Historic Places

Idaho Springs offers unique mix of historic places

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.

Idaho Springs, site of the first significant discovery of the Colorado Gold Rush, has several nationally-recognized historic places. George Jackson found gold at the confluence of Chicago Creek and Vasquez Creek on Jan. 7, 1859 and the town boomed throughout the 1860s. It reached a peak population estimated at over 12,000. The town is the terminus of the Argo Tunnel and site of the Argo Gold Mill.

Today, Idaho Springs is a popular stop along Interstate 70 for people heading to the Western Slope.

Argo Tunnel & Mill
Begun in 1893, the Argo Tunnel extends more than four miles toward Central City under an area of extensive mining. It was used to drain problematic water from overlying mines, and to provide a direct route to ship ores from the mines to the Argo Mill. The tunnel took 17 years to complete and was the worlds longest when completed in 1910. The Argo Mill dates from 1913. Primarily constructed with a steel frame surfaced with corrugated iron panels, portions of the mill rise to a height of nearly seven stories. The operation closed after a mine disaster in 1943, and the mill has been operated as a museum/tourist attraction since the late 1970s.

Bryan Hose House
Constructed in 1881, just to the east of Virginia Canyon Road, this small brick structure played an integral role in early fire fighting in Idaho Springs.

EchoLakeLodgeEcho Lake Park
Established in 1921 at the foot of Goliath Peak, the park contains an impressive Rustic style lodge (see photo) designed by prominent Denver architect J.J.B. Benedict. Two other structures, a stone pavilion and concession stand, represent the work of the Depression-Era Civilian Conservation Corps.

Hose House No. 2
The circa 1882 Hose House No. 2 on Colorado Blvd. was constructed to store the fire wagon protecting the western end of Idaho Springs.

IdahoSpringsDowntown Commercial District
The district has been the commercial center of the community since its development in the late 19th century. The district’s superb collection of Late Victorian-era structures—like the Hanchett Building, Mining Exchange and Queen Hotel—form the core of a city that is historically significant as the site of the first major discovery of placer gold in Colorado and as an important milling and supply center for the mining region which accelerated the settlement of Colorado.

Methodist Episcopal Church
This building is a good local example of the Gothic Revival style. Originally constructed in 1880, additions date from 1905. Slight variations in the brick work serve as evidence of the building’s expansion to meet the changing needs of a growing congregation.

Miner Street Bridge
Completed in 1902 by Kuyes and Work to span Clear Creek on the east side of Idaho Springs, this skewed, pin-connected, five-panel steel Pratt pony truss features wide roadways and cantilevered sidewalks. One of the oldest pony trusses in Colorado still in use, it is significant for its skewed design.

Summit Lake Park
Opened in 1924, the park straddles Mount Evans Road. As the highest park within the Denver Mountain Parks system at 12,800 feet, Summit Lake contains a stone shelter house designed by Denver architect J.J.B. Benedict and constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s.

Idaho Springs in Clear Creek County

Argo Tunnel & Mill
Location: Idaho Springs to Central City
Date Listed: National Register, January 31, 1978

Bryan Hose House
Location: Illinois and Virginia Streets
Date Listed: National Register, March 19, 1998

 Echo Lake Park
Location: Colo. Hwy. 103 and Colo. Hwy. 5
Date Listed: National Register, February 24, 1995

Hose House No. 2
Location: 600 Colorado Blvd.
Date Listed: National Register, March 19, 1998

Downtown Commercial District
Location: Center Alley, Riverside Dr., Idaho St.
Date Listed: National Register, January 5, 1984

Methodist Episcopal Church
Location: 1414 Colorado Blvd.
Date Listed: National Register, March 5, 1998

Miner Street Bridge
Location: Miner Street
Date Listed: National Register, February 4, 1985

Summit Lake Park
Location: Mt. Evans Rd.
Date Listed: National Register, February 24, 1995

Photos courtesy of Denver Public Library/Western History Collection

Originally published in the April 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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