Central City and Black Hawk

admin December 20, 2010 0

Nestled high in the Rockies at an elevation of about 8,500 feet, the sister cities of Central City and Black Hawk are a remarkable testimony to the fighting spirit and resilience of the inhabitants of the great Centennial State.

The two cities were founded in 1860, during the Pike’s Peak gold rush. Their destiny is deeply connected to the existence of a rich gold deposit in the nearby Gregory Gulch, a narrow ravine where prospector John Gregory discovered the gold vein which sparked the whole gold rush madness. In a couple of years, the site was teeming with miners and prospectors looking to make their fortune, using Central City and to a lesser extent Black Hawk as a base of operation. Gregory Gulch was so abundant in gold, that it received the nickname “the richest square mile in the world”. At one moment, Central City was competing with Denver to play the role of regional hub, but lost its chance to glory when Denver was designated the State capital of Colorado.

Much of the ore extracted from the mountain sides was transported back to Central City and Black Hawk, where it was processed to extract the precious metal. The two cities had the advantage of being placed alongside running waters, which allowed the construction of the mills used to crush the ore to a fine powder that was letter treated with chemicals to extract the gold. Dozens of mills and other enterprises flourished in the booming Black Hawk and Central City, bringing prosperity to their inhabitants. When surface gold extraction faded and was replaced with deep mining, the cities adapted and built smelters that allowed for a superior extraction of gold.

At the peak of the boom, Central City and the smaller Black Hawk were places were thousands of adventurers made or break their fortunes. Central City even had an imposing Opera house, where the celebrities of the time came to entertain the locals.  As the time passed though, so did the good times for the two cities. Gold reserves in the area were rapidly exhausted leaving Black Hawk and Central City to cope with the status of ghost towns. Their heritage saved them nevertheless. In 1961, federal authorities designated the area a National Historic Landmark District, in order to preserve the architecture and the historic value of the twin sisters. Tourist began coming to the small mountain cities, either to admire the preserved buildings or to watch a performance in the still running Opera house.

In 1991, the state of Colorado legalized gambling on its territory, which started a new rush of fortune seekers in Central City and Black Hawk. Since then, dozens of casinos were built in the area, especially in the smaller city of Black Hawk. This abundance of investment brought another boom upon the twin cities, which became a well-known gambling area, which rivals with the established centers, such as Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

As history often repeats itself, a new kind of gold diggers has flooded the once sleepy streets of Black Hawk and Central City – pleasure seekers looking for the thrill of gambling or to simply to have a good time in one of the newly opened entertainment venues.

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