Historic Georgetown, Colorado: A Famous Silver Mining Town
Once called the "Silver Queen of the Rockies" this historic silver mining town initially became known because of the discovery of gold. While those gold mines caused lots of excitement and lured many miners to that locale, they did not yield much. The silver that was subsequently discovered was what really put Georgetown, Colorado on the map!
Located only 45 minutes from Denver, this is a town that can definitely take one back to those historic mining days of the mid to late 1800s and see how the relatively affluent miners liked to house and entertain their families. Many of the buildings are authentic to that era, and the scenery is superb!
My mother and I were enjoying an 11-day vacation in Colorado and were trying to experience as much as we could in that period of time. Georgetown turned out to be one of our favorite destinations.
We had already explored parts of the State of Colorado starting in Colorado Springs and heading on up to Denver and then Estes Park and afterward circling down to Grand Lake with other outings along the way like our day trip to Loveland.
There are many old mining towns in Colorado, but Georgetown particularly drew our interest. At one point in time during the silver boon times of the 1880s, Georgetown rivaled the well-known town of Leadville as being the reputed mining capital of Colorado.
History of Georgetown, Colorado
The town's name originated from one of the Kansas born brothers, George and David Griffith, who first discovered gold there in 1859. Georgetown was named after the older brother, George.
Georgetown was officially established during the time of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush days in 1859 and became the county seat of Clear Creek County in Colorado. The town was situated north to south along Clear Creek between the rising mountains and sits at an elevation of 8,500 feet above sea level.
Pikes Peak Gold Rush Era
As westward expansion was taking place all across America, the lure of gold (and then, silver) drew many people hoping to "strike it rich." While most folks did not ultimately succeed, many at least eked out a living. Those who were more successful brought their families and tried to establish comfortable surroundings.
In Georgetown, during the 1870s, there were about 3,000 residents living there with ever increasing numbers joining them. The successful miners were building churches, shops, a schoolhouse and even an opera house. The buildings still standing today are a testament to their mining success and luring other types of merchants into their growing community servicing many of their needs and desires of the time.
Colorado Central Railroad
By 1877, the railroad linked Denver and beyond to Georgetown transporting not only the ore from the mines but people back and forth as well. Other innovations included long distance telephone lines being installed in 1879. That was amazing in that it had only been introduced into cities like Philadelphia three years earlier!
Georgetown was not only a thriving town but at one point was second to the population in Denver according to one report that I read. Today tourists can take a short train ride into the mining country of Colorado in this region and enjoy not only the stunning scenery but also understand a bit of our history.
Boom to Bust
When the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed by Congress in 1893, silver prices plummeted. The population of thousands of people living in Georgetown dwindled to several hundred, and Georgetown almost became a ghost town.
Hotel de Paris
In its heyday, businesses like the Hotel de Paris thrived. Apparently, the finest of French foods and wines were poured. Today it has been turned into a museum.
The businesses in Georgetown were quite opulent for the day and time especially considering that this was, in essence, a western mining town!
Several movies have been produced using Georgetown as a setting. In 1978, Clint Eastwood starred in the movie Every Which Way But Loose. Another movie was the 1998 film titled "Phantoms." Ben Affleck, Peter O'Toole, and others starred in it, and several of the buildings in Georgetown were featured, specifically the Post Office and the Hotel de Paris. The charming movie, "The Christmas Gift" was also filmed here in 1986 and starred John Denver.
In addition to strolling the streets of Georgetown, my mother and I also enjoyed seeing some of the surrounding countryside. Wildflowers were in bloom and dotted the fields with vibrant colors. The air was crisp and enjoyable, which was a real treat for us escaping some of Houston's July heat.
Georgetown Lake is adjacent to the town enabling aquatic entertainment. We saw several people fishing the day we were there.
Thankfully this old mining town did not suffer the fate of becoming a ghost town, although in the 1930s only a few hundred people still lived here.
In the 1950s and beyond, a resurgence of interest in preserving historic sites like this has occurred and Georgetown's proximity to Denver is once again luring visitors to its location.
There is a less crowded ski area nearby, and lovers of wine can sip vintages while on that historic train ride into the mountains.
Lodgings are available, so whether one makes it an enjoyable day trip or has plans to stay for a longer period of time, Georgetown can accommodate one's wishes.
Map showing Georgetown's proximity to Denver
All in all, the time that my mother and I spent in and around Georgetown, Colorado was an enjoyable part of our vacation. We learned a little bit about the history of this famous silver mining town and I got to take pictures of this resplendent site.
Have you ever visited Georgetown, Colorado?
Look how some use Georgetown Lake in the Winter!
© 2010 Peggy Woods