While were were visiting Denver, we decided to go up into the mountains to visit the old silver mining town of Georgetown. What began as a gold mining camp in 1859 evolved into a community that was widely known in the 1870s and 1880s as the Silver-Queen of the Rockies. It became a noisy, bustling town and a commercial and railroad center for the surrounding mining activities. But it was also a true community, with churches, parks, opera houses, firehouses, and white picket fences. Its residents included managers and professionals as well as miners and shopkeepers. Because of a strong and long-standing historic preservation ethic in Georgetown, many features of this earlier time, indeed the very fabric of the town, have been preserved. As a result, tours of historic Georgetown provide the visitor with an in-depth experience of life in the 19th century Rocky Mountain West.
Of course it doesn't hurt anything that Georgetown was built in a location with spectacular scenery, at the base of Guanella and Loveland Pass, and with Clear Creek running through the town.
Although we visited at a particularly beautiful moment, Georgetown has become a year-round destination for tourism beginning in the 1950s. Below the old town is a reservoir which provides boating and fishing in the summer and ice sports in the winter. The town itself has tours of the old well preserved houses, a narrow gauge railroad that used to connect Georgetown to Denver and a couple of museums. In the winter, Georgetown is less than an hour from the best ski areas and its location on I-70 makes it a popular place to stay or just to eat.
As you walk down the streets of the Georgetown, you have an eerie feeling of a moment from the past frozen in time. Georgetown was incorporated in 1868, and a few months later it wrested the county seat from nearby Idaho Springs, which is a much larger community today. The historic courthouse dates from this year. Georgetown is the only Colorado municipality that still operates under a charter from the Territory of Colorado. The building of the narrow gauge Colorado Central Railroad up the canyon from Golden in the 1870s further increased the central position of the town. Although most of the railroad was later removed, a portion remained between the town and Silver Plume remains and is operated today as a tourist railroad called the Georgetown Loop. The town experienced its greatest growth and prosperity during the Colorado silver boom of the 1880s when it rivaled Leadville to the west as the mining capital of Colorado. At one time, before the collapse of the silver boom in 1893, the town population exceeded 10,000 and a movement arose briefly among local citizens to move the state capital there from Denver. Today the population is around 1,000 people.
Life in Georgetown was not easy, it was at the fringes of the world with short summers and long winters. The men who came here were fortune hunters, thieves and scam artists. Their ambition was to hit it rich and return home. In fact many of them ended up staying and forming the extended community of Georgetown. Perhaps nothing personified the aspirations of the young town more than the Hotel de Paris of Louis Duprey. The Hotel de Paris had indoor plumbing with hot and cold water and washbasin in each room, as well as electric lighting, which replaced gas lamps in 1893. Dinners were served in the dining room on Haviland china from Limoges, France, with elegant linens and imported glassware. The menu included steaks from cattle raised on Louis' ranch in North Park (a short distance from Kremmling), delicacies such as oysters, and anchovies in olive oil imported from France.
Since its beginning as a mining camp in 1859, Georgetown has attracted those who have sought something very special. First it was the magic of gold and silver ore, now it’s the beauty and ambiance of this picturesque town surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. Georgetown is a hidden jewel in the front range of the Rockies, I hope that you can see it for yourself.
Georgetown, Colorado: http://www.georgetown-colorado.org/
Historic Georgetown Hammil House: http://www.historicgeorgetown.org/
Hotel de Paris: http://www.hoteldeparismuseum.org/