Monday, July 20, 2009

Leadville, Colorado

Leadville, situated at an altitude of 10,152 feet, is the highest incorporated city in the United States. A former silver mining camp that lies near the headwaters of the Arkansas river it is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. In the late 1880s, Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado after Denver. In 2005 the population had shrunk to about 2,700.

In 1876 miners discovered several lode silver-lead deposits in the area, Leadville was founded in 1877 and the Colorado Silver Boom was set off. By 1880 the population of Leadville was over 40,000.

In 1882 the Tabor Opera House hosted Oscar Wilde on his lecture tour of the West. Wilde toured the Matchless Silver Mine and opened their new lode: “The Oscar.”
In 1883 Doc Holliday moved to Leadville shortly after the gun fight at the O.K. Corral. On August 19, 1884, Holliday shot ex-Leadville policeman Billy Allen after Allen threatened Holliday for failing to pay a $5 debt. Despite overwhelming evidence against him, a jury found Holliday not-guilty of the shooting.

Today, Leadville survives on tourism. The residential streets are crammed with Victorian style houses and the historic district contains many of the original buildings including the Tabor Grant Hotel, The Tabor Opera House, and the Tabor House (are we seeing a pattern here?)
We, Uncle Ray, Deann, Monte and I toured the Mining Museum and Hall of Fame which was mildly interesting. I had been through it before a few years ago and it did not quite live up to my memories.

We then met up with Omar and Anne and boarded the Leadville, Colorado, and Southern Railroad for a 2.5 hour train ride along the old Denver, South Park & Pacific and Colorado and Southern lines to the Continental Divide.

As the train traveled north along the Arkansas River Valley, it rose up 1,000 feet off of the valley floor. We had some spectacular views of Freemont Pass and the two tallest peaks in Colorado, Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert. We even saw a damsel in distress on the train tracks (Deann only slightly over-acted in this role).

It was a great way to spend the afternoon with family.

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