Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Central City, Colorado

Last weekend I visited 
historic Black Hawk and Central City;
it's one of the many things I love to do in Colorado.

Our friends John and Cindy flew in from California, 
and we headed up Clear Creek Canyon
to the Ameristar in Black Hawk.

        Ameristar, Black Hawk                                               Good Friends!

Before long, we were off to see the sights!
The guys quickly tired of accompanying 
two photo-snapping history buffs
and stopped at the Bonanza to play blackjack.

Terry and John
Main Street, Central City

So Cindy and I fast-tracked it to Eureka Street
to explore some famous landmarks, 
after giving the guys some unheeded advice:

Tee-Shirt Spotted in a Window,
Central City, Colorado

To walk along Eureka Street 
in Central City, Colorado
is to travel back in time
more than one hundred years.

Eureka Street from the Steps of the
Old Gilpin County Courthouse

All the buildings that lined Eureka Street,
between the old courthouse and Main Street 
on the morning of May 21, 1874 
are still standing,
except one ~
the white wood Presbyterian Church.
It, along with much of downtown Central City,
was destroyed during the disastrous fire
that started in the Chinese quarters
mid-morning on the 21st.

As Cindy and I walked along 
this stretch of Eureka Street,
it was easy to imagine the wild and heady days
of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush.

Prospectors in "Pikes Peak" Region of Western Kansas Territory

The gold rush began in July 1858
when Colorado was part of
the Kansas Territory
and lasted until Colorado
became the Territory of Colorado in February 1861.

Colorado in Western Kansas Territory
(to left of line passing through a in Kansas and dividing 1854)

Early in July 1858, 
William Greeneberry Russell 
found the first significant gold in Colorado:
a small placer deposit 
near the mouth of Little Dry Creek 
in present-day Englewood, 
a suburb of Denver.

Russell's find was quickly followed
on May 6, 1859,
by John H. Gregory's rich discovery  
of the first Colorado vein or "lode" gold 
in Gregory's Gulch
between the future 
Black Hawk and Central City.

Some 100,000 people poured into this region
desperately seeking gold; 
a fortunate few struck riches,
especially in and around the Gregory Lode,
an area which later became known as
the Richest Square Mile on Earth.

Quartz-Sphalerite Specimen 
from the Glory Hole Mine
Central City District

The story of the gold rush frenzy
is written in the mine dumps
scarring the hills surrounding the two mining towns.

Mine Dumps on the Hills 
Between Central City and Black Hawk

Before long Cindy and I were standing in front
of a prominent landmark on Eureka Street,
the old Gilpin County Courthouse
which now functions as the
Gilpin County Administrative Center.

Old Gilpin County Courthouse
203 Eureka Street
Central City, Colorado

Lamont & Ballard built the courthouse in 1900
from a Baerrenson Brothers' design
out of Fort Collins stone and yellow brick 
for the princely sum of $30,000.
It is a beautiful example of Italianate architectural style
with its arched, triple entrance
topped by a balcony and center gable
and its symmetrical square corner towers
and three-story wings.

Up in the Gulch:  A Walking Tour Guide of Black Hawk, Central City, and Nevadaville,
by Cathleen Norman and Linda Jones,
Preservation Publishing for the Gilpin County Historical Society, Lakewood, 2005.

Outside the courthouse
Cindy and I received a wacky offer we couldn't refuse!

"Would you like to see the jail cells in the basement?"
asked a young male employee.

Would we?  Are you kidding!

Down we went into the dimly lit basement,
as Sean/Shawn/Shaun regaled us 
with stories of ghosts and poltergeists 
who haunt the courthouse basement
and shuffle chairs in the upstairs courtroom.
Many of the former cells have been removed
to provide storage room,
but enough remains to get a feel for
what it must have been like
to be locked away in a basement cell.

Inside the Gilpin County Courthouse Jail

An Inviting Cell!
Gilpin County Courthouse

Afterwards Sean/Shawn/Shaun
showed us the old courtroom upstairs.
In it hangs a beautifully restored Centennial Flag.
This flag has 38 stars, 
and it was America's national flag
from 1877 to 1890.
Each star represents a state in the USA at that time.
The thirty-eighth star stands for Colorado
which became a state on August 1, 1876.
Presidents Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and Harrison 
served under this 38-star flag.

Historic Centennial Flag
Courtroom, Gilpin County Courthouse

After Sean/Shawn/Shaun returned to work,
Cindy and I went outside to see my favorite artifact
in the Central City/Black Hawk Historic District,
the wonderful little burro 
that stands outside the old courthouse.

Courthouse Burro

This little burro represents the many burros
who worked in the mines of Black Hawk and Central City.
Sturdy, sure-footed, and trustworthy
this small beast of burden 
has a unique place in the history of Colorado.
Burros accompanied prospectors and carried their supplies
throughout the Colorado mountains,
hauled in building materials for mining camps,
pulled ore wagons in the mines, 
and packed ore along treacherous trails.

Burro Train with Ore
from the Gold Mines, Colorado

One day 
I will know the little burro's full history.

This day, 
Cindy and I learned another piece of its story
when we chanced to talk with Tom Miller,
proprietor of Bevie Sue's Emporium
and long time resident of Central City.
Tom told us that there were 
many stories about the courthouse burro, 
but his went way back and was the true one.

There were a pair of burros named Jack and Jennie
who hauled ore on Chain O Mines properties
in and around Central City.
One day, when Jack was working
in one of the company's mines,
a miner accidentally placed 
a stick of dynamite with a blasting cap
in the little burro's ore wagon.
As Jack was pulling the ore wagon,
it hit a bump and the cap detonated.

Part of me wishes I hadn't learned that.

A Burro Named Jack
Gilpin County Courthouse

Wild, wacky, wonderful Central City
never fails to deliver an interesting time!


  1. Wow, I learned more about Central City, and I've been there many times! You and Cindy sure got the grand tour.
    Love the t-shirt. Hope it didn't apply to Terry and John, lol.

    1. Hi Terry!
      I had such fun catching up on your blog yesterday. I was happy to see your beautiful horses tucked away in their stalls for our wacky spring storm! You gotta love Colorado! If I ever (and this is highly unlikely!) had a barn with an equine creature, it would have to be a burro ~ well several so they wouldn't be alone. And, one of course, would have to be Jack, and another Brighty! And a Jennie too!

      I'm glad that you were able to learn more about Central City! I'm having so much fun learning more myself! Piece by piece I'm going to master its history along with Black Hawk's. They're such fascinating places! Gold, miners, burros ~ does it get any better than that?

      Unfortunately, the tee-shirt did apply to Terry, and I'm still lol! But we had recent profitable trips to BH/CC and Vegas, so we knew the law of averages was going to get at least one of us!

      I hope you are enjoying your day!

  2. Sounds and looks like you all had a great time.

    1. Hi GT! Thank you for the kind comment! We all had a blast! Your Scavenger Hunt had my head spinning this morning! You (along with Debra) have given me a great idea for at least 26 posts! I flew through my housework this morning with visions of Aurora dancing in my head ~ and I don't mean northern lights! I hope that life is treating you well!

  3. Replies
    1. Você é sempre tão gentil, Chana!
      Seus comentários sempre me faz sorrir e sentir espetacular!
      Obrigado! Tenha um ótimo dia!

  4. Now that was a great diversion from black jack, me thinks. Love going to places like this learning about the history of an area. Sean/Shawn/Shaun must have got your attention for sure!!

    What a great trip for you and your friends and rested assured you are the bestest of hostesses.

    Poor lil burro...blown to smithereens...not fair!

    If you ever leave a comment far back in my posts, I will see it because I subscribe to my posts...thus the comment pops up for me in gmail....so yes I saw the April 10th
    comment for QDM!

    Welcome back....sorry for the trying to hunt you down through Barb....we were all concerned.


    1. I was missing Sophie, Jim, and you during my unwanted hiatus, let me tell you!
      I was amazed that you cared enough to track me down through Barb! I probably shouldn't have been surprised, because we have renewed a great friendship; but, I was certainly touched! Barb gave me a good chewing out, though, because she and the family were getting concerned! I could have just as easily been chasing deer or absorbed in organizing my "National Geographic" collection!

      We had a blast in BH/CC! I was just meeting Jon's girlfriend Cindy for the first time. Jon told me a year ago (he lives in California) that he thought Cindy and I would hit it off well! He was spot on! She, like me, is interested in writing, photography, history, and ~ as Terry calls it ~ "Woo woo stuff."

      Ghosts and poltergeists were right up our alley! S/S/S told us that a TV series called "Ghost Hunters" had been filming at the old courthouse several weeks ago. I think its the show on the Syfy Channel, so now I've got to follow it so I can possibly catch the courthouse program. Then I'll have more stories, along with some I haven't told! And I learned about Central City's 'Creepy Crawls' haunted ghost tours in October ... I hope CC hosts one again this year because it's now on my list! CC is full of ghosts! Is that fun, or what?

      I'm still laughing over the QDM cartoon. His bloodhound feels the way about dog biscuits that I feel about chocolate. I wish I could hug myself in pure joy like that ~ but my arms aren't long enough!

      Have an awesome day ~ you're all probably off on some wonderful walk! Enjoy!

  5. So good to 'see' you Louise! I was going through a slight case of 'Louise withdrawal'!
    I so love how your mind works...S/S/S. Such a forever teacher!!
    This is an amazing place to visit packed full of history and stories. I am sure your friends enjoyed the tour. Yes, poor Jack, the burro. He will be forever remembered.

    1. Hi Jim! I was suffering from Ocean Breezes withdrawal too!
      I look forward to "seeing" you, Ron, and Sophie every day!

      Thank you for the mindful comment! Sometimes Terry thinks my mind works in frustrating ways ~ that means I'm not appreciating his logical, rational, thoughtful, measured, level-headed Barbour-ness!

      To have Jack forever remembered is one of my missions in life! I can't find any details about the courthouse burro statue anywhere on-line, but I keep asking CC residents. I have a lead on another long time resident who might fill in more history on the actual statue for me. I bought a great book called "On the Backs of Burros: Bringing Civilization to Colorado" by P. David Smith and Lyn Bezek; but it doesn't mention the courthouse burro. Fun book though, with lots of darling burro pictures.

      All this has lead me to the Denver Library's on-line western history collection of photos. And I just realized that I can put links to photos that I can't publish on my site ~ Duh, am I slow or what! So now I can link to a picture of the Presbyterian church that burned down in 1874 or to a tailing pond on one of the Chain O Mines properties.

      You're right! I am a forever teacher. I can't stop myself!

      I love your Mid-Century Maniac booth! I wish you all kinds of fun and success! Have a great day!

  6. Well that was interesting. I lived in the Yukon for a long time so I am quite familiar with the history of the Yukon gold Rush. I have also heard of the California 49ers, but never have I heard about the Gold Rush you wrote about in Colorado. I'm sure there are a million stories about it so I hope you write more! That jail was terribly creepy though - If I ever visit Colorado I am very sure I will behave myself!!

    1. Hi Francie! Thank you for your kind comment ~ and yes there will be more stories! There is so much colorful history in Colorado's mining towns! The Pikes Peak Gold Rush was also referred to as the 59ers (for 1859), and its slogan was "Pikes Peak or Bust!" A lot busted! And many would be prospectors were turned back before they got to Colorado by discouraged 49ers and 59ers. That jail was creepy ~ but also cool to experience briefly! Have a great weekend!

  7. Wow, how awesome! I'm a history buff too, and Eureka Street looks fascinating. I'd be snapping pictures like crazy too (while the hubs parks himself somewhere with a book lol)!

    1. Hi B&R! How nice to hear from you! Eureka Street is just one small part of Central City and Black Hawk. There is so much to explore! I look forward to many trips back. I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!

  8. What a wonderful tour! I love Eureka Street; it really makes you feel like you're going back in time. And I'd be snapping away photos like crazy!

    1. Hi Martha! Thank you so much for your comment! There are a number of other very cool buildings on Eureka Street, and Eureka street is just one of many in Central City and Black Hawk. I'm having so much fun exploring and learning. I've taken a lot of pictures in the area and will continue to do so! I'm like you, there are so many interesting things to photograph! Have a great weekend!

  9. Hello Louise,

    What a wonderful post (inc. map!) and I loved that you got to go to the jails, there must have been a real atmosphere and weird vibes I bet (love those sorts of alternative visits - the catacombs in Paris is a must!). The burro monument was sweet and really fitting. Sounds like you all had a great weekend!


    1. Hi Ivan!
      Thank you for the great feedback!
      Yes, the jails were creepy, but in a fun way!
      One of these times I'm going to do a post about the first sheriff of Black Hawk ~ but I'm still learning more about him.

      The catacombs of Paris are definitely on my list. My niece Sara is going to study in Dijon, France next year, so maybe Terry and I will make it over while she's there, and maybe I'll finally make it to Paris. However, we're trying to get to New Delhi, India before Terry's sister and husband move back to the States, so that's at the top of the list!

      Thank you for your comments on the little burro! I just love him! Cripple Creek, which is another Colorado mining town further away, is supposed to have a herd of wild burros that hang out there in the summer, so I'm after Terry to go there one weekend.

      I hope you and Mark have a lovely weekend with sunshine and warmth! We had a blizzard last weekend!

  10. Hi Fundy it is Barb - I have been to Central City with you a number of times - and never have you shown me the little burro:( - next time I am going to insist we visit him:)

    Loved the post and glad to see you back - looking forward to Northern tales - you left my place with enough materials for dozens of posts!!!

    1. Hi Barb!

      I can't believe I haven't shown you the little burro Jack! I guess it's usually been cold when we went to Central City! For sure I will show you him next time!

      I know, I know! I've got to get going on the northern posts! My very next post will be on the north!

      Take care, Sis!

  11. WOW! What an extraordinary visit this is!
    These places are so full of history and stories, most of the time quite painful...
    Thanks for this post, I will be back longer as soon as I return!
    Cheerio, Fundy!

    1. Hi Noushka! I hope you are having fun wherever you are! Thank you for the kind words ~ and yes, many of the stories from this area are sad. I'm going to tell them bit by bit! Take care!

  12. Eureka Street just looks so amazing!!!

    1. Hi IA! Thanks for stopping by! Eureka Street is just scratching the surface of the Central City/Black Hawk Historical District. I'm looking forward to catching up on your blog ~ I've been on a longer hiatus than I anticipated. I hope all is well with you! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.