Downtown Leadville
Historic buildings line Harrison Avenue. | Photo by Dennis Adams, Federal Highway Administration

By John Leach

Leadville is, first and foremost, a mining town, from the silver that created it in the 1880s to the gold, lead, zinc, copper, and molybdenum that have sustained it while other Colorado mountain boomtowns turned into ghost towns or became ski resorts.

The legacy of the silver boom can be seen in the historic, three- and four-story brick buildings that line Harrison Street in the heart of Leadville and the historic homes that dot the neighboring blocks, which are recognized in the Leadville Historic District.

It also can seen in the name Tabor on the opera house, hotel, and home that are still standing more than a century after shopkeeper Horace Tabor made a $9 million fortune with the silver mines and invested much of it back into Leadville, only to lose everything when his overstretched empire collapsed with the silver crash of 1893.

Leadville’s mining industry remains in the form of the Climax mine north of town, which has been the world’s leading producer of molybdenum for the steel and aircraft industries and is expected to reopen once the nation’s economy recovers.

But Leadville also has built a tourist business with its history and its recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and four-wheel-drive touring, mountain biking, running, and skiing. It also retains bragging rights as the nation’s highest incorporated city, at 10,152 feet above sea level.

More about Leadville
Leadville history
Leadville historic tours

National Mining Hall of Fame
Mineral Belt Trail

Leadville facts
Population: 2,602 (2010 Census).
Land area: 1.1 square miles.
County: Lake (Leadville is the county seat)
Altitude: 10,152 feet above sea level.
Climate: Cool summers, very cold winters, and low humidity, with abundant sunshine year-round. Annual precipitation of 16 inches, including average snowfall of 117 inches. Snow depth of 14 to 17 inches from January through March. January averages: 29 high, 5 low. July averages: 71 high, 41 low. More weather