoned building in all of Colorado) to the collapsing William Smith General Merchandise store, to a handful of residential dwellings, trailers, and foundations mark the spot of Aroya.

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William Smith’s General Merchandise Store

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Fantastic wooden doors on the William Smith General Merchandise building.

 

Aroya got its start in 1866 when a Bohemian immigrant, and Civil War veteran, named Joseph O. Dostal came to Colorado to sell meat to hungry miners. Dostal picked a remote chunk of the plains 130 miles from Denver to establish his ranch. Though it has changed hands many times in the past 150 years, the ranch is still active, and still carries Dostal’s initials- The J.O.D. Ranch.

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The J.O. Dostal Ranch Crew circa 1870s or 1880s

 

Around 1870 the Kansas-Pacific Railroad reached the area near Dostal’s ranch.  A railroad construction camp grew and was named “Arroyo” being the Spanish term for “gulch.”  As the tracks were being laid, the Kansas-Pacific sent trains to the end of the line at Arroyo, and stagecoaches would bring passengers 130 miles from Denver, a three day journey at the time, to what was now christened “Arroyo City” although it was not much more than a tent camp on the line.

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A triple-engine Kansas-Pacific snow plowing team. The flat, treeless, and featureless expanses of the great high plains, coupled with high winds, and winter storms that butt up against the Rocky Mountains and double back over the plains make for enormous snowdrifts on the open prairie, some can reach 20 feet or more in depth! For a short time in the 1870s, Arroyo City was the terminus of the Kansas-Pacific.

As the tracks were laid further north and west, the terminus of the line also moved, and “Arroyo City” city faded into obscurity. Ranching and farming became the main profit making enterprises once the railroad construction boom had ended, and around the turn of the 20th Century, a small town with a general store, service station, lumber yard, hotel, and school sprang up about three miles from the old “Arroyo City” site. In honor of the old camp, this new town was named “Arroyo”, but the United States Post Office decided it should be called “Aroya” since there were already enough towns named “Arroyo” in the southwest.

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No one calls this Aroya dwelling home but rattlesnakes these days.

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This home marked the far northern end of Main Street in Aroya. A small cemetery which I was unaware of until later is apparently on a small rise just behind this house. If walls could talk…

 

The old schoolhouse, in which someone has situated an old deer mount in the window, was said to have held its last class sometime in the 1950s…or was it the 1960s?  There is no one around who remembers. Aroya became nationally famous in 1970 when a reporter from the New York Times just happened to pass through, and wrote a full-page story with photos lamenting Aroya’s demise, and how the population had just been cut in half- From two residents to only one!

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At first approach I thought I had a one-in-a-million shot of a big buck deer peering out of the schoolhouse window, then I realized it was a mount placed by someone with a sense of humor!

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A fall storm rolls into Aroya. The hand-painted metal “No Trespassing” sign was a welcome change in a world full of bright neon orange/white/black plastic signs we so often encounter.

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The double-arched doorways on each end of the Aroya schoolhouse are an architectural marvel.

Around 1980 the last permanent resident of Aroya, an eccentric artist named  Red Moreland finally moved along to the great unknown. Some of his creations, made out of the many iron relics he found scattered around the town, can still be found among the sun-scorched, blonde prairie grass, shrubs, and debris scattered about the town. His most famous creation- The Aroya Lighthouse, which was a welcome beacon to weary travelers on the “…endless waves of grain…” in the old days was moved to the Cheyenne County Museum in Kit Carson, Colorado.

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Moreland’s Service Station and the Aroya Lighthouse decades ago.

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Moreland’s Service Station. October 2019.

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Red Moreland’s home. It was built on the foundation of the old Aroya Hotel, and Red lived here until he passed away around 40 years ago. Moreland was Aroya’s last permanent resident.

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An Aroya house, consumed by trees and grasses. What appears to be a 1970s vintage Chevy Luv truck in red/white/blue paint looks like it was abandoned in the town after a joyride.

 

Aroya is a fun place to visit, if, for some reason you find yourself in this far-off seam of fabric in the quilt we call America, but beware-  Aroya is a rattlesnake paradise, and ample evidence in the form of shed skins can be found everywhere in the town. A few squatters and shady drifters who “don’t want to be found” call Aroya home from time-to-time, and they should be treated with the same caution and distance as the rattlesnakes. Luckily when I visited on a cold October day, neither were present.

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In this view you can see the impressive lineup of radio and TV antennas necessary for Red Moreland to keep in touch with the outside world from his remote hermitage on the plains.

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The sandstone remnants of a long-forgotten Aroya business. An abandoned trailer house of more modern vintage was just behind this structure and had clearly been used by a squatter recently.

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Made it out to Bonanza, Colorado and the surrounding area a few weeks ago for some ghost towning.  Here is a collection of photos I snapped.

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Just some snapshots I recently took of the old church at Antelope Springs, Colorado, and the ghost towns of Willard and Keota, Colorado. Fantastic ghost towns and abandoned buildings two hours from Denver, Colorado on the great high plains.

If you enjoyed these photos give us a like and a share with your friends!  More are on the way!

 

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Antelope Springs Church built in 1915, set on fire by arsonists in July 2019.

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Abandoned grain elevator at Willard

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Willard, Colorado

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Two shots of the Willard general store

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Main Street in Keota, Colorado

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Keota, Colorado

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Methodist Church and water tower, Keota, Colorado

 

Just got home from another mini-vacation to Victor, Colorado and was once again impressed and amazed at all of the things I found that I had missed on previous trips. Missing little details is easy to do in a town that once had a population of 12,000 around 1900, which now has about 400 residents. Whatever you do, however, DO NOT call Victor a “ghost town” I made that mistake once and only once. A week’s worth of hate mail and  subsequent explaining and apologizing, and I was back on in good graces with the locals!

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Panoramic Painting of Victor circa 1900

 

Victor has always caused me mixed emotions- On one hand it heartbreaking to see so many empty store fronts and vacant properties, I imagine how beautiful and bustling this town must have been in its heyday, when it even boasted a fancy “San Francisco” style trolley line known as the “Victor Inter-Urban Railway.” On the other hand, I love Victor as it is, and would be devastated to see the gentrification that has destroyed so much of Colorado happen here- I want Victor to retain its character, and anymore in Colorado, “character” is too often bulldozed to make way for luxury condos and coffee shops for people with no ties to Colorado and no respect for the State’s history.

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Victor in 1899, the building on the left is the Victor Hotel which still welcomes guests today

A huge amalgamation of abandoned, occupied, old and new (mostly old though) and a sense of a mining boom town suspended in time best describes Victor, Colorado, sister city of the more famous Cripple Creek, just six miles away around a mountain of mine tailings. Preservation efforts have been carried out or started on a number of the buildings around the town, and visitors can still stay in the historic Victor Hotel, comfortable, large rooms, with great views and giant arched windows are available for a very reasonable rate year-round. A couple of small cafes, The Side Door and The Mining Claim 1899, and a the Fortune Club Saloon (the Fortune Club also offers rooms) serve the needs of hungry and thirsty visitors as well as the locals, many of whom work at the nearby Newmont gold mine. A few antique and gift shops, a liquor store, and a tiny general store round out Victor’s business district. The most impressive building to be found in town (in my opinion) is the old Masonic Lodge, be sure not to miss it!

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A view looking west down Victor Avenue, the Victor Hotel is the tallest building on the right. Several blocks of largely vacant storefronts radiate out, north and south, from Victor Avenue.

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Part of the Victor business district, note the “Undertakers” advertisement

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Masonic Lodge

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A look downtown and you can imagine what it must have been like in 1900

One thing you will quickly notice about Victor are the stunning views of the rugged, snow-capped spires of the Sangre de Cristos Mountain to the southwest- The view of the Sangres can not be beat from the 4th floor rooms of the Victor Hotel.

(Click Here for Victor Hotel Website) 

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View of the Sangre de Cristos Mountains from the 4th floor rooms of the Victor Hotel

Another aspect of Victor that first-time visitors may find unusual is the large amount of wildlife that freely roam the town, deer and foxes, unconcerned with the people and cars around them. And, almost as if trained, it seems the wildlife prefers to use the painted crosswalks in town when crossing the road- I have been entertained watching this numerous times! Just a reminder though, never ever, ever, feed the wildlife, they are still wild animals, no matter how tame they might appear. Human food harms wildlife, it also causes wildlife to associate humans with food, which is bad for both us and the animals, just don’t do it. Enjoy the critters from a distance and take only photos.

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This well-behaved fox and its family are regular fixtures in downtown Victor

 

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From my hotel room window above I watched this fox use the crosswalks every time it needed to cross the streets in town, take it slow driving through, there are lots of animals roaming town!

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The deer in Victor have the same street smarts as their fox neighbors

Vintage advertising and forlorn, antique mining machinery can be found all over the town. Adding to Victor’s unique personality is the fact that mine shafts exist right in the middle of town! When you find a rich vein of ore while excavating the foundation for a building, you forget about the building and get into the mining business! One the east edge of town a colossal two-story red brick schoolhouse with an imposing flight of stairs leading to its front door dominates the view. Below the school is the “Gold Bowl” a football field built many decades ago- The entire project was paid for with gold ore excavated while leveling the playing field!

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Vintage advertising abounds in the streets of Victor

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A small fraction of the vintage mining equipment scattered about Victor

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An old tractor

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This beautiful old Buick watches over things from a ridge above town, deer tracks nearby

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The old Colorado & Midland train station in Victor

North, east, south, and west of Victor’s business district are rows of Victorian era residences. Many occupied year-round, others occupied seasonally, and plenty abandoned and forlorn. You can take one look up and down the streets and sense what a beautiful town Victor was in its prime. The people here lived a good, comfortable life, before the mines went bust.

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Trapped in time

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Remarkable woodwork on this old beauty!

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Withered beauty

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If walls could talk

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Craftsmanship which has weathered the harsh winds of time

 

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Mine tailings in the middle of a row of homes

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Once called “home” by a miner and his family

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The old Texaco at the edge of town hasn’t plugged a flat or changed oil in many years

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A  doe deer inspects the “skinny” house on the east end of town

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And a minute later….the buck deer arrived

Victor, Colorado, now only a shadow of its former glory is truly a gem to visit if you are a history buff or interested in the history of mining. Victor and Cripple Creek, Colorado were the heart of a massive gold-producing district from around 1895 to 1930s. Mining structures, debris, and abandoned and occupied homes and businesses dating to the boom years radiate out in all directions from Victor. Newmont Gold which still operates the sprawling mine nearby along with Teller County and various historic/preservation societies have teamed up to construct a series of walking paths that wind their way through many of the old mining areas, which give visitors an up close look at the structures and equipment used 100 years ago.

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Miners at the Vindicator just north of Victor, today a foot path leads you to the ruins of the mill in he background of this photo, much, much more impressive in person!

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The towering remains of the Vindicator north of Victor, a foot path I didn’t care to walk in the snow leads below for an awe-inspiring view of this enormous ghost structure

 

If you find yourself in the Colorado Springs or Canon City, Colorado area, be sure to plan a day trip to visit nearby Victor and soak up this town’s very unique atmosphere and wonderful sights!

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Locals

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A handsome fella

2019 Ghosts of Colorado Calendars Only $14.99 CLICK HERE!

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