Leadville, CO

Leadville was a boom town founded in 1877 by miners Horace Tabor and August Meyer at the start of the Colorado Silver Boom. Mines in the area have since produced gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, and molybdenum. Like so many of the old Colorado mining towns, the current economy of Leadville relies primarily on tourism. Leadville is located on US Hwy 24 in Lake County at an elevation of 10,125 ft, which makes it the highest incorporated city in the country. Its population is around 3000. Leadville has a fairly extensive historic district, and some of the historic buildings are pictured below. To see many more, click on the link below. Also covered in this essay are the Matchless Mine, Heritage Museum, a little about the National Mining Museum, the Colorado and Southern Railroad, and the Trail of the Silver Kings. Whew! Makes for a long photo-essay.

Click to view Leadville's historic buildings as a slide show. May take a minute to load and run.

View north along Harrison Avenue

The mural to the right honors the 10th Mountain Division, the only US Army division specially trained to fight in mountainous and arctic conditions. Learn more about the 10th in the Heritage Museum section.

10th Mountain Division Mural

Leadville City Hall

Quincy Block (right) adjoining the American Bank Building (left)

Technicolor businesses

Ski Joring in Leadville

Tabor Grand Hotel

View south along Harrison Avenue

600 Block of Harrison Avenue

Matchless Mine Tour

One of the most famous mines in Colorado, the Matchless Mine in the Leadville Mining District produced millions of dollars in the early 1880s.The first silver ores on Fryer Hill were discovered in May 1878.The Matchless claim was located by Peter Starr and seven others on July 19, 1878, and was supposedly named after a popular brand of chewing tobacco. The claim was on Fryer Hill, about one and a half miles east of downtown Leadville. Horace Tabor began buying interests in the claim, eventually becoming sole owner. The rest, as they say, is history. It became the most productive mine in Colorado, having produced $1.9 million (~ $485 million today) by 1883. However, by 1885 the mine's output started declining. Tabor eventually lost his fortune through a combination of terrible business practices and extravagant lifestyle, and died broke. Tabor's second wife, Baby Doe, tried to hang on to the mine but lost it to bankruptcy in 1927. The Matchless today is part of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.

The relationship between Tabor and his two wives, Augusta and Baby Doe, the second half of the Matchless Mine story, is covered in great detail on the Matchless Mine Tour.

Welcome to the Matchless Mine

Visitor Center and Office

Powder Magazine

All about Dynamite

Entrance to the Mine Shaft

Model of the Matchless Mine

Cable Hoist

The Story of Horace and Baby Doe Tabor

Baby Doe's Cabin

Cabin Interior

Leadville Heritage Museum and Gallery

The building housing the Heritage Museum was originally Leadville's first library, funded by Andrew Carnegie and built in 1904. It became the Leadville Heritage Museum and Gallery in 1971. Since then the museum has acquired an extensive collection of Leadville artifacts and memorabilia defining Leadville's history. The museum contains mining artifacts, dioramas, Victorian furniture, an exhibit on the 10th Mountain Division, and a model replica of the famous Leadville Ice Palace.

Heritage Museum

Historic Landmark

Many local artifacts

The museum has several cute dioramas depicting various aspects of mining. Here are two.

Driving a shaft

Placer Mining with Sluice Box

Model of 1896 Ice Palace

The idea of a winter carnival centered around a giant ice palace was proposed by Edwin Senior in 1895 as a way to jumpstart Leadville's flagging economy. The Ice Palace was built to resemble a Norman castle. Construction took 36 days and used 5,000 tons of ice. The interior of the structure contained a large skating rink, two ballrooms, a curling rink, restaurant, gaming rooms, and a carousel house. The winter Crystal Carnival ran from January 1 to March 28, 1896, when the ice melted and the wooden structures were dismantled. High costs and mild weather doomed it to financial failure.

Model of 1896 Ice Palace

Gallery Drawing

How Leadville got its Name

How Leadville got its Name

The 10th Mountain Division is the only infantry unit trained to fight in the harsh weather and rugged terrain of alpine environments. Originally formed as the 10th Light Division (Alpine) in 1943, the division was redesignated the 10th Mountain Division in 1944. The unit was garrisoned at Camp Hale, about 16 miles north of Leadville on US Highway 24. The division arrived in Italy in January 1945 and immediately entered combat, fighting several engagements (Monte Belvedere, Monte Castello, and Cutigliano to name a few) in the rugged Italian mountains. After the war many members of the division used their hard earned skills to start ski resorts (Aspen and Vale come to mind) and serve as ski instructors and winter tour guides.

10th Mountain Division Exhibit

10th Mountain Division Exhibit

10th Mountain Division Exhibit

Stamp Mill (5 stamp)

A "Crib"

What the crib was used for

Headframe and Shaft Cage

Headframe and Shaft Cage Explained

Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad

Leadville has its very own railroad, the Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad. The LC&SRR traces it lineage back to the days when narrow gauge railroads carried supplies and ore to and from the many silver mines located around Leadville. Today, LC&SRR operates as a tourist railroad, carrying passengers on a 21-mile round trip through the Arkansas River Valley and San Isabel National Forest. The railroad offers specials, combining the train ride with BBQ, ziplines, rafting, wildflowers, or murder mysteries. Several seating options are available, including open and covered gondolas, coach, and lounge cars. Food, drinks, and souveniers can be purchased on the train.

I have included a link to their website for anyone interested:  Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad

Leadville, Colorado, & Southern Railroad

Restored Train Depot

Covered Gondola

Could be the Concession Car

Not sure if this is the lounge or coach car

C&S Engine No. 641

Engine No. 641 Stats

C&S Freight Depot

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

The federally chartered National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum was founded in 1987. It's the premier institution showcasing American Mining, and is nicknamed "the Smithsonian of the Rockies". The museum is located in a Victorian building that was Leadville's original high school, and is spread over five levels. There are so many cool displays and exhibits and such a wealth of information, that I've assigned it to a separate photo-essay. Click the following link to visit it.

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

Sculpture - 3rd level

Route of the Silver Kings

Discovery of placer gold in 1860 brought thousands of miners to the area around Leadville and fueled a boom in gold and silver mining. During the boom hundreds of mines and 17 smelters produced billions of dollars (at current values) worth of gold, silver, lead, copper, and iron. The Route of the Silver Kings takes you on a tour of the Leadville Mining District with its many old mines, dumps, headframes, and other mining artifacts. Click the link to drive the Route of the Silver Kings.

Route of the Silver Kings

Cribbing - A.Y. and Minnie Mine

Pump shaft headframe - A.Y. and Minnie Mine

New Mikado Mine dumps

Robert Emmett Mine

Resurrection Mine

Climax Molybdenum Mine

Time permiting, a visit to the Climax Molybdenum Mine is worthwhile. The mine is located a little over 12 miles northeast of Leadville on Colorado State Highway 91. And, it's a pretty scenic drive. Click the link to visit the Climax Mine.

Climax Molybdenum Mine

Climax Mine

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