Nestled in a valley among some of the most spectacular peaks in the Colorado Rockies, a small mining town of about a thousand residents breathe the thin air at around 8500 feet (2591 m) above ground level. Tucked along U.S. Highway 6, now more popularly known as Interstate-70, I could have easily missed it if it weren’t my destination.
Georgetown is about an hour out of our way to Albuquerque for this year’s family reunion, however the side trip was well worth the time, especially since we planned to spend parts of two days in the area, and as a bonus, we learned that the drive from there to Albuquerque would be much more scenic than our usual jaunt down I-25. Before going through Denver, I asked a photographer friend who lives near Littleton, Colorado about interesting places to feature in the Denver area. Without hesitation, he mentioned the Georgetown Loop Railroad. What he didn’t mention is that the town itself is worth a stop. In an upcoming Travel Tuesday, we will journey on Old 111, an authentic narrow-gauge steam powered train on a short excursion into the surrounding mountains. But I will save that story until then.
Many of the buildings in the town were built in the mid- to late 1800s, and they are the attraction. Prospectors looking for gold found instead another less precious metal, silver. and by the 1860s, mining turned from a prospecting mode to a production mode. The mountains, it seems, contained an inexhaustible supply of the shiny metal.
From early mining camps, a town was born. Georgetown was named after George Griffith who, with his brother David and others, claimed a homestead ranch after the discovery of a small amount of gold. With the discovery of silver, the town grew as any boomtown does. First came the miners, then everyone else followed. Soon after, they built churches, a school, and other signs of civilized city life in the 1860s.
The Hotel De Paris is now a museum, open daily. As we walked across the street, I noticed they were about ready to open and someone began raising the flags. I wanted to capture the raising of the flag and as I stood there waiting for the guy to hook the flags to the rope, a car pulled up and stopped just outside the photo on the right. Where the car stopped, was a driveway. The lady in the car saw I wanted a photo and was waiting to drive into one of the empty spaces in front of the hotel.
It took the guy quite a while to get the two flags hooked up and I stood there at the ready. Still the lady waited patiently. At first I thought maybe she was there to pick someone up, like maybe the guy raising the flag? Finally the flags started to rise and I snapped the picture. As soon as I put my camera down, the lady pulled in front of the hotel and parked. I walked over to thank her and apologized for taking so long as I was waiting to capture the flag raising. She hadn’t realized that’s what I was waiting for, and commented she thought it sure was taking me a long time to take a photo of the hotel.
Alpine Hose Number 2 was Georgetown’s fire station and the large tower was a fire watchtower in those early days. Now a Firefighter’s Museum, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. In the tower, a large bell rings on the hour and half-hour. The fully restored building opened as a museum in 2013, Among other items, the museum features a hook and ladder truck and an interpretive display of the history of firefighting in Georgetown.
I could go on describing many more of the historic buildings in Georgetown, but it’s getting late. Our scheduled appointment with Old 111 is only a few minutes away. It’s time we got to the train station. I leave you with a gallery of images captured that morning at Georgetown. In most browsers, if you click on one of the images, you will enlarge it and you can then scroll through the gallery. When you decide to take a ride on the railroad, stop in Georgetown and walk the downtown area. It is truly an interesting and historic Rocky Mountain hamlet.