You’ve seen plenty of historic sites in Colorado, but did you know about Idaho Springs? A town flowing with unique history around every corner, Idaho Springs has so much to offer! See everything that you can find within the Visitor Center, learn about the hundreds of thousands of national forest area, and – of course – enjoy the history! The Historical Society of Idaho Springs, the Visitor Center, and the Forest Service are all located in the same building for easy access. Get everything you need for your trip in one quick stop.
Idaho Springs is the home of the Colorado Gold Rush! As far as historic sites in Colorado go, this is a pretty big deal. George A. Jackson discovered gold at the junction of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek. Soon after, the first mining settlement in the state was established, and the history of Idaho Springs begins! Journey through the ages with the rich history of this little mountain town and the images that accompany it. The mission of the Historical Society is to discover local history, preserve it, and educate on it. Let’s dig in!
On January 6, 1917, Colonel Buffalo Bill Cody shared a drink with local miners in the Patten Building when it was called the Duck Inn. Cody was ill and en route from Glenwood Springs to his sister’s home in Denver. He died several days later. The Duck Inn became famous for being the saloon where Buffalo Bill had his last drink – a mixture of whiskey and cider called the Stone Fence. This is one of the historic sites in Colorado that is unique to Idaho Springs, but permeates the state’s culture.
In the 1880s Governor Bryan of British Columbia, a gold mine investor, built Castle Eyrie in Idaho Springs. The castle was designed after the Bryan family castle in England. Chinese laborers added unique architectural trim over the windows and doors, in keeping with their culture.
One of the most popular places to visit in Idaho Springs is still the Indian Hot Springs. In 1863, Dr. E.M. Cummings bought the land and began the healing waters tourist attraction. During the first few years more than 5,000 people attended. Among the most famous: Frank and Jesse James, Sarah Berhnardt, Walt Whitman, H.A. Tabor, the Vanderbilts and the Roosevelts.
If Denver is a mile high, how high is Idaho Springs? 7,543 feet. Idaho Springs had a number of names before its current one, including: Jackson’s Diggings, Sacramento City and Idahoe. In 1866, Springs was added to the name. The meaning originated from the Arapahoe Indian word Edauhoe meaning Gem of the Mountains.
Miners working in dark and frightening surroundings developed superstitions and tales about eerie happenings in the mines. Elf-like creatures, known as Tommyknockers were believed to have been brought to Clear Creek County by the Cornish miners who came from England. Though these little people were rarely seen, they were often heard working and singing. There were two types of Tommyknockers: the mischievous ones and the friendly ones. The mischievous ones caused problems while the friendly ones helped locate the richest ore deposits. There are many tales of these long-bearded, wrinkle-faced, large-headed little men saving miners’ lives and others where they’ve been known to snuff out the light of the candles the miners worked by.