The county seat (1859, 8,496 feet) sparkled as the first hub of the Rocky Mountain gold rush and Colorado Territory's most populous city during the 1860s. Within weeks after John Gregory's 1859 strike, canvas, slab, and hewn pine shacks climbed the rocky hillsides like stairs. Locals joked that “a fella can't spit tobaccy juice out his front door without putting out the fire in his neighbor's chimney.” Nevertheless, it was fire that erased much of the ephemeral pioneer town in 1874. Many downtown commercial buildings were quickly rebuilt and still wear the date 1874. Reconstructed with brick and native rock, the business district survives largely intact. Central City's population, which peaked in 1900 at 3,114 and hit a rock bottom of 226 in 1970, had bounced back to 335 by 1990.
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