Both Pitkin County and the City of Aspen are now putting an increasing number of public documents onto a WebLink Laserfiche website.
One nugget recently unearthed in the “Special Maps” section of the city’s engineering department document trove is a 1972 map by Bruce Bryant for the U.S. Department of the Interior.
It is entitled “Map showing mines, prospects, and areas of significant silver, lead, and zinc production in the Aspen quadrangle, Pitkin County, Colorado.” It is, in many respects, the crux Aspen map, now visible as a pdf.
Silver put Aspen on the map, paid for its historic buildings, and still lies under Aspen’s outdoor playgrounds. If you have an interest in Aspen’s silver mining history, and potential future, it’s worth zooming into for a close inspection.
You can view the map or download a pdf of it via DocumentCloud, where you will find a link to “Original Document (PDF).”
The city’s copy of the map is available to the public online via a Weblink Laserfiche website.
Once there, go to “Special Maps” in the list of files and then select file 1000-0007-001, which is generically labeled, like the other files in the list, as “Aspen Engineering Plan Archives.”
Bryant note’s on the map are informative. Below are few highlights.
“The distribution of prospects clearly depicts the potentially favorable area for metallic deposits in the quadrangle.”
“Much of the prospecting was done in the 1880s, but some relatively large tunnels, especially near Richmond Hill, were driven in the 1920s. In the 1960′s the Highland tunnel was lengthened to more than a mile, and trenching and drilling were done in the Annie Basin and Lenado areas.”
“Production has totaled 10,311,000 ounces of silver, 294,000 tons of lead, and 11,000 tons of zinc; the total value of production in terms of 1972 metal prices is about 240 million dollars. Since 1952 almost no mining has been done in the Aspen quadrangle.”
“Some richer ore may exist below the old workings, but maps of the workings show fewer stopes on the deeper level, which probably indicates that rich ore was not as widespread there as nearer the surface.
“Another important factor in the cessation of deep mining at Aspen was the difficulty of coping with the large volume of water which came into the workings below the level of the Roaring Fork River. Volin and Hild (1950, p. 4) report that 3,250 gallons per minute was pumped from the deeper levels beneath Smuggler Mountain in 1918, when they were last worked.”
The map shows the locations of some colorfully named mine workings, including the Bushwacker Shaft, the Pride of Aspen Mine, the Late Acquisition Mine, the Silver Bell Shaft, and the Midnight Tunnel.
And it includes a graph, above, showing both how much silver was produced by year in the Aspen, both in millions of dollars and millions of ounces of silver.
The Aspen mines went from zero in 1880 to 8 million ounces by about 1891-1892. Then silver was demonetized. By 1900 production had dropped to about 3 million ounces and by 1910 was well under 1 million.
There was definitely a silver boom in Aspen. And a bust.