If you have been a long time reader of this blog, you know I love architecture, so even though the Mandy Lea photography workshop was primarily waterfalls and wild flowers, I was happy we had part of a day shooting at the ghost town of Animas Forks, outside of Silverton Colorado. Like most of the ghost towns in Colorado, it was once a mining town, that was abandoned when the mining in the area stopped. The first homes were built in 1873 and by 1876 there were around 450 residents, with a hotel, saloon, post office and general store.
Considering that the town has been abandoned almost 150 years, the structures that are still standing are actually very stable to enter and take pictures. The mine has long been collapsed, but the homes that were in good condition went through a restoration in 2017 after receiving the Stephen H. Hart Award for Historic Preservation .
One of the main focuses of the preservation efforts was the Walsh House, AKA the Duncan House, which has an amazing historical significance. It was the home Evelyn Walsh, the daughter of Tom Walsh, who was once the owner of the Hope Diamond. It was the only two story home still standing and it’s prominent placement on the hill and beautiful bay window gives you a glimpse of it’s past glory..
The weathered wood and views through the windows made for great photography. At the time I was there I didn’t know about the restoration project so I did not go upstairs, because I was unsure how stable they would actually be. Now that I know, I hope to be able to go back and check out the upstairs.
One interesting facts about the town is that all the residents began migrating south to Silverton for the winter after a 23 day blizzard in 1884, when the the residents had to dig tunnels through the snow from building to building.
Even though some homes that did not undergo restoration were in rough condition inside, being in them still gave you a great sense of what life would have been like and the amazing views that surrounded them.
I used my new skills from the workshop to try out some new techniques and admittedly, became a little obsessed with using bracketing to fame outside landscape in doors and windows.
Some of the homes were clearly built by more affluent families and most of the ones standing were in what was considered “downtown” Animas Springs. Some were in better condition than others but they all made for interesting contrasts of color and texture.
The actual time it was occupied as a town was very short lived, only around 45 years. The local gold mill, Gold Prince Mill closed in 1910. By 1917 the mill had been completely dismantled and the parts moved to other mills. The mill’s dismantling was essentially the end of the town and it was abandoned by the 1920s. Now it’s just a picture into a past way of life in the mountains during the gold rush era.