Leadville, Colorado || The highest city in the U.S.

Not that kind of high.

 

Welcome to Leadville, the highest city in the United States. (It was almost called Slabtown, but better minds prevailed when they got a post office.)

Leadville is one of those old mining towns that dot the Rocky Mountains. These towns hold so much of our Colorado history (which, compared with much of the world, is barely a blip in time.) I love these towns. I love the feel of stepping into the past as you walk down their main streets, surrounded by the old brick storefronts and Victorian houses (often painted in colors that would make the Victorians proud.) These places are all so similar, and yet each has its own, distinct character. Each has its own story to tell.

Leadville was founded due to silver. A lot of silver. As in, one of the richest spots in the world at one point. Want to attract a booming population in a matter of years? Give them hope that they can become rich quick and see them flock by the thousands. (This is essentially the story of the state’s beginning.) In short order, Leadville became the second largest city in Colorado.

The Tabor Opera House, where Oscar Wilde spoke. His topic – interior design. In a mining town.

It has a colorful history. Doc Holliday once lived here, as did Margaret Brown (better known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”) Oscar Wilde came here during a lecture tour. During his visit, he was lowered into a mine, where, he later quipped, he was treated to a three-course meal (whisky, whisky, and whisky.) This is also where Horace Tabor found his fortune, and his second wife, Baby Doe, died penniless at their Matchless Mine, ever hopeful to regain all she had lost.

Burro racing during the Leadville Boom Days. Burros were a miner’s best friend during the gold rush.

Unfortunately, once the riches dry up, often so do the towns. For every town that’s held on after it’s boom days, there are many more that are nothing but ghost towns now. The ones that survive today are only because they found some new industry to tap into. Often, it’s tourism. For Leadville, mining still plays a part, and it sits on one of the more scenic routes to Aspen, but there are signs that it is struggling.

So, if you happen to find yourself by way of Colorado, perhaps take some time to get away from the city or the ski resorts, and visit one of these old mining towns. Get a glimpse of what Colorado once was like. There are many to choose from, and you may just help these small bits of the past survive awhile longer.

 

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