Skip to main content

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 28; US Route 24 through Leadville

After leaving Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument I traveled north on Teller County Route 1 back to US Route 24 in Florissant.  My next destination was to the west on US Route 24 in Leadville.


This article serves the 28th entry in the 2016 Summer Mountain Trip series.  Part 27 covered the history of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 27; Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Leadville is the County Seat and only incorporated community of Lake County, Colorado.  Leadville is also the highest incorporated town in Colorado at 10,152 feet above sea leave.  US Route 24 westbound in Leadville utilizes; Front Street, Silver Drive, Harrison Avenue, 9th Street, and Poplar Street.


Leadville is one of most significant mining towns historically in Colorado.  The area around Leadville was settled during 1859 when placer gold was found in California Gulch.   In 1860 Oro City had been established about a mile southeast of present day Leadville.  During the 1860s Oro City exploded to a population exceeding 5,000 but it was not to last as the placer gold supplies were quickly harvested.

Placer mining in Oro City was difficult due to the heavy black sand that was endemic to the area.  Said sand by 1874 was found to contain a lead mineral known as "cerussite."  Cerussite has a high silver content and it's source was tracked back to what is now the Town Site of Leadville.  By 1877 Leadville was founded by mine operators Horace Tabor and August Meyer.  The founding of Leadville is largely cited as the beginning of the Colorado Silver Boom.  During February of 1878 Leadville incorporated as a Town.  During 1880 the Denver, South Park, and Pacific Railroad reached Leadville by way of a narrow gauge line.  By the early 1880s Leadville had exploded to a population of over 15,000 which made it one of the largest communities in Colorado.

The Silver Boom in Leadville largely declined after 1893 when the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 was repealed.  Leadville continued as an active mining community which focused more on minerals such as; gold, lead, and zinc.  Following World War II the need to for molybdenum (used to harden steel) greatly increased which led to a boom at the Climax Mine.  The Climax Mine had begun operations in 1915 and by the 1980s was the source of 75% of the world's molybdenum supply.  The Climax Mine shuttered through much of 1990s and early 2000s but has since reopened.  In recent decades the population of Leadville has stabilized to approximately 2,700.

Prior to the creation of the US Route System the main highway through Leadville was the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway which can be seen on the 1924 Rand McNally Regional Map.



Following the creation of the US Route System during November 1926 the spur US Route 40S was aligned through Leadville.  US 40S diverged from mainline US 40 in Limon and generally followed what is now US Route 24 to I-70/US 6 near Minturn.  US 40S followed the general modern alignments of I-70 and US 6 westward to a terminus in Grand Junction.  Oddly US 40S didn't loop back to mainline US 40.  US 40S can be seen co-signed with CO 4 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway through Leadville on the 1927 Rand McNally Map of Colorado.


The terminus of US 40S at US 50 in Grand Junction can be seen below.


According to USends US Route 24 was extended from Kansas City, MO west to Grand Junction, CO during 1936.  US Route 24 from Limon west to Grand Junction was a direct replacement for US 40S.  US 24 can be seen aligned through Leadville on the 1939 State Farm Insurance Map of Colorado.


Of note; US 6 was extended from Greeley, CO to Long Beach, CA during 1937 according to USends.  Interestingly the original alignment of US 6 followed current CO 91 over the 11,318 Fremont Pass to the outskirts of Leadville where it met US 24.  US 24/US 6 multiplexed west from the outskirts of Leadville to Grand Junction.  This multiplex of US 24/US 6 can also be seen on the 1939 State Farm Insurance Map.


By 1940 a new alignment for US 6 over Vail Pass had been constructed and the highway was pushed out of the Leadville Area.  This new alignment of US 6 can be seen on the 1947 Shell Highway Map of Colorado.   Oddly US 6 remained multiplexed with US 24 from Minturn west to Grand Junction.


According to USends the truncation of US 24 to Minturn was pursued by the State of Colorado and was approved by the AASHTO during 1975.  The actual truncation paperwork can be seen on the USends US Route 24 page linked above. 

Upon my arrival to Leadville US 24 on Harrison Street was closed for a BBQ Festival.  I wasn't aware Leadville had a BBQ Festival but the attraction was a welcome sight nonetheless  This photo below is from US 24 on Harrison Street approaching St. Louis Avenue.


The Tabor Opera House is located at the southeast corner of Harrison Street and St. Louis Avenue.  The Tabor Opera House was constructed in 1879 from materials hauled to Leadville via stages.  Reportedly the walls of the Tabor Opera House are 16 inches thick.



Leadville is full of masonry structures which are mostly located on Harrison Street.





The Iron Building below was built during 1893.  The name  "Iron Building" might be a reference to the decline of the silver industry and rise of other materials being mines commonly in Leadville. 



The Hotel Delaware is located at the southeast corner of Harrison Avenue and 7th Street.  The Hotel Delaware was completed during 1886 and reportedly once even hosted Doc Holiday.



The Tabor Grand Hotel is located across Harrison Avenue from the Hotel Delaware.  The Tabor Grand Hotel was also completed during 1886.



Interesting cafe name in my opinion.


Some additional interesting structures on Harrison Avenue.



Even the Leadville Police Department had a fairly ornate brick building.   The Leadville Police Department building is located at the southeast corner of Harrison Avenue and 8th Street.


The "Old Church" was dedicated during December of 1889 and is located across Harrison Avenue from the Leadville Police Department.


The Western Hardware Building at the southwest corner of Harrison Avenue and 5th Street dates to 1881.



A look south no Harrison Avenue from 4th Street.


Despite the "1879" displayed on the Silver Dollar Saloon in the Clipper Building actually dates to 1883.


Upon leaving Leadville I took a turn on CO 91 towards Fremont Pass and the Climax Mine.  From the terminus of CO 91 I took I-70/US 6 east to Dillon to spend the night.  The next morning my planned route back to Denver included crossing Loveland Pass via US 6. 

2016 Summer Mountain Trip Part 29; US Route 6 over Loveland Pass

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Smithtown Bull in Smithtown, New York

  Before I moved to Upstate New York as a young man, I grew up in the Long Island town of Smithtown during the 1980s and 1990s. The recognizable symbol of Smithtown is a bronze statue of a bull named Whisper, located at the junction of NY Route 25 and NY Route 25A near the bridge over the Nissequogue River. Why a bull, you may ask. The bull is a symbol of a legend related to the town's founding in 1665 by Richard "Bull" Smythe, with a modernized name of Richard Smith. It also so happens that there is a story behind the legend, one that involves ancient land right transfers and some modern day roads as well. So the story goes that Smythe made an agreement with a local Indian tribe where Smythe could keep whatever land he circled around in a day's time riding atop his trusty bull. Choosing the longest day of the year for his ride, he set out with his bull Whisper and went about riding around the borders of the Town of Smithtown. As legend has it, Smythe t

The Midway Palm and Pine of US Route 99

Along modern day California State Route 99 south of Avenue 11 just outside the City limits of Madera one can find the Midway Palm and Pine in the center median of the freeway.  The Midway Palm and Pine denotes the halfway point between the Mexican Border and Oregon State Line on what was US Route 99.  The Midway Palm is intended to represent Southern California whereas the Midway Pine is intended to represent Northern California.  Pictured above the Midway Palm and Pine can be seen from the northbound lanes of the California State Route 99 Freeway.   The history of the Midway Palm and Pine The true timeframe for when the Midway Palm and Pine (originally a Deadora Cedar Tree) were planted is unknown.  In fact the origin of the Midway Palm and Pine was referenced in California's Gold Episode #608 during which Huell Howser examined numerous points claimed to be the Center of California.  During Episode #608 Huell Howser interviews Caltrans employee Bob Thompson who emphasizes there wa

Erie Canal: Little Falls and Moss Island

  Little Falls, New York is a small city in the Mohawk Valley that has been shaped by the forces of water throughout its history. Nowhere in Little Falls is that more evident than at Moss Island. Representing the Industrial Age, this is home of Lock 17 the tallest lock along the Erie Canal, but there is also evidence of the Ice Age in the form of 40 foot deep glacial potholes from when there was an ancient waterfall that was even larger than Niagara Falls at this spot, once draining Glacial Lake Iroquois when other outlets (such as the St. Lawrence River) were blocked by retreating glaciers. While Little Falls does not have the amount of industry around the river and canal than it once had, checking out what Moss Island has to offer is a great way to see what the city has to offer. Visiting Moss Island allows you to experience the engineering marvel that is the Erie Canal plus the wonders of nature by taking a hike around the island and seeing the glacial potholes. A