Georgetown's importance as a
National Historic Landmark District
In 1858, two Kentucky-born boys set out for the West. George and David Griffith arrived in the Idaho Springs area too late to stake a claim near Jackson’s discoveries, so they opted instead to follow the creek toward the Snowy Range, or the lofty continental divide. On August 1, 1859, George discovered gold at the base of the mountain that today bears the family name, Griffith Mountain. It is also believed that the brothers discovered silver, but the Griffith’s never attempted its extraction. Nevertheless, in June 1860, the Griffith Mining District was officially formed.
Quite soon afterwards, the town of Georgetown was formed, and the mining encampment began to grow immediately. From its humble beginnings as a 640-acre town site in the Kansas Territory (the Colorado Territory had not yet been formed by the U.S. Congress), the town eventually was home to thousands and thousands of people in the 1870s, 80s, and 90’s. Georgetown, Colorado was chartered on January 10, 1868 by the Colorado Territorial Legislature and operates even today under the same charter. Georgetown is the county seat for Clear Creek County.
But the town would not be known for its gold mining, but rather for its wealth of quality silver-producing mines. The Griffith’s gold mill was closed by the fall of 1862. It became brutally clear that the gold in and around Georgetown was not easily extracted and that the costs associated with mining it outweighed its worth. Placer mining of gold in the District was a failure by most standards. But the future of the town would soon be solidified by the discovery of an exceptionally rich lode of silver ore.
The Silver Queen of the Rockies would reign supreme for nearly 30 years as a commercial and industrial hub in the Rocky Mountains. Beautiful homes, churches, parks, and commercial buildings were constructed during these booming mining days; unfortunately, Georgetown would not be spared, though, from the cyclical busts that often accompany those prosperous booms. In 1893, silver mining fortunes were dealt a terrible blow when Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, placing the United States on a gold standard. Mines and mills closed, and by 1939 even the railroad was dismantled. Georgetown virtually slept until the 1950s and 1960s when it was rediscovered as a ski destination.
The historic significance of Georgetown was officially recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, in 1966 when the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District was created. Georgetown is unique in that it is one of the few Colorado mining towns that was never destroyed by fire. Consequently, more than 200 of the town's 19th-century structures, including churches, homes, lodges, fire houses, and businesses, are still standing. It is important to Colorado, the Rocky Mountain region, and the nation that our collection of Victoriana be preserved. In the words of the National Park Service, "This site possesses execptional value in commemorating and illustrating the history of the United States."
High in the Rocky Mountains, at 8,500 ft. elevation, Georgetown, Colorado is now home to about 1,100 people. The extent to which the Victorian architecture and mining heritage has been preserved in private homes, commercial structures, the surrounding viewsheds, and museums creates the feeling of a living 19th century mining town.
Historic Georgetown, Inc., a Colorado non-profit corporation, was created to initiate, encourage, and integrate efforts to preserve the rich heritage and natural viewsheds of the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District. When you plan your visit to Georgetown, be sure to contact the Historic Georgetown office for information about a guided walking tour through the quaint tree-lined streets, a ride on the narrow gauge Georgetown Loop Railroad, and a glimpse back in time when Silver was Queen.
The Hamill House Museum is the centerpiece of Historic Georgetown, Inc.'s comprehensive residential interpretation of the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District within the context of the Rocky Mountain Mining West. Built in 1867 and expanded in 1879 by wealthy silver-mining magnate William Arthur Hamill, the Hamill House Museum interprets 19th-century residential living in Georgetown, Colorado: family life, domestic architecture, furnishing, Victorian plants, landscaping, social and cultural lifestyles. Visit our beautifully restored Victorian home at 305 Argentine Street.
The Georgetown Loop Railroad brings Colorado history to life in a fun adventure that will thrill the entire family. The beauty of the rugged Rocky Mountains surrounds you as an old-time steam locomotive or one of our powerful diesel locomotives winds up the Clear Creek canyon, hauling your train past the remains of several gold and silver mines. Our fully enclosed as well as our open cars allow a breathtaking view of everything along the line. Departures are available from the Silver Plume Depot or Devil's Gate Station in Georgetown during the regular season. For more information, visit www.georgetownlooprr.com.
Historic Georgetown, Inc.
Home of the Hamill House Museum and Alpine Hose #2 Museum