Historic Silver Plume
To stroll down the dirt main street of Silver Plume is like taking a step back in time. The small Victorian houses you pass by were homes to Colorado’s earliest silver miners during the 1870s. Imagine dirt streets filled with braying mules, bustling shops, and saloons, as Italian and Cornish immigrants return home from the mines that tower above town.
Today less than 200 residents make this their year round home, but during the peak of its population, between 1885 to 1905, more than 2,000 people lived in this community. The history of the Rocky Mountain West lives in Silver Plume. From the silver mines, which gave Silver Plume its name, to the small downtown Main Street shops, Silver Plume is full of picturesque buildings and attractions that create an exciting atmosphere of history and adventure.
While in Silver Plume be sure to visit the George Rowe Museum, which was the schoolhouse and the center of activity in the community’s past. The museum is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Take a self guided walking tour of the Clifford Griffin Monument located just above Silver Plume honoring the owner of the Seven-Thirty Mine. Or perhaps you would like to visit with the merchants for afternoon tea, shop for antiques or try the local DRAM Apothecary and bread bar famously known for their specialty bitters! Oh, and don’t forget to take a ride on the historic Georgetown Loop Railroad at the Silver Plume Depot.
Historically: When silver was discovered in the area just west of Georgetown, the silver was so abundant that much of the silver lay in feather-like formations. Many consider this factor the reason for the name Silver Plume.
The town is surrounded by Republican Mountain on the north and by Mount McClellan on the south and sits at 9,114 feet above sea level. Although the town was in existence in 1870, it was not incorporated until September 21, 1880. But on election night in 1884, a fire destroyed the east end of the town. The only fire-fighting equipment available was leather buckets! So in 1885, town officials purchased a hand pumper for the city which is still used today in parades and other city celebrations.
In 1884 the town installed a water system which served until the 1980’s when it was replaced to comply with state standards. Silver Plume also had a granite quarry on the west side of the town. Granite used in the Colorado State capital was mined from Silver Plume! The peak years for Silver Plume’s population occurred from 1885 to 1905. During these years, the population of the area was around 2,000 and that included Brownville, the area just to the west of Silver Plume.
In 1895, Brownville was partially buried by a mud slide which buried seven homes but claimed no lives. Silver Plume has always been known for its celebrations – especially the Fourth of July. Band concerts, hand-drilling contests, and horse races have always been on the agenda. From 1902 until 1910 one of the best bands in the state was located in Silver Plume.
Colorado’s first ski club was formed in 1913 when J. B. Ballentine, who had spent several years in Norway, worked with one of his co-workers to supply homemade skis to all interested parties in the area. Twenty fours charter members – both male and female – created the club. By 1914, the club was hosting “ski tournaments” on a slope northwest of town. During the off-season, this group became the “theater” group and presented plays in the opera house.
In 1884, the Colorado and Southern was completed as part of the Georgetown Loop Railroad. This line extended west to Graymont. Edward Wilcox, a Methodist minister, extended the line sixteen miles in order to reach his mining interests on Mount McClellan. It passed through Waldorf, at an elevation of 11,600 feet above sea level. This line terminated at a mining tunnel filled with ice formations called the Ice Palace and was an active tourist attraction until the minister refused to run the train on Sundays. He was finally forced to sell the line in 1907 and an aerial tramway was installed to the top of Sunrise Peak on Mount McClellan. As with Georgetown, the area began to decline with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1893.