An Amazing Past

Old miner panning Ore bin with historic district plaque Virtually everything the world uses today in manufacturing, medicine, technology, and other products and services, originally came from the earth in one form or another. And it was the tenacious American miner of the 1800’s who first brought those ores and precious metals from the depths of rocky terrains, steep mountains, thin air and ice cold streams… enduring frigid temperatures and often times horrible working conditions… all to bring those magic rocks and ore to the planet’s surface for man’s use. Leadville’s early contributions to that endeavor are memorialized and preserved in the nationally famous National Historic District of Leadville.

Historic Harrison Avenue The Mining District Included in The District is the City of Leadville, which embraces the boom era that made it famous world-wide with its multitude of untouched historical buildings and museums. Touted across the country as the “last truly untouched mining town of the 1880’s boom period”, Leadville has successfully avoided the destruction of its priceless structures through a number of innovative preservation policies.

The outlying areas of The National Historic Mining District also offer amazing glimpses of what once was, with vast mine tailings and huge timbered gallows visible from miles away.

John Henry 'Doc' Holliday Baby Doe Tabor Horace Tabor Thousands of tenacious miners, living a wild and woolly life in Leadville during the boom era of the late 1800’s and beyond, are often forgotten when more famous (and often infamous) names of past Leadville residents and visitors are mentioned… names like Susan B. Anthony (lectured here for woman’s suffrage), John Henry “Doc” Holliday (dentist-turned-gambler who had his final shoot out here at Hyman’s Saloon), U.S. Senator Horace Tabor and his wife Baby Doe (perhaps the nation’s most famous rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags and love triangle story), the Guggenheims (famous for charitable and philanthropic endeavors), Oscar Wilde (who lectured here), Texas Jack (infamous gunslinger and member of the Wild Bill Cody show), David May (founder of the May Company which later became Macy’s/Foleys), David Boettcher, Charles Dow (founder of today’s Dow-Jones).

Tabor Opera House Silver Dollar Movie Poster John Phillips Sousa performed here at the Tabor Opera House and later Jack Dempsey boxed on the same stage... the stage which still features the trap door Houdini allegedly used during his famous disappearing act when performing here. Infamous characters like Luke Short, Tom Horn, Frank and Jessie James, Bob and Cole Younger and the Daltons passed through Leadville. Stories of Wyatt Earp shooting a marble off the piano at the famous Pastime Saloon (still in operation) are a part of what has made Leadville one of the last remaining authentic early western towns. Five presidents have visited Leadville at one time or another. Edwin G. Robinson even made a film about Leadville and the famous Tabor legacy in 1932 titled "Silver Dollar."

Map Drawing of Leadville During its peak, Leadville bragged over 30,000 residents and at one time was slated to be the capital of Colorado.

Silver Mine & Silver Bars Geologists claim the Leadville Mining District contains the largest pockets of precious ores in North America, and even with the extraction of millions and millions of dollars of precious metals and ores like zinc, silver, gold, magnesium, lead, copper and others during Leadville’s mining boom era, estimates are that only a small fraction of what is here, was actually taken during that era.

Climax Molybdenum Mine A 40+ year run was ended in the mid 1980’s when the Climax Molybdenum Mine closed down just north of present day Leadville. Employing over 3,500 during its peak years, Climax was responsible for providing almost everything in modern times that Leadville needed. Lake County bragged the lowest high school drop-out rates in the state, taking advantage of college scholarship programs offered by Climax. New schools with full facilities, as well as a thriving business district were all the products of a successful mining effort at Climax. Leadville truly was a “Climax City” during those years of its operation.

Leadville.org is part of the The Lake County Visitor Network

Visit these other great sites for more information about Leadville and all of Lake County, Colorado