On the outskirts of Silverton, Colorado in Cunningham Gulch lies a historic wonder, the Old Hundred Mine Boarding House. This phenomenal structure is bolted with cables to the rocky crags of Galena Mountain 2,000 feet above the basin and main mine entrance below. Splintered wood, rusted corrugated metal, and a handful of memories in the form of a cook stove, a metal bedframe, and pairs of shoes are all that remain.
The pages of the Old Hundred’s story begin in 1872 with the Neigold brothers, who made their way from Germany to become prospectors. The three brothers were an odd and amusing bunch for those traveling on Stony Pass Trail leading into Silverton. Coming from an educated background, the brothers would often entertain guests with music, plays, and even opera. They were quite the contrast to the usual prospecting crowd.
Some color was found, the most likely profits at the level seven tunnel, 2,000 feet up the mountain. Not having the funds to operate the mine, the brothers sold out. The company who bought the mine spent the next several years and over a million dollars building the boarding house, a mill at the base of the mountain, and a tram—much like a ski lift today—to haul the ore and men from the boarding house to the mill below.
A legend exists of a mistress in the boarding house who loved to play piano, so a piano was hauled to the boarding house on the backs of mules.
Hundreds of miles of tunnels were dug searching for the rich veins of ore. Unfortunately, there was very little color found in the mine. In 1908 the mine closed down. A neighboring mine bought the Old Hundred for its mill.
In 2000, the Silverton Historical Society in conjunction with the Old Hundred Mining Tour preserved the Old Hundred Mine Boarding House on Galena’s peak. The task was completed with helicopters and brave construction workers operating on crumbling shell rock above Cunningham Gulch.
Today there is a trail to the old level seven tunnel, but to reach the boarding house, one must scramble 200 vertical feet over loose rock. Only experienced climbers should make the hike.
During the summer months, mining tours are given inside the mine, probably the most revenue it has had.
Photographs copyright Erin S. Gray
Erin S. Gray writes historical fiction for adults and young adults. She backpacks through the very mountains about which she writes and was inspired to begin her novel, Moonshine Murder, after stumbling across an abandoned cabin during a trek deep in the San Juan Mountains.
Erin is the 2013 president of Women Writing the West, and an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in English, she lives in southwest Colorado with her husband and two young sons.