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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The Silver Boom in Leadville largely declined after 1893 when the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 was repealed.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

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