Victor, Colorado: The City of Mines

Colorado has always been a destination of interest, and for good reason. Today, tourists and outdoorsmen flood in from every corner of the world, eager for adventure. The 19th century was no different, as pioneering men and women settled in the Western Territories. Gold was a big motivator, and the California Gold Rush made men into millionaires. In 1891, Winfield Scott Stratton discovered gold in Colorado’s Pikes Peak region. The new Gold Rush was on, and the town of Victor, Colorado soon sprang up to make its mark on the state’s history.

Victor, Colorado officially became a city in 1894, around the time Frank and Harry Woods established the Gold Coin Mine. This mine would be only one of hundreds in the Cripple Creek Mining District. While nearby Cripple Creek had the reputation of a bustling gold camp, Victor was a working man’s town. Known as the “City of Mines,” Victor housed most of the labor force for the district’s 500+ gold mines, which hauled out over 21 million ounces of gold – the equivalent of over $25 billion at today’s value. While Victor flourished in the 1890s, it was not without its share of difficulties.

Victor Hotel

Victor Hotel (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The City of Mines prospered during the Colorado Gold Rush, but trying times lay ahead. In 1899, a fire swept through the city, gutting the business district. 1903 saw the Colorado Labor Wars, which resulted in a violent clash between striking miners and the Colorado National Guard. In 1917, the United States entered the Great War, and many miners enlisted, draining the work force and causing a sharp decline in mining activities. This decline proved insurmountable, and the region has yet to recover. World War II saw the end of gold mining, as it was not seen as a wartime priority. After the war, some mining resumed, but this was short lived. By 1962, every mine in the district had closed. Victor’s future seemed bleak, but the town would endure, due in part to the Cripple Creek & Victor Mining Company.

The CC&V Mining Company was a joint venture founded in 1976, in an effort to restart mining in the region. Between 1976 and 1989, 150,000 troy ounces of gold were extracted from mine tailings and two small surface deposits. This equates to over $170 million at today’s value. By 1995, the operation had expanded to two open-pit mines. Known as the Cresson Project, they tap into existing mines on Battle Mountain. Today, the mines are owned by AngloGold Ashanti, and they produced around 250,000 troy ounces in 2012.

While it kept the city afloat, the Cripple Creek & Victor Mining Company was only partly responsible for the city’s rebound. Tourism and gambling have also played a role in Victor’s survival, and the area has become the destination of locals and visitors alike. Victor is only minutes away from the historic gold camp of Cripple Creek, which survived largely due to the legalization of commercial gambling in the area. The Cripple Creek & Victor narrow-gauge railroad is a popular attraction, taking visitors back to the district’s prosperous past. At least two of the old mines have been refurbished, with one offering tours of its heavily used shafts. A local mining museum offers insight into the region’s history, and many small shops line its side streets. Though Victor has all the modern conveniences, a quick turn off onto one of Victor’s many dirt roads is enough to take you back in time.

From its glory days as a mining town to the sleepy tourist destination of today, Victor, Colorado has seen its share of intriguing events and circumstances that have shaped its tradition. The mines may be gone, as well as the gold scarce, but Victor will continue to thrive as it has since its founding. And it will forever be known as the City of Mines.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)