George and David Griffith, originally farmers in Kentucky headed to Colorado in search of gold in 1859. Arriving in Central City and finding it and the Idaho Springs areas were almost completely claimed, they headed west up Clear Creek. After finding a spot of gold , they set up the Griffith Mining District. As others arrived, the area became known as Georgetown (after the older brother) and Elizabethtown (after their sister). The Griffith brothers were the only one to find significant gold in the area, however silver was abundant. By1864, silver was the primary industry. In 1868, Georgetown and Elizabethtown combined into one. By 1870, the population had grown to 300 and the Georgetown citizens provided the silver spike the connected the Union Pacific railroad between Cheyenne and Denver. By 1880, there were more than 3000 people. There were churches, schools, hotels, as well as a saloon (an average of one for every 150 citizens) and four fire stations. Then, in 1893, the government repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which had guaranteed 9 million ounces a month government business to the silver industry. Colorado was producing 58% of the nation’s silver at the time. Georgetown’s economy collapsed and stayed there until a tourism revival over 50 years later.
The Georgetown Loop, is a steam engine system, built in 1884 that runs 4.5 miles to cover the 2 miles between Silver Plume and Georgetown, gaining almost 700 feet in altitude. It crosses over Devil’s Gate High Bridge and still runs as a tourism spot.
The 1868 courthouse building is at 6th street and Argentine. Available at the old courthouse is a walking tour brochure and the chance to see the current display or historic photos. First floor was district court, second floor was county court, juryroom and restrooms. Currently it is a community center.
Sixth Street has several old commercial buildings including the Hotel de Paris. It’s founder, Adolphe Francois Gerard, immigrated to New York at age 22 in 1868. He headed west with the US Calvary only to desert in Cheyenne and change his name to Louis Dupuy a year later. In 1873, he worked as a miner until he was injured in a dynamite explosion. When he recovered, he opened a small bakery, which eventually grew to become the Hotel de Paris. When he died in 1900, he willed the whole estate to his housekeeper, Sophie Gally, who died 5 months later.
On Fourth Street just east of Taos is the Maxwell House built in 1870 as a private residence. It is considered one of the top ten Victorian homes in the country.
Two blocks west is the Hamill House built in 1867 and in 1874, after a fire, was purchased by wealthy mine owner William A. Hamill. The mansion has a schoolroom, gold-plated door knobs, six seated outhouse, solarium and central heating.
On Taos, you will find the 1969 wood framed Grace Episcopal Church, the 1918 brick Catholic Church and a stone Presbyterian Church built between 1872-1874. Across from the Presbyterian Church is the 1874 schoolhouse. Across from the city park is the Old Missouri Firehouse, built in 1875.
The Alvarado Cemetery is found 3.2 miles past I-70 on Alvarado Road, a noticeable gate will be on your right. The Alvarado Cemetery is divided into sections for religious and fraternal groups. One of the first graves is for David Griffith, who died in 1882. In the Catholic section, you will find Louis Dupuy buried with his housekeeper Sophie Gally. The headstone has two birds facing each other and is inscribed with “Deux Bon Amis”. The stone is located near a large obelisk for William Spruance and it is a bullet-shaped terra-cotta marker some six feet tall.
On the other side of the road, you will find old Georgetown Cemetery, which was actually relocated to that location in 1972 from the shores of Georgetown Lake.