In the 1890s, Cripple Creek had a population of 30,000 with 50,000 total in the district including Victor, Goldfield, and surrounding regions. Population in 2012 was 1,200 people. Gambling has been a part of Cripple Creek's colorful past since the mid-1800s. In 1991, gambling was legalized and 13 casinos are in operation today which has, of course, bolstered the economy. They range from the historic to ultra modern with hotel accommodations available in some.
Views of the main drag through the town.
Cripple Creek had two opera houses (Butte Opera House and The Imperial Theatre) as performing arts was an important part of its history. Today the restored Butte Opera House offers year-round professional performances and The Gold Bar Room Theatre (in the Imperial Hotel) re-opened in 2012.
There are multiple small museums in the region (see website for full details). We visited the Cripple Creek District Museum and the Old Homestead House Museum.
The Cripple Creek District Museum is comprised of three historical buildings: 1893 Colorado Trading & Transfer Company (that also houses a gift shop), 1895 Midland Terminal Railroad Depot, and 1900 Assay Office (where miners brought their ore to assess its gold value). The primary exhibits are in the Depot including artifacts on mining and mineral collections, photos/memorabilia, gaming devices, Native American artifacts, and the third floor rooms were the living quarters of the station master. It is furnished with Victorian-furnishings of the 1890s.
The Victorian-era third floor.
Pinnacle Mine Headframe (circa 1895)
Admission to the museum is $5/adults and $3/seniors.
Old Homestead Parlour House Museum: During the booming 1890s, there were approximately 350 prostitutes on Meyers Street (red light district) in Cripple Creek. The Old Homestead House was the poshest in town. There were 4 ladies and a madame in residence. The cost was $50 a trick and $250 a night (that is equivalent to $9,000 a night in today's economy), so all patrons had to apply for the privilege to visit and were appropriately vetted by the madame. The cost of a trick in other Meyers Street houses was $.25 to $3.00, so only the very wealthy visited the Old Homestead. Many original artifacts (furniture, chandiliers, trunks, dressing screens, clothing, photos, curling irons, etc.) are on display.
Admission to the museum is $5 and includes a 30-minute guided tour.
The 81st Donkey Derby Day will be held the day after we visited, so we had the privilege of meeting a few of the contenders. It is a 12-mile donkey race from Victor to Cripple Creek along with many festivities in town.
Sand castle for Donkey Derby Days.
Overall, this was an interesting side trip to a fascinating gold mining town. We were astounded by the amount of gold still being extracted daily and it appears this will continue for years!
The tree-less mountains in the background are where the gold mining is occurring today.