Historic Places

Silver Plume historic sites highlight mining, transportation

The Silver Plume Depot—part of a collection of buildings abandoned by Colorado & Southern Railroad—as it looked in 1941 prior to restoration and historic protection.
Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library/Western History Collection

Colorado’s rich history is being preserved through the efforts of locally- and nationally-designated historic places. Each month this year, the MMAC Monthly takes a region-by-region look at the many properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the mountain communities in Clear Creek, Gilpin, Boulder and Larimer counties.

The passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 established the National Register and the process for adding properties to it. For a property to be eligible, it must meet at least one of four main criteria involving architectural styles, association with various aspects of social history and commerce, ownership and design/construction.

Silver Plume, in western Clear Creek County, is included in its entirety on the register as part of the Georgetown/Silver Plume National Historic District. It is also home to the 1884 Silver Plume Depot and nearby Lebanon and Everett mines.

Before a larger strike in Leadville in 1878, the Silver Plume and Georgetown Mining District was the most important silver camps in Colorado. The initial boom period dates from the discovery of gold by George and David Griffith in 1859. The Georgetown portion of the district includes a variety of substantial late-Victorian buildings while Silver Plume developed as the work center where the ore, as well as the wealth, was mined. The surviving buildings in Silver Plume tend to be simple wood-frame structures. The reconstructed Georgetown Loop Railroad is also located in the district.

The Silver Plume Depot as it looks today

In Silver Plume, the restored 1884 Silver Plume Depot offers a free slide show and exhibits on the history of the railroad, as well as steam engines and cars on view in the adjacent railyard. The depot served as the western terminus of the Colorado Central Railroad route from Denver to the Clear Creek mining region. Located at the upper end of the famous Georgetown Loop, the depot originally served miners and their families, then an increasing number of tourists who came to admire the engineering and scenic qualities of the loop passage. The Colorado & Southern Railway abandoned the loop and the depot in 1939, but both again operate as part of History Colorado’s Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park interpretive complex.

The Lebanon Tunnel, which can be toured as part of the hour-long train ride on the Georgetown Loop was driven into Republican Mountain by the Lebanon Mining company in 1870. The Everett Tunnel’s origin is unknown, but the mine was in operation through the mid-1880s. If you take the hour-long train ride, there’s an opportunity to stop and tour the Lebanon Mine with a guide who will explain the history of the area and mining techniques once used there.

The town of Silver Plume, located at Interstate 70 Exit 226, has a very rich history that can be explored further at the George Rowe Museum, which is in the town’s original school house, driving the historic streets or hiking on the 7:30 Mine Trail, which provides a view of the Silver Plume valley and the historic town at its base.

Georgetown-Silver Plume Historic District
Location: Off I-70 at Silver Plume and Georgetown, includes the entire commercial and residential areas of both communities, as well as the railroad grade connecting them.
Date Listed: National Register & National Historic Landmark, Nov. 13, 1966

1884 Silver Plume Depot
Location: 825 Railroad Ave., Silver Plume, CO
Date Listed: National Register, May 6, 1971

Lebanon and Everett Mine Tunnels
Location: Adjacent to I-70, northeast of Silver Plume
Date Listed: National Register, Oct. 7, 1971

Originally published in the January 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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