Victor: Mining Ghost Town

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When I visited Colorado in 2005, Victor was one of my favorite discoveries.  This little mining town (surrounded by a huge surface mine) seems to be stuck halfway on its way to ghost town status.  But there’s plenty of life left in Victor, even though it has a few corners that are trapped in the early 1900’s.

If you’re following the same route as me, you’ll arrive in Victor on Colorado Highway 67.  Through town, it’s known as Victor Avenue, and it’s where you’ll find many of the town’s most important buildings.  Among them, Victor’s town hall.  A mural-sized sign next door provides a quick history of Victor.

Gold was first discovered near Victor in 1890.  Within three years, the town was formed, and it quickly grew to be the 5th largest city in Colorado.  Around 1902, the population peaked at 17,500, then quickly declined.  The sign brags that in 1999, Victor had more dogs (623) than people (500).

I’m not certain if the Victor Mall Hotel is currently welcoming guests.  The building is for sale, just as it was in 2005 when I first visited.  If you want to spend the night…

… your best bet is the Victor Hotel, built in 1899-1900.  The old hotel served many other purposes over the years, including as a bank, offices, and even a hospital.  It was abandoned for quite a few years before renovations began in 1991, turning it into a modern hotel while preserving as much of the original interior as possible.

Further down Victor Avenue, you’ll find the old Alta Vista Train Station, which was originally located on Phantom Canyon Road.  In 1976, it was moved to Victor to serve as a visitor center (it appears to be permanently closed now, but there are still restrooms open in the neighboring building).

On the other side of the train station, there’s an old trolley.  A sign in the window says it is property of the Victor Inter Urban Railway.  Victor used to have two electric commuter rail lines, back when the town was booming.

You’ll also see more mining headframes than you can count. There are no fences around this one, so you can walk underneath it, and check out some of the other old mining equipment that’s scattered around it.

Wander off of Victor Avenue, headed downhill, and you’ll find more historic buildings, like St. Victor’s Catholic Church, built between 1902 and 1903…

… and across from it, the former Swedish Lutheran Church, which has been converted into a community center.

If you want to get your hands on some old mining equipment, look for this small garden.  It’s filled with old flywheels, cables, and other machinery used in the local gold mines.

I think South 4th Street is my favorite street in Victor.  The road is unpaved, and every storefront is abandoned — yet these buildings hold onto a lot of character and history.  Victor’s old Masonic Temple has been waiting for someone to come restore it since well before my 2005 visit.

Next door, this used to be the office of Victor’s old newspaper, the Victor Record.  Famed broadcaster Lowell Thomas got his first job here.  (You can learn more about Lowell Thomas, who grew up in Victor, at a museum on Victor Avenue.)

One block away, on 3rd Street, the road is paved, the buildings are crumbling a little less, and there are still some businesses with open doors.  One shop in particular in this row of storefronts is the Victor Trading Company, where you’re certain to find an authentic souvenir (and you can also see the world-famous Broom Wall).

Don’t forget to walk down Victor’s alleyways as well as its main streets.  You’re certain to find something interesting, or at the very least, get one of those 623 dogs to bark at you.

If you like old places that have become frozen in time, you’re going to love Victor.  Plan a little while to wander around with your camera, taking pictures of all the unique signs and storefronts, doorways and windows that make the town so special.

The award for Best Ghost Sign in Victor has to go to the Fortune Club.  This turn-of-the-20th-century saloon had rooms upstairs, where women “entertained” guests.  Once a bar, it’s now a restaurant, and is open for breakfast, lunch, and ice cream.

The Fortune Club’s painted sign covers the entire 3rd Street side of the building.

The upstairs (formerly hotel) rooms at the Fortune Club are reported to be haunted.  A group of ghost hunters checked it out, but didn’t capture any conclusive evidence. 

Take a walk down 3rd Street, and you’ll find a small park, bordered by a wall that’s been painted with several beautiful old signs.  Weiner Maerzen Beer, Baxter’s Cigar,  the Little Pittsburgh Saloon…

… and Solis Cigars are all advertised here.

At the back of that garden area, you’ll see the back of the old Masonic Temple.  A ghost sign covers the entire wall, but I focused in on the back door.  I was trying to recreate the photo I took during my visit in 2005.

old business victor colorado

Here’s the 2005 photo.  What’s different?

Victor’s doorways are just as captivating as its signs.  I focused in on many battered old wooden doors as I toured the town.

The Olympia Hotel was refurbished in 1985, and operated as a Bed & Breakfast for a while.  It was closed during my visit in 2010, but recent activity on Facebook suggests it’s open again.

On Victor’s wonderfully undeveloped (and unpaved) 4th street, there are a whole string of empty storefronts.  My favorite is 1081/2.

If you’d like to see more of Victor, Colorado, check out my 2005 visit to Victor.

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