In 1892, most of the gold was found from
placer mining, enough to sustain the burgeoning camp. Two stage lines
began to carry people to Cripple Creek from Divide and Canon City. In the winter of 1892, stock brokers began to
arrive in Cripple Creek, selling mining stocks to the excited people
of the area and around the nation.
In 1893 two big mines in the district were
discovered and developed, and with the nation’s change to the gold
standard in the same year, thousands of silver miners were thrown out of
work, flocking to Cripple Creek.
The deeper the mines were developed, the richer the veins
became. Some of these deep developed mines were three to six miles
away and soon the camp of
Victor sprang up with many of the miners moving closer to work. However, by
this time Cripple
Creek was well enough established that it had little impact on
the growing community.
Like most booming gold camps, Cripple
Creek wasted no time establishing dozens of businesses, including a
saloons and brothels. At first the houses of "ill-repute” were
located near the many
along Bennett Avenue, the main street of the settlement. However, to
keep the peace between the business establishment and the "ladies,”
Marshal Wilson moved the "girls” and their establishments one block south
to Myers Avenue, which soon became known as the Red Light District.
Myers Avenue was known as one of the liveliest
streets in the
Old West. The phrase "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" was coined on
this street filled with parlour houses, "cribs,” dance halls and
false-front saloons. Businesses on the "Row” never closed, operating
twenty-four hours a day providing entertainment to the many free-spending
Vere, the most famous madam of Cripple Creek arrived in the Boom Camp in 1893. Soon, she would build the
most opulent Gentlemen’s Parlor in the
West. Humorously called the "Old Homestead;" Pearl's
going rate was $250 a night, at a time when $3 a day was considered a good
wage for a miner. When she died several years later, her funeral was
the biggest that Cripple Creek had ever seen.
1894 two railroads were racing to the city – the Midland Terminal from
Divide and the Cripple Creek railroad from Canon City. The Cripple Creek railroad finished first arriving with its first steam engine
into the camp on July 2, 1894, to a great celebration of Cripple Creek's citizens.
Terminal arrived in Cripple Creek in December, 1895 traveling up the Ute Pass from Colorado Springs. The
railroad continued to service Cripple Creek for over a half of a century.
By 1896, the city boasted a population of
10,000 residents and on January 21, 1896, the Cripple Creek Stock Exchange was opened. The National Hotel, the largest
and tallest structure was completed in February, 1896, complete with
Turkish baths, an elevator and its own electric light plant. It
contained 150 rooms, 40 suites, and a restaurant with fine cuisine.
April 25, 1896 a fire wiped out nearly half of the city. Started
in one of the many brothels, a dancehall girl named Jennie Larue, got
into an argument with her lover and while quarreling, accidentally
upset a gasoline stove. The wooden frame buildings of the camp
quickly ignited and spread from one building to the next. Buildings in the fire’s path were blown up in an effort to stop the
approaching flames. The fire departments of Victor, Florence, Colorado Springs and Denver
dashed to the city’s aid but there was little that could be done.
Four days later, half of the city lay in
smoldering ruins, when a second fire alarm went off. This fire
began in the Portland Hotel on Myers Avenue and was believed to have
been deliberately set because other fires were discovered
simultaneously in other parts of the city. In this second fire,
eight blocks of buildings were consumed, six lives were lost and
nearly four thousand residents were left homeless. When it was
all said and done, less than ten buildings were left to mark the site
of the city. The firebugs who were suspected of setting the
second fire were lynched and Cripple Creek began to rebuild. Within just a few months, modern
businesses built of brick or stone rose on the foundations of the
Having survived the fire,
the city continued to prosper and the Butte Opera House was remodeled,
giving culture to the city in October, 1897.
By 1898 the mines were yielding greater
amounts of valuable ore and production jumped to some 16 million dollars. By 1899, gold production had reached 21 million dollars and
Cripple Creek was named the County Seat. By this time there were as many
people on the streets at 3:00 am than 3:00 pm and the camp supported 75
restaurants, four department stores, a business college, 40 stock brokers
and 72 lawyers.
By 1900 gold production had reached some 23
million and over 500 mines were operating in the area. The Cripple
Creek Times reported that the Mining District had grown to 55,000
citizens. Of those residents, Cripple Creek boasted 35,000.
Victor, on the south end of the District was
home to 5,000. Another 11 towns with populations of a few hundred to over
2000 were scattered around the District.
On Sunday morning,
hundreds of people crowded Cripple Creek's 16 churches. The Teller County School System was one of
the best in the country. At the time 3,849 students were enrolled in the
District’s 19 schools, and 118 teachers were employed in Cripple Creek and
Soon, however, the gold
would begin to play out and by 1920 there were only about 40 mines
operating and production had been reduced to four million dollars. The 1930s saw a brief revival of mining, but this, too, waned and by 1945
there were less than 20 mines operating with only about one million
dollars in gold produced each year.
Determined not to become
a ghost town,
the citizens of
Cripple Creek began to promote its rich history to potential tourists. The Imperial Hotel began showing melodramas in the Gold Bar Room Theatre
in the 1940s. In 1953 the Cripple Creek District Museum
opened in the old Midland Terminal depot. In 1967 the Cripple Creek Narrow Gauge railroad began operation.
However, by the
1980s tourism began to drop in
Cripple Creek and other historic towns of
Colorado. As a result, Colorado passed a law to authorize limited
stakes gambling in
Central City and Blackhawk, saving these old towns from total
Today Cripple Creek offers a wide array of events and attractions for the
vacationing visitor including summer celebrations, art shows, fall aspen
tours, rodeos, symphony performances and craft shows. Old mine
shafts, head frames and cabins still dot the landscape in the high country
behind Pikes Peak where driving tours and hiking of the area abound. The
biggest event in Cripple Creek
event is Donkey Derby Days, always held the last full weekend of June.
holds Gold Rush Days every year, during the third weekend of July.
Though still labeled a
"ghost town", because it's not
nearly as large as it once was and has
lost its former mining status, it remains the county seat of Teller
County. It is called home to almost 1,200 people. The Cripple Creek Historic District, which received
National Historic Landmark status in 1961, includes part or all of city
and includes surrounding area. Cripple Creek
is 48 miles from Colorado
via U.S. Highway 24 and Colorado
67. Shuttle services are available from
and Pueblo as well as local shuttles servicing Cripple Creek