Clear Creek County: A Rich History
While on your Colorado vacation of camping, biking and hiking Colorado trails, white water rafting and skiing don’t forget to check out the historical sites. Self-guided tour booklets are available at both the Visitor Center in Idaho Springs, and the Visitor Center in Georgetown.
Clear Creek County HistoryClear Creek County was created as a direct result of George Andrew Jackson’s discovery of gold on January 7, 1859. Although he attempted to keep the discovery a secret, it only lasted until April of 1859, when the current location of Idaho Springs was inundated with its first group of miners. But the first settlement was actually two miles above Idahoe and was named Spanish Bar, due to the evidence of earlier mining by the Spanish Conquistadors.
Clear Creek is a diverse county, with 86% of the land national forest. It is one of the seventeen original counties and one of the three left in the state with its original boundaries. Mining districts were founded creating their laws and civil government in order to protect their claims from claim jumpers, thieves, murderers, and all other unlawful acts.
On November 1, 1861 the territorial Legislature of Colorado subdivided the territory into seventeen counties and Idahoe was named the county seat in the legislative act of establishment. Colorado governor Gilpin appointed the first three county commissioners to organize the civil government of Clear Creek County. In NovemHorse Team Silver Plumeber of 1861, the commissioners meet and divided the county into seven voting precincts. The first county election resulted in elections for a sheriff, clerk and recorder, treasurer, assessor, county attorney, superintendent of schools, and a probate judge.
As more and more miners moved into the county, the prospecting moved west following Clear Creek which runs most of the length of the county. Founded Georgetown while John Dumont settled in the Mill City area (now Dumont). When Mill City was built in 1860 all the homes were, naturally, log cabins. In 1860, the settlement was renamed Dumont, in honor of the founder, John M. Dumont. Shortly after, Dumont was awarded their first post office.
Further west the Griffith brothers, David and George, were instrumental in settling Georgetown where they discovered the rich silver veins. In 1867, the Colorado Legislature called a special election and the county seat was moved from Idaho Springs to Georgetown. Georgetown was incorporated in 1885 and established their post office in 1866.
Today Clear Creek County is one of the best kept secrets in Colorado. Whether you are planning a one day visit or a complete vacation, Clear Creek County will not disappoint. Remember – we are nearby and near perfect!
Historic Clear Creek County
The Hammill House
305 Argentine Street, Georgetown
Contact Historic Georgetown
A wealthy mining entrepreneur’s home – Construction Date: 1867-1879 – The Hamill House Museum is the centerpiece of Historic Georgetown, Inc.’s comprehensive residential interpretation of the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic Landmark District (designated 1966) within the context of the Rocky Mountain Mining West. The Hamill House Museum interprets 19th century residential living in Georgetown, Colorado: including architecture, furnishing, Victorian plants, landscaping, social and cultural lifestyles. Small Fee.
Georgetown Energy Museum
600 Griffith Street, Georgetown
The Georgetown Energy Museum is located in a fully functional hydroelectric plant which has been in operation since 1900. The museum is owned and operated by Xcel Energy and has a display of exhibits and photographs and early household appliances all related to the early use of electricity in the area. Call or visit the website for the current opening days and hours. Admission is free, donations are accepted.
Exhibits include hose carts, a hand pulled hook and ladder wagon, memorabilia, and the tower with hose drying racks and a fire alarm system utilizing a telegraph device to activate the bell. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Small Fee.
Louis Dupuy’s legendary Hotel de Paris dates back to the silver mining boom. "Famous the wide world over,” the hotel served as a first-class French restaurant, a showroom for traveling salesmen, and a luxurious accommodation during the opulent Gilded Age.
Today, Hotel de Paris Museum is a National Register of Historic Places listing that offers docent-led tours through 7,000 square feet of period rooms furnished with 5,000 objects original to the site. Hotel de Paris Museum, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is owned and operated by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Colorado. Small Fee.
Professional and mine owner’s home – Construction Date: 1892 - The Bowman-White House reflects the upper class and professional people of early Georgetown. The Italianate structure is accented with Queen Anne details and at the time of construction, contained over 2400 square feet of living space.
After its closing as the Silver Plume School in 1959, town mayor George Rowe purchased the five-room school and converted it into a museum in 1960. Thirty-five years later, People for Silver Plume, Inc., matched $50,000 from the SHF to restore the exterior masonry and portals, install an alarm system, update the electrical system, install a water tap, clean and repair chimneys, and repair interior water damage. The museum is open during the summer months, beginning Memorial Day Weekend from10 am – 4 pm. Donations requested.
The Heritage Museum exhibits a number of artifacts from the 1860s to the 1940s that tell the story of George A. Jackson’s discovery of gold in 1859 and the resulting rush that transformed the valley. The museum is full of unique exhibits of our mining history, early life, and the important role it played in establishing not only Idaho Springs, but the state of Colorado itself.
A glimpse at Life in the Early 1900s. Dr. James Underhill came to Idaho Springs in 1897 and was a prominent Colorado surveyor and mining engineer.
Underhill was a Harvard graduate who wrote a number of books on surveying. He surveyed many of the city plots and mines in and around Idaho Springs. He was also a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, and it is worth noting that he was the first person in Colorado to earn his doctorate in geology.
Contemporary View of the still operable waterwheel – On holidays, the waterwheel is decorated to celebrate our mining history. It is maintained by volunteers and is one of several historic properties protected by the City and the Historical Society of Idaho Springs.
The Water wheel was built in 1893 by gold miner Charlie Tayler. Charlie was quite a local character and attributed his longevity to the fact that he never bathed or kissed women. The water wheel was moved from its original site (a 19th century gold mining “stamp mill”) to its present location in 1948. It was restored in 1988.
The Charlie Tayler Water Wheel is located at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, on the south side of I-70 as you pass through Idaho Springs. Charlie Tayler Water Wheel viewing can be accessed from the parking lot behind Idaho Springs City Hall, 17th Avenue and Miner Street, or down the bike path from the Clear Creek Ranger Station.
The Central Hose House, circa 1912, was renovated and restored in 2009 in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the major Colorado gold discovery in Idaho Springs. The Central Hose House was dedicated on June 12, 2010 on Firefighter Day. Exhibits include hose carts, a hand pulled hook and ladder wagon, memorabilia, and the tower with hose drying racks and a fire alarm system utilizing a telegraph device to activate the bell.