PEAK TO PEAK
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.
While Clear Creek County’s larger towns in are home to many of its nationally recognized historic places, the smaller communities of Empire and Dumont have a few, too.
When all of the good land around Idaho Springs was all claimed, miners from Central City moved into the Empire area. In 1860 miners struck silver, the first true fissure lode discovered in Colorado. By 1861 a committee formed to define boundaries, draft laws and name local mountains and streams. Empire’s heyday was from 1861 to 1865. Many miners eventually left for Georgetown.
Empire is home to the Mint Saloon, 13 E. Park Ave. The small one-story, wood frame commercial building was constructed about 1885, and the overall appearance of what was an important local gathering placed has changed little. The establishment continued to meet the recreational and social need in this small mountain mining town until 1938, when it was converted from a saloon into a liquor store. A marijuana dispensary operates in the building today.
The Peck House, originally known as Hotel Splendide, 83 Sunny Ave., is recognized as the oldest lodging establishment in Colorado. Many notables passed through including P.T. Barnum, Ulysses S. Grant and General William Tecumseh Sherman. Members of the Peck family owned the property until 1945. The original 1862 Peck residence, a small, front gabled roof post and beam structure, is set on a rubble foundation. During 1862-63, a two-story 30-foot long addition was constructed to the east and in 1880, the addition was extended by 40 feet and a veranda was added. In 1955, a compatible addition was constructed on the west. It is now closed to the public and is a private home. Before closing last year, it was the state’s oldest lodging establishment.
Mill City was founded in 1859 but in 1880 the name was changed to Dumont in honor of Colonel John M. Dumont, a pioneer and influential mining man in the county. Dumont was once an important stage coach stop and known for ore stamping mills and smelting enterprises. In 1880, Dumont was home to around 100 people and consisted of two hotels, a general store, a school, and a firehouse.
The Dumont School, 150 County Rd. 260, was built by the local community in 1909 and served the area until 1959. The structure is a local expression of the Italian Renaissance style. The Mill Creek Valley Historical Society was established in 1981 to obtain and preserve it. The group still uses the building for special events and community gatherings.
Mill City House
The Mill City House, 247 County Rd. 308, represents a method and period of construction as a rare intact Pioneer Log building associated with Colorado’s early mining settlements. The building reflects the evolution of the early Pioneer Log cabin: constructed quickly for a mining settlement to a refined road house with clapboard covering the logs. It began as two cabins constructed during early mining in Clear Creek County, possibly for miners and their families and were likely joined in the mid-1860s.
Dumont and Empire in Clear Creek County
Location: 150 County Rd. 260
Date Listed: National Register, March 1, 1996
Mill City House
Location: 247 County Rd. 308
Date Listed: National Register, April 30, 2009
Location: 13 E. Park Ave. (U.S. 40), Empire
Date Listed: National Register, February 3, 1993
Location: 83 Sunny Ave., Empire
Date Listed: National Register, March 25, 1993
Originally published in the March issue of the MMAC Monthly
Photos courtesy of Denver Public Library/Western History Collection