A Brief History of Lake City:
The Mining Era, 1874-1904
Mining: Processing & Infrastructure
Ore was processed in Lake City from 1876 through 1885. The Van Gieson Lixivation Works opened in 1876 at the southern edge of town. That same year, the Crooke Brothers' Concentrating Works began operating one mile south of Lake City and the settlement of Crooketown grew around it with housing for mill workers.
The Crooke Brothers' mill operated until around 1885. A lien was attached to the property for unpaid bills and the property was sold by the Hinsdale County sheriff in 1886 to satisfy creditors.
The Ocean Wave Smelting Works, opened in 1877 on the Lake Fork River at the north edge of town. From the early 1880s until 1908 it operated sporadically. Ore concentrates from the Lake City mills were hauled north by freight wagon to the railhead at Sapinero then shipped by rail to outside smelters and mills.
Colorado's 1880s silver boom bypassed Lake City. The most accessible deposits had been mined by 1881 and mining activity slumped until completion of the railroad. Writer Ernest Ingersoll in 1888 described the town's decline: "Lake City has deteriorated: not that the mines have proved false to the confidence placed in them, but because it has been shown that until cheaper and more economical methods can be used, these mines cannot be worked to the same profit which an equal investment in some neighboring 'high-grade' districts will return."*
Completed in 1889, the long-awaited rail line stimulated mining activity. Ten mines opened immediately; by the end of 1890, twenty mines were shipping ore in the Lake City quadrant. The Hotchkiss Mine re-opened as the Golden Fleece with substantial strikes in 1890 and 1891; it was worked until around 1904.
* Ernest Ingersoll, "Heart of Colorado," Cosmopolitan Magazine, New York, Cosmopolitan Magazine Co., 1888, 447.
The Grand View. Detail of a stereoview by Lake City photographer T.E. Barnhouse. From the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, New York Public Library. Click image for larger pop-up view.