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Georgetown (1860, 8,519 feet) has an elegance that makes it strikingly different from most raw mining settlements. Gentrification began with town founder George Griffith, who brought his wife and family to settle in “George's Town.” Other women also arrived early, encouraged, according to legend, by free town lots. They insisted on painted houses, gardens, churches, schools, an opera house, and other refinements that made Georgetown unusually genteel for a mining town.

In 1860 Griffith discovered gold near where the Griffith Mine portal still stands at the east end of 11th Street. Four years later, after discovery of the Belmont Lode, Georgetown became Colorado's first silver city and the supply town for many surrounding silver mining districts. After the 1893 silver crash, Georgetown declined and has seen little new construction since.

Whereas most mining towns squandered little, if any, land on parks, Georgetown set aside a full block, between Taos and Rose streets from 10th Street to Park Street, as City Park, with a bandstand, playground, and iron gates. Tree-lined streets and gardens mixing wild and cultivated flowers also make this town exceptional among usually bleak, functional mining communities.

Historic Georgetown, Inc., enacted one of the first and toughest local preservation ordinances. To keep development from creeping up the surrounding mountain-sides, in the 1980s the town bought out a condominium developer on the Guanella Pass Road. Since the 1970s Georgetown has lost only two of 211 nineteenth-century structures in the downtown historic district. Nearly all buildings are compatible, although the Williamsburg-like Colonial Revival post office was a blunder, sent to the wrong address.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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