Life has settled down somewhat and I’m able to get back to work putting together the ebook for the Marble Finishing Mill. It’s going to contain the history, videos plus numerous ‘then and now’ images. While the format in the following image is probably not the one I will use, it’s just an example of the images. I hope to have the ebook ready for Christmas.
I have finally gotten around to bringing my photography website out of the stone age. Sounds funny comparing a website to the stone age. But, stone age it was.
It’s a work in progress as I’m doing it myself.
This blog will remain and I will be adding more content from my archives as well as new stuff.
What is this building?
This old structure located at Crystal City, Colorado, is said to be the most photographed building in Colorado. That’s saying a lot considering how difficult it can be to get here by vehicle. It was built in 1893 by George C. Eaton and B.S. Phillips, promoters of the Sheep Mountain Tunnel and Mining Company, as a power plant for the Sheep Mountain Tunnel. It was first known as the Sheep Mountain Tunnel Mill and the name was commonly shortened to ‘Crystal Mill’, though some still call it by other names such as ‘Lost Horse Mill’ or ‘Dead Horse Mill’. The building contained a horizontal wooden water wheel turned by two one-inch water jets at the base of the penstock shaft at river level which powered a large air compressor. Power was transmitted via a steel drive shaft up to the gear house on the front of the building and then to the compressor by a wide leather belt. The air was carried to the mine entrance by a three inch iron pipe across the river and up to the base of Sheep Mountain. This compressed air powered the air drills and provided ventilation for the tunnel that extended over 1,500 feet into the mountain in 1893. The Crystal Mill had a one-seater privy in the overhanging corner which emptied directly into the river. The back end of the building contained a sleeping room for the attendant. The mill began operation in December, 1893 and continued sporadically until sometime in the 1920’s.
River water from the Crystal River powered the water wheel and a wooden dam above the falls raised the water level to the top of the penstock shaft. High water runoff in the first spring after construction washed out the dam. The dam was rebuilt and washed out a second time. The third time was the charm as water was then obtained by building a long wooden flume which tapped the river quite a ways upstream.
As the mine began to produce rich silver ore a stamping mill was built just the west (your right as you look at the Crystal Mill) to crush and concentrate the ore for shipping. The stamping mill had three large timbers tipped with iron which were raised and dropped to crush the ore which were powered by a 12-inch wide leather belt from the power house (Crystal Mill). You can still see evidence of crushed ore across the river and also where the stamping mill used to set. Contrary to many, this structure never contained a saw mill and the Crystal Mill itself never had an electric generator.
The Crystal Mill is privately owned and sits on private property. The owners have taken great efforts to keep the old structure from tumbling into the river and are happy to share this one-of-kind scene with everyone. A new roof in 1976 and again in 2009 and in 1984 several volunteers installed supporting cables inside the building to raise and secure the gear house which was pulling away from the main building and in danger of falling into the river.
Please respect the private property when going to the mill and do not attempt to cross the river and enter the mill. After all, it is an old building that is not safe to walk around in. Besides that, no one would be surprised if you were shot in the butt with rock salt for poking your nose where it should not be.
The above text was re-written from a writing of Oscar McCollum, Jr., Historian for Marble, Colorado and the Frontier Historical Society, 1996, from a United States Department of Agriculture paper. Oscar does not advocate the shooting of people in the butt with rock salt, but many others do.
I don’t know who the photographers are of the next two images so I cannot give them credit. I found these images in the archives of the Marble Historical Society while doing research for the DVD. The first image looks like it was probably taken in the 30′s? You can clearly see Crystal City thanks to the lack of trees along the river. I’m thinking the trees where mostly used for constructing the town and the mill.
This next photo looks to have been shot right before the roof was redone in ’76. If not for all of the restoration work done by the owners and volunteers throughout the years we would lost the mill a long time ago.
This is pretty much how it looks today (although it now has a ‘newer’ roof that has yet to weather and blend in). Notice that you cannot see any of Crystal City due to trees as compared to the first image with a clear view of town.
The title pretty much says it all. I’ve been moving images from one hard drive to another and decided to take a break and play around with some of them. The music in the slideshow is copyright Dexter Britain and used under Creative Commons license.
This video won’t be up for very long, so if you want to watch it now is the time. Go to the page here.
Sounds strange to hear ‘marble dump’, doesn’t it? “Why in the world would you ever dump this beautiful stone?” I’ve heard it more than once from folks and I end up explaining about the fractures that occur, imperfections and then the very fractured stone from the face of a new gallery, as is the rock in this video. Some of the first pieces of the new Lincoln Gallery that have been taking the brunt of the weather on the face of the quarry for thousands of years take a tumble.
This is the first time you get to ‘ride along’ while the marble is discarded.
This was shot during the Treasure Mountain Trip 2012. Thanks to Smitty and Crystal River Jeep Tours for getting us up and down the mountain safely. It was a great trip! Maybe Smitty will jump in and give us a ‘peak by peak’ description. What do you say Smitty?