June In Colorado History

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad | John Fowler

Colorado historical headlines from the month of June include adoption of Colorado’s state flag, incorporation of Crystal City mining town, preservation of Golden’s historic Astor House, and arrival of the first train whistle from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

June 5, 1911: Official flag of Colorado is adopted

Colorado flag at rodeo
Colorado state flag, Pagosa Springs | Scrubhiker

The official flag of Colorado, designed by Andrew Carson Carlisle, is adopted to represent the state of Colorado.

 

It wasn’t the state’s first flag though. Unaware an official Colorado flag already existed, the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) designed a flag to serve the purpose. They submitted their design to the state legislature in 1910. People didn’t much care for it, though. In response, local citizen Andrew Carson Carlisle submitted his own design, which received positive reception. With a unanimous vote in 1911, Carson’s design was adopted by the legislature as Colorado’s official state flag.

 

Language in the bill designated the flag as belonging to the people of Colorado, and encouraged citizens to use the flag on all occasions they deemed fitting. There was one problem, though. The specific shades of red and blue used on the flag hadn’t been specified, nor had the size of the “C” in the middle. It wasn’t until 1964 that the legislature passed a second bill specifying these design elements, which are those proudly displayed on the Colorado flag we know today.

June 27, 1882: Silverton residents hear first train whistle from Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango & Silverton Train in Colorado
Durango & Silverton Train | Pascal Claivez

Silverton Residents delight at the much-anticipated sound of the first train whistle from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad echoing down the Animas Canyon. Expansion of the railroad connecting Silverton to Durango was nearly complete, having commenced less than a year earlier. Only three miles of track had yet to be laid, and that whistle from a construction train signaled Silverton would soon be connected to the outside world.

 

Seven days after that whistle was heard, Silverton welcomed the railroad with a grand celebration. Days later, passenger service started, followed by the transportation of ore. The new line was a boon for Silverton’s mining industry. Freight rates were cut in half, and the challenges of passenger transportation were solved. Silverton’s population quickly doubled.

 

Over the decades that followed, the railroad was walloped by a series of natural disasters—avalanches, rockslides, and floods. But none succeeded in closing the line. It continued servicing the ore industry until the end of World War II, when it transitioned to hauling tourists.

 

Today, the railroad is used exclusively for taking tourists on a scenic journey down the majestic Animas Canyon. It’s also a National Historic Landmark. Find it: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train

June 8, 1881: Crystal City mining camp is incorporated

Crystal Mill in Colorado
Crystal Mill | Library of Congress

Crystal City, a mining camp located in the Elk Mountains of Gunnison County, is incorporated. The camp was established seven years earlier, when geologist Sylvester Richardson discovered silver deposits in the area. Soon productive mines were cropping up around the area and fueled the city’s growth, which, at its peak, boasted 500 residents and a collection of saloons, shops, hotels, and a newspaper. But prosperity didn’t come without challenges. Due to the remoteness of Crystal City, transporting ore from the mines to the nearest rail station 20 miles away was expensive. Receiving supplies proved to be a hindrance as well.

 

Still, the mines supporting Crystal City remained productive and the people persevered. Even as the silver panic of 1893 crushed mining operations across the country, Crystal City expanded. The iconic Crystal Mill was built, and new techniques for shipping ore were developed. Despite these advancements, Crystal City’s population dwindled over the next few years, and by 1917, it had become a ghost town.

 

Today, only a few structures remain standing, the most famous of which is the historic Crystal Mill, which enchants tourists and photographers alike. Find it: Crystal Mill

June 13, 1972: Golden votes to save historic Astor House

Historic Astor House Museum in Golden, Colorado
The Astor House in Golden, CO | Hustvedt

The historic Astor House in Golden, built in 1867 by pioneer hotelkeeper Seth Lake, is saved from the brink of demolition by a 69% vote in favor of preserving the landmark by the people of Golden.

 

In its heyday, the Astor House provided accommodations for patrons ranging from local miners to Territorial legislators. But as the years passed, and the hotel’s glory days faded, the Golden Downtown Improvement District began eyeing the land upon which it was built as a prime location for a parking lot. Destruction of the Astor House seemed imminent.

 

Unwilling to accept the building’s fate, the preservation minded people of Golden intervened. They banded together to form the Golden Landmarks Association, and successfully convinced the citizens of Golden the historic hotel was worth saving. Following a pivotal vote, the building was saved from demolition, added to the National Registry of Historic Places, and reopened as the Astor House Hotel Museum. Find it: Astor House Hotel Museum