VICTOR EXPEDITION 1: THE INDEPENDENCE MINE

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“For weeks and months I’ve read about
The Independence Mine.
The wonders of its treasure vaults
The walls with gold that shine…” 

– Anonymous ¹

This is the first section of a field report on places of interest near the town of Victor, Colorado. Today we cover one of the largest abandoned structures the Bureau has ever encountered: the Independence Mine.

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This building is so big that from a distance I thought it looked more like a church steeple than a mining tower. It still feels immense today, but imagine what it must’ve looked like through the eyes of someone seeing it when it was built in 1891 (when the tallest building in the United States had 20 floors!).

The Independence Mine has a history of producing extraordinary wealth but has also experienced many disturbing events. In 1904 an elevator failure caused fifteen miners to die falling down the 1500 ft. mine shaft, and a while later thirteen miners were killed in a bombing during the Colorado Labor Wars.

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Beside the main structure is an ore-sorting machine.

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I love the meticulous network of supports that makes up this structure. There are so many hundred-foot beams, tiny struts, wooden chutes and metal plates, intricate works of geometry that keep the colossus standing. It’s definitely one of the grandest pieces of mining history that the Bureau has encountered.

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¹: Full poem (at bottom of page) and further information about Victor, CO here.

GHOSTS OF INDUSTRY

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Rising over the suburbs of the modern world is a looming remnant of the Machine Age.

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A few months back, there was a little slope and an entryway which led inside the smokestack itself. When I returned, I was surprised to find that the passage had vanished- a smooth floor of dirt covered where the entrance used to be. Unfortunately the only picture I got of the interior when I first visited is this, which doesn’t show much.

It was a very interesting space to be inside of. The base was ~15 ft. in diameter, entirely empty, illuminated purely by light from hundreds of feet above, and the walls made strange echoes.

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Due to the surrounding construction, I expected that the smokestack would soon be torn down. However, interestingly enough there’s actually a plan to keep it and use it as a centerpiece in a planned community!

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While it’s a shame that the inside isn’t accessible, I’m glad that the smokestack won’t be torn down. It was very cool to explore while in this state of flux between its industrial past and being integrated into the modern world.

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SAN JUAN EXPEDITION 4: EUREKA

Greetings from the Bureau of Exploration. This is the fourth section of a field report by the Mining Infrastructure and Geological Survey Corps on places of interest in the San Juan Mountains.

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My fellow operative and I parked our car in a large open space, an area where records state a mining town once stood. The town is no more, but rising over the valley are stacked concrete foundations, the skeleton of what the town was built around: the Eureka Mill.

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The way the structure climbs up the mountain makes me think of an immense staircase. Scaling the first few ‘steps’ of the staircase, we were surrounded by the shattered concrete floors and scattered wooden remains of the mill. One can see what it once looked like from pictures such as this.

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We scrambled up the side for the first seven steps. By the eighth, we found a convenient window blasted through the concrete to hop through into the structure proper.

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The rubble-strewn floor had the remains of railway tracks that once ran on the roof. To our right was an overlook of the valley, and to our left we saw strange cylindrical tanks towering overhead. We continued our ascent.

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I think that these tanks once held ore before it was processed further down the mountain. They seemed out of place in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, being made of great concrete slabs and steadfast rebar rather than decaying wood. To me, Eureka felt less like a mill and more like a sci-fi bunker or strange industrial plant.

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The last two steps, eleven and twelve, had more columns. Cascading down the rubble were metal wires that looked like big heaps of snakes, wrapping themselves around the surrounding rock and pillars.

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We stood at the top of the ruins for a while under the noonday sun, overlooking the valley and the structure below us.