Leadville Colorado Mining Class

Leadville Colorado Mining Class



Leadville Colorado mining during the Gold and Silver Boom and Bust

The Leadville Colorado class focuses on the discovery of gold and silver in the areas. The first miners  lived in a tent camp near the silver deposits in California Gulch where “gold” was discovered in 1860. At that time, Leadville was called “Slabtown”.  However, by 1880, Leadville had gas lighting, water mains, 28 miles of streets, five churches, three hospitals, six banks, and a school for 1,100 students. Many businesses sprang up and buildings were constructed with bricks hauled in by wagons. At it’s height, it boasted over 30,000 residents. 

In this class we will become acquainted with the town itself and uncover what brought people here, We will learn about the citizens themselves and understand the importance of the area to these people as well as their importance to the town, Colorado and Internationally. Many of these individuals made important discoveries, developed technologies and later embarked on, generous philanthropy as a result of their financial successes. Some were involved in local, Sate and Federal government. Finally, some were important for their engineering and architectural accomplishments. These colorful personalities were important to Leadville’s development but expanded beyond that to the present.

We will also learn more about the environment including the geology, geography, and ecology of the area.

June 25, 26 2021- $195 with 1 credit or $140 without credit

Colorado School of Mines Teacher Enhancement Program

Leadville Colorado was once named the wickedest city on earth. As of late, this high-elevation mountain town was recently named in USA TODAY's 2020 10Best Historic Small Town list.

The town was founded in 1877 by mine owners; Horace Tabor, prospector, businessman and Republican politician jointly with mining engineer, August Meyer. Meyer recognized the value of the area's lead carbonate ores, he built a smelter, developed local infrastructure, and helped organize the new city. These two men were at the heart of the Colorado Silver Boom thus the development of Leadville. It was built on a flat area of land below timberline at an altitude of 10,152 ft. which established its other nicknames of “Two Mile High City” and “City in the Clouds.

The first miners arriving here lived in a tent camp near the silver deposits in California Gulch where Abe Lee first discovered “gold” in 1860. This later became Oro City. At that time, Leadville was called "Slabtown", but when the residents petitioned for a post office the name "Leadville" was chosen. By 1880 Tabor and Meyer's new town had gas lighting, water mains and 28 miles (45 km) of streets, five churches, three hospitals, six banks, and a school for 1,100 students. Many businesses sprang up and buildings were constructed with bricks hauled in by wagons. At it’s height, it boasted over 30,000 residents. 

Some of Leadville’s most famous and notorious residents and others who passed through and made their mark included:

  • The “Unsinkable Molly Brown”
  • Horace and Baby Doe Tabor
  • August Meyer
  • Doc Holiday
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Jack Dempsey
  • David May (founder of the May Department Stores and later became Macy’s)
  • Jessie James
  • Wyatt Earp
  • The Guggenheims
  • Charles Boettcher

Another well known, popular visitor to Leadville was President Ulysses S Grant. He rode the newly-completed Denver and Rio Grande Railroad up to Leadville in1880 where he was greeted by five bands and a 100-gun salute. He gave a short speech on a platform erected in front of the Clarendon Hotel built by Tabor. President Grant was wildly popular in Colorado.

Of significance today: We can thank President Grant for passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. This gave former slaves the right to vote. He wrote: “The adoption of the 15th amendment constitutes the most important event that has occurred since the nation came to life.” He viewed it as his greatest achievement as President.

Class Itinerary:

Day one

We will meet in Leadville at 8:00 am at City On A Hill Coffee & Espresso located at 508 Harrison Ave. Here we will to go over the day’s itinerary and an overview of Leadville. 

Note: Much of Leadville’s downtown—70 square blocks surrounding Harrison Avenue—is designated a National Historic Landmark District of Victorian Architecture due to the style of building during the time the town was built. Leadville has an abundance of these original buildings still being used.

In this colorful, district, there are many buildings that were constructed between the 1870’s to 1905. A few were built later replacing buildings lost to fire and other unfortunate consequences. Included on the city walking tour is the Tabor Opera house which was the largest Opera House west of the Mississippi, The Silver Dollar Saloon (not it’s name at the time) visited by Oscar Wilde, two historic churches a Jewish Synagogue and many others.

We will begin our walking tour on Harrison Avenue and continue on to over 37 historically significant buildings built in the heyday of the Leadville “Mining Boom”. We will also allow time for short tours through some of these which include the Healy House Museum (family home of August Meyer), the Dexter Cabin, The Delaware Hotel, The Silver Dollar Saloon, and The Tabor Opera House. Online maps and information: 


3 hours

11:00 a.m. Next we will visit the U.S. National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, A Smithsonian recognized museum. Here we will see interesting exhibits ranging from a giant dinosaur track to meteorites to realistic walk-in mine replicas to incredible mineral specimens. You will be subject to a wealth of information about the minerals found in the area and mining processes developed and used here.


Lunch: You might try The Silver Llama Market & Eatery nearby at 615 Harrison Ave UNIT B

2:00 p.m. After lunch we will go to The Colorado & Southern Railroad Depot. Here we will take The LC&S train along the old Denver, South Park & Pacific and the Colorado & Southern lines to the Continental Divide. The spectacular panoramas across the Arkansas River Valley are breathtaking on this trip. We will  further learn how Mining and Railroads played a huge part in the local history.  We will be awed by spectacular views of Freemont Pass and the two tallest peaks in Colorado, Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert. All the while, hearing about the fascinating history of the railroads, ghost stories of the area, tales of the wild west, and information about this extreme but beautiful, natural environment as narrated by the conductor on board the train. 

When we arrive back in Leadville there is an opportunity to visit other locations that we did not have time for earlier if you choose.

2 1/2 hours train

7 1/2 hours total Day One

Day Two

Meet at 8:00 We will discuss the day’s agenda and talk about the different industries that cropped up in the area to support mining in addition to the mines themselves.

1/2 hour

At 8:30 a.m. We will take a driving tour of the ROUTE OF THE SILVER KINGS along the 20-square-miles of roads through the historic mining district surrounding Leadville. Most of the roads in the area are dirt yet maintained and passable by car. The Route of the Silver Kings has 14 stops, including mines, power plants, ghost towns, mining camps and smelters. We will also discover some of the people associated with them. 

1 1/2 hours

10:15 a.m. We will tour the National Fish Hatchery where they have raised fish to stock the country's inland waterways for more than 125 years. After 2000, the hatchery began to raise the greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado's endangered state fish as well as other native species. Learn about the importance in maintaining the Colorado Waterways and the native fish.

1 hour

11:15-11:40 drive to Twin Lakes 

Lunch  l hour

12:40 We will meet up at Twin Lakes where we will tour the village, described in 1885 as “the most charming summer mountain resort in Colorado”.  There is a general store, hotel, blacksmith shop, and schoolhouse from the mining days, all listed on the National Historic Register.

We will learn about proper catch and release techniques for fishing which help conserve native trout species. The resource, Colorado's fishing regulations, contains useful tips on how to release a fish and safely remove hooks. If you have a fishing license we can offer a lesson on Fly fishing, and catch and release techniques if we’re lucky! This is considered an environmentally, sustainable sport or activity. However, If you don’t have fishing license then we will visit Interlaken Resort. Considered Colorado’s most beautiful resort in the late 19th century, today, some of the resort’s buildings remain standing and are open and free to the public. Most notable is Dexter’s private cabin, which was designed to reflect his nautical interests. The resort can be accessed via boat or a short, easy hiking trail that starts at the southeastern end of the larger lake.

2 1/2 hours

Return to Leadville

3:35 p.m. We will take a bike ride or walk along part of the Mineral Belt. The trail is 11.6 miles long. The Guggenheims were one of many who made their fortune in Leadville and along this trail you can see the headframe where they struck the motherlode. Original cribbing and pools from the mining days, and unobstructed views of Colorado’s two highest peaks, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive are impressive. The route is also accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. With numerous trailheads around town to let you choose your distance, the Mineral Belt Trail is perfect for people of all ages and ability levels. Class I and II eBikes are permitted. If you are not up to biking the trail then you can hike or walk a portion of it with one of the class teachers.

Keep in mind the high altitude which will make it more challenging. (bring some snacks or food, plenty of water and sunscreen and layered clothing).