A Brief History of Lake City:
The Mining Era, 1874-1904
Setting & Diversity
During 1870s, the business district developed in the 100 - 300 blocks of Silver Street and Gunnison Avenue. By 1883, the commercial district contained a dozen or so buildings constructed with locally fired brick and more than 100 woodframe, false-front buildings.
Businesses included laundries, barber shops, assayers, restaurants, saloons, and varied retail stores. Large frame hotels provided lodging for prospectors, travelers, and other newcomers.
The diversity of retail businesses in the commercial district reflected the prosperity during the 1875 - 1878 settlement. These included grocery stores, meat markets, bakeries, drugstores, jewelry stores, furniture stores, hardware stores, clothing shops, confectioneries, cigar stores, shoemakers, and stationery and book stores. Thirteen mercantile stores purveyed sundry goods especially prospectors' supplies.
Until the rail line was completed in 1889, food was shipped in by freight wagon. Food stores also were supplied by farms and ranches near town or on the Lake Fork, while beef, hay, and produce came from the Cebolla Valley, Gunnison River Valley, and San Luis Valley.
Merchants, bankers, and mine owners erected several masonry business blocks to convey Lake City's permanence and importance. Henry Finley put up an elaborate stone building in 1877 for a cost of $8,000 to house the H & A Schiffer store. The two-story Bank Block, also dating to 1877, featured dressed stone with elaborate trim; it was constructed and furnished at the cost of $22,000.
As in most mining towns, fire was an impetus for erecting more substantial buildings of stone and brick. The "Great Fire" of November 1879 destroyed the south half of the 300 block between Silver Street and Gunnison Avenue spurring the town trustees to adopt an ordinance that buildings in the business district must be of brick, stone, adobe, or other non-combustible materials.
The false-front frame buildings were replaced by the Hough Block at 300 - 304 Silver Street and Brockett Block at 301 - 303 Gunnison Avenue (no longer extant), both of brick. The Hough Block featured a cast iron storefront hauled in by freight wagon. It was expanded in 1882 with an adjacent addition of identical design.
Local businessmen also organized to construct the Armory-Opera House in 1883, built of brick with stone trim, to serve as a public auditorium and meeting hall.
Sabbath School. Detail of a stereoview card by Lake City photographer Thomas E. Barnhouse. From the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, New York Public Libary. Click on image for larger pop-up view.
Great Fire of 1879. Click on image for larger pop-up view.