Left Behind in Gilman, Colorado Ghost Town

The abandoned industrial and administrative buildings of Gilman, Colorado hold many artifacts that were left behind when the mining settlement became a ghost town.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I awoke in the basement of an abandoned office building. I had found shelter from the biting cold winds after exploring the abandoned neighborhood (Check out my pictures from Day 1 here).

[Disclaimer: After posting this article, I have been informed that Gilman and Belden are on private property and should not be entered without express permission from the owner.]

The sun emerged from behind the mountains and a new day dawned over the deserted streets of Gilman, Colorado.

In the morning light I got a clear view of the building I had called home for the night.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

And then I headed back inside to finish exploring it.

I headed past the reception desk and into the office area.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Wood-framed walls divided the main floor into offices, conference rooms and work area, giving it a distinguished feel that is missing from the stark, cubicle-filled office layouts of today.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I love finding old paperwork, and there was plenty of it lying around. Unfortunately most of it was scattered on the floor.

When I find handwritten notes I can't help but try to imagine the person who wrote them.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Several vault-like rooms contained shelves stacked with books of old records.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The New Jersey Zinc Company apparently left all its paperwork behind when it vacated Gilman. There was an unbelievable amount of sensitive information lying around, including financial records, payroll records, medical records.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

A lot of office equipment got left behind too, including gadgets I've never seen before, probably because they've been made obsolete by computers.

Gilman Colorado ghost town
An old Addressograph machine

Gilman Colorado ghost town

As I exited the office building, I ran into a guy in his 20s. He said he lives in Denver and was exploring Gilman with a large group. They'd camped out on the street just after sundown. I must have gone inside just before they set up for the night. He told me they ran into an older woman earlier that day who once lived there. She ended up giving his group a tour of the town. I realized my friend Caroline, whom I was supposed to meet up with the previous day, had seen them just before she left. For a ghost town, there sure were a lot of people there!

After we went our separate ways, I checked out the recreation center. It had a two-lane bowling alley.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

In the gym/theater, someone had set up a large skateboarding ramp in front of the stage and one by the door. It seems appropriate that the room is being used for athletic activities again.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

It was neat to imagine the place when it was still alive with people, yet sad to think that Gilman will never know such times again.

Or will it? According to an article in The New York Times, the site may be redeveloped. Edward R. Ginn, a real estate developer, bought Gilman and 5,300 acres of adjacent land for $32 million in 2004, intending to turn it into a $4 billion ski resort. Apparently Ginn would be protected by federal legislation passed in 2002, which limits liability for landowners who develop land that was polluted by previous owners.

It seems unlikely that any development will occur in the near future. According to the EPA website:
"EPA and CDPHE expect to issue a proposed plan in 2016 that will identify the agencies’ preferred cleanup alternative from those described in the feasibility study. The public will be invited to comment on the proposed plan before a final decision is made."

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Weathered garages and workshops sit on the edge of town with windows broken and walls tagged.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Some of the graffiti actually looked pretty good.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The workshops and storage sheds contained old products that you don't see in stores these days.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

One of the more disturbing artifacts was this oil smoke generator embossed with the words "Chemical Warfare Service U.S.A."

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

A few vehicles and pieces of heavy machinery remained in the garages.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

An old clothing washer sat out in the middle of the cracked pavement

Gilman Colorado ghost town

One of the most fascinating places was an old medical building that housed a laboratory and medical imaging equipment.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Countless x-rays were scattered across the floor on the ground level.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

As I was looking at the discarded x-rays I ran into a group of two guys and two gals, all in their 20s. Nice people. We talked for a little while and they recommended I check out the mining structures at the base of the mountain.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I decided to take their advice, but first I had to have a closer look at the ore processing facility in the center of town.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I was not daring enough to follow the ladder underground.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The ground floor offered a glimpse into the daily life of the employees.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The locker room had dozens of chains suspended from the ceiling with hooks and baskets on the ends.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Satisfied that I'd seen just about everything of interest in Gilman, I headed down the mountain to check out the old mining structures of Eagle and Belden mines. They were truly spectacular. Click here to see them.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

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Gilman Colorado ghost town

11 comments :

  1. Truly spectacular! I worked for CDOT from 2013 to 2015, and Hwy 24 was my road. I saw Gilman every single day and night, but only got to explore it a little, as I was always working and had been told by my supervisors that it was absolutely off limits. Plus, I was almost always wearing Hi-Viz gear, and I would have rather been incognito. I did, however learn a lot about it, and, while doing traffic control on 24, met a few people that had lived and worked there. I even met an old timer from Red Cliff that was born there! These pictures are amazing. Thank you for sharing them with us!

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    1. Thank you! It's a shame you didn't get to explore it much, but neat that you got to see it all the time. Such a beautiful area. When I was there, people kept pulling over to snap pictures from the side of the highway. I bet the guy who was born there must have some interesting stories to tell!

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  2. Ginn went bankrupt years ago so he's not developing this town.

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    1. According to the EPA website, Battle North LLC has taken over the redevelopment plans. Battle North must be the successor company to Ginn Battle North since Ginn went bankrupt.

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  3. My grandpa was the doctor, my mom a nurse, my dad who is still alive was the ambulance driver and worked in the office. My mom and dad met at work in Gilman, and lived above the Murphy store next to the office. As a kid we went sledding in the alley behind the bowling alley. Kerry Stanley

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    1. Thank you for sharing! It sounds like your family played very important roles in Gilman. I love that your mom and dad met working there. What a sweet story. It must have been a great place to go sledding, although a little scary if you weren't careful!

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  4. This town fascinates me. I'm one of the many who pulled off the highway to snap a few photos from the road. In the articles I've read, I can't find anything that would explain why families would leave without taking their property like cars and clothes. Has anyone offered any explanation for that?

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    1. I believe most of the personal possessions were taken when the families moved out. The houses are almost completely bare inside except for large objects such as water heaters. I'm not sure why a couple of cars were left behind though. They might have belonged to the mining company. There were a ton of artifacts left inside the office buildings and other non-residential buildings.

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  5. I also was born there in 1944. Someone was already in the labor room, so I was born in the hallway of the hospital. My parents lived in Pando in support of the 10th Mountain Division who were training to wage war in winter and mountains.

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    1. I planned to visit Pando, but ran out of time. I didn't know that military training was carried out there.

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  6. These photos are amazing--I've driven past Gilman many a times and have stopped to take photos and to geocache (on Hwy 24, there's one by the guard rails facing Gilman). You're lucky you were there when you were, although I'm not sure exactly when this was; the Town of Minturn has been emailing out information all summer stating the county was increasing the number of policemen in the area and would be arresting people for trespassing because of the contamination. Very grateful to see photos of a town I've always found so fascinating! Thank you

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