Posts Tagged ‘Victor 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.

Vindicator Miners VLTM

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

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At first glance it is hard to believe Goldfield, Colorado once boasted a population of over 3,500 residents when the nearby Portland Mine provided ample employment opportunities around 1900.

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The Portland Mine at Goldfield in its prime around 1900

The ebb and flow of mining is a brutal life of boom and bust, in Goldfield, as in nearly every mining town and camp in the West, the ore played out that coupled with the Federal Government abandoning the gold standard, the town withered and faded away. Today, Goldfield still struggles to hang on, a handful of residents, some retired, some weekenders, some descendants of earlier miners, and a smattering of coyotes, deer, and foxes still occupy a number of homes in this boom and bust town.

 

Newmont Gold is reworking the tailings piles from yesteryear nearby, as well as carrying out new large-scale mining operations which has also brought a few folks back to town, but for the most part, Goldfield is fragile, wind-blown remnant of a forgotten era. The splintered wood and cracked cornices, peeled paint, and shifting foundations stand today as silent witnesses of grander times in Goldfield. The highlight of the town in the City Hall and fire station, built in 1899, which stands guard over the town, its weathered and flaking yellow paint an ode the gold that once brought life to this great Colorado ghost town.

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Preserved in a state of “arrested decay” in recent City Hall, built in 1899, looms over Goldfield

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Another view of the combination City Hall and Fire Station

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Goldfield’s residential streets are a combo of abandoned and occupied dwellings

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A 100-year-old miner’s shack with the Newmont property in the distance, providing work for modern-day miners who rework the tailings piles of yesterday’s mines for microscopic gold which could not be harvested with the primitive  techniques of the 19th Century. Newmont employs hundreds at decent wages, reworking the “waste rock” of 100 years ago.

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A little elbow grease and we’d have a winner!

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A seasonal home in Goldfield, boarded up for the winter

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This beautiful old Ford and the house behind still have lots of promise!

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Many years since a fire warmed the hearth of this Goldfield house

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If walls could talk

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On the south end of Goldfield is the short-lived suburb of “Hollywood” which was swallowed by Goldfield’s expansion. Hollywood was actually a suburb of nearby Victor, about a mile away in the boom days. Hollywood was soon swallowed by Goldfield when the Portland Mine boomed.

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One of Hollywood’s nicer homes

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On the north end of Goldfield sits this impressive two-story, occupied until recent years as evinced by the satellite dish. This home is where the “suburbs” or “satellite camp” of Goldfield known both as “Indpendence” and “Hull City” was located. Just south lies the Vindicator Mine.

Ghost Town Guide Books and Photography by Jeff Eberle- CLICK HERE!

 

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The Vindicator, a truly impressive structure, photos do it no justice. It is an enormous building.

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A “fancy” house at the old Indpendence/Hull City site

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Close-up of the fancy house

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Home of the mine boss and his family, occupied until the early-1950s

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Another “satellite” camp of Goldfield was Bull Hill where the hardscrabble miners lived in retired railroad cars on the windswept side of the hill.

Cripple Creek, Colorado is a fantastic town filled with legends and lore dating back to the gold rush that swept the area in the late 1800’s.  The town, like all “Wild West” towns and mining camps had it’s fair share of tragedy, violence and intrigue.  Cripple Creek even burned to the ground twice, as was rebuilt from the ashes.

Cripple Creek’s history mirrors that of so many other mining towns of the west- Boom or Bust. Good or Bad. For most of the 20th Century Cripple Creek lay dormant, nearly a ghost town, with only a few hearty folks still lingering in town, scratching at the rocks for a few specks of gold, and selling novelty bric-a-brac to tourists passing through.  More often than not the pack of wild burros that roamed the streets of Cripple Creek outnumbered the human types in town.

In the 1990’s “limited stakes gaming” was legalized in Colorado…and by “limited stakes gaming” I mean gold old fashioned gambling.  Cripple Creek latched on to the idea and was reborn through the investment of casino operators and the revenue generated by the gamblers that flocked there on the weekends.

Cripple Creek today is still enjoying it’s rebirth as gambling town, and it has also managed to keep it’s “mining camp of the west” charm. Gamblers and tourists alike flock to Cripple Creek on the weekends, and, on most sunny days the wild burros still roam the sidewalks and streets of town. If you have trouble finding them, just sniff the breeze for a minute or two and you’ll soon know where to look, there’s an old mangy looking white one that is particularly pungent, but he’s real friendly and will let you pet him.

On my last couple of visits to Cripple Creek I have been drawn to a remarkable old house, left abandoned many years ago on top of a hill just west of the business district. It is a beautiful home, even in it’s decayed and neglected state. A testimonial to the craftsmanship of yesterday. It is a sturdy log structure, two stories tall, with two neatly peaked windows on the second floor. The upper level is finished in fish scale shingling, while the lower portion of the home is rough log.  It’s hands down my favorite abandoned house in the State of Colorado.

While working with my latest batch of Cripple Creek photos, I noticed something unusual in one of the photos I took of this exceptional house-

In the doorway, there appears to be a middle-aged or elderly man, dressed in the clothes of the day (1890’s), back to the camera, with hands crossed behind him. He appears to be bald on the top, with hair around the sides and back of his head, and possibly even a long beard is present. He appears to be wearing a 3/4 length dark jacket with high collar, and he is looking slightly to the right and down, as if lost in deep thought.  His impression is clearer towards the right, and fades to the left.

I have visited and photographed  numerous ghost towns, abandoned buildings, graveyards, etc. over the years, but this is the first image of a spirit I can say I have ever captured on film.  I am a believer in the paranormal, but not a fanatic or a preacher of the paranormal- I don’t seek out ghosts and ghost stories, and I don’t try to convert others to become believers.

I have a simple philosophy- I know spirits exist, I have felt them around me in various places and at various times in my life. I leave them alone, and they leave me alone. No one can say for sure what is on the “other side” or why, perhaps, a spirit gets stuck or chooses to stay on “this side”, these questions are best left unasked and unanswered, mankind does not need to know everything.

Below is my photo of “The Old Man in the Door” at Cripple Creek, Colorado, and an enlargement.

Who he is and what he is pondering I will never know, and don’t care to know.

"The Old Man"

“The Old Man”

Closeup of "The Old Man" wih his back to the camera, hands folded behind him, dark coat with collar, looking slightly right and down with beard and balding head.

Closeup of “The Old Man” wih his back to the camera, hands folded behind him, dark coat with collar, looking slightly right and down with beard and balding head.