Sunday, August 25, 2013

8/24/13 Victor CO and the Fortune Club

Through the trees, on the way back down from the property, sits Victor, CO. 

That's pretty much the whole town in the picture. 

It's backdrop is Battle Mountain, home to some of the most prosperous mines in Colorado. 

Victor was the blue collar town to the swankier Cripple Creek population. If you did the hard work, you lived in Victor. If you were an owner or investor, you lived five miles off in Cripple Creek. 

Incorporated in 1894, more than 8000 people already lived in the township, but the subsequent gold veins exploded its population to 18000 by 1900. The mines there produced more than $10 billion dollars (in today's $) during its boom. 

In 1899, a fire that started in the Jenny Club (one of many "gentlemen's establishments of the city), took five hours to destroy everything. Within six months, the town had been completely rebuilt, this time in brick. 

The population as of the last census is 397 souls.

A combined junior high / high school serves both Victor and Cripple Creek, and those five grades combine to around 200 students. 

And the town soldiers on. 

I have an affinity for Victor, apart from sharing the feminine version of its name. I like its hard scrabble history, and the fact that it hasn't turned into a soul-sucking casino town like its white collar neighbor. 

I would so love to see the downtown revitalization take off and somehow become a little artists' haven, a tiny Taos, perhaps. 

We spent a few hours here Saturday, enjoying the slower pace and the locals that filed in for lunch at the Fortune Club.

Sue, the proprietor, had left the building to go home and find a raspberry pie recipe, but she returned in time to chat with us about the place. 

The Fortune Club was another of the multiple gentlemen's spots, with gambling on the first floor, and the brothel on the second. They still offer rooms for rent.

Immediately inside the door a painter had set up his easel and was working on an interior oil painting of the bar. He'd taken a break and I was able to get a shot of the Wing and Son piano behind him. "Wing & Son pianos were generally equipped with an optional 5 pedal mechanism that mimicked the tones of various string instruments like the mandolin, guitar, zither, harp, and banjo. The 5 pedals were labeled from left to right: Mandolin, Orchestra, Expression, Soft, and Forte." (from the Antique Piano Shop)

The place still has its original tintype ceilings and walls, which is incredible. Surely, this was chosen as a way to minimize the fire hazard as the town was rebuilt from ashes. The marble back bar is also beautiful. Next time we're up there, I'll have to ask Sue if she knows the history behind it.

We all, except for Sam, opted for the Sloppers, which were made with the most yummy homemade green chilis. We were licking the plates clean.

Of course, with my luck, I went to the bathroom during the exact two minutes that a couple of local guys herded half a dozen cattle with a few calves and a border collie in tow down the middle of the street in front of the club's windows. They came in and had lunch once the cows were safely stowed. 

Down the street is the Victor Hotel, which is also on my "next time" list. The original (1899) bird cage elevator is still in operation. (But they also have wi-fi.) If you're a ghost hunter, be sure to ask to stay in Eddie's room, #301. Eddie, a miner, was also not terribly aware of his surroundings. He pressed the elevator button and, when the doors opened, stepped on through, not noticing he was stepping into the blackness of the elevator shaft.  Because at 9700 feet, winters are pretty fierce and the ground pretty frozen, the fourth floor of the hotel was once used as a winter morgue until bodies could be properly buried. So Eddie's reportedly not the only one still hanging around the halls here. 

The old mining carts have been repurposed into floral containers for the summer and they spill out everywhere. Seriously, why hasn't this little place gotten more exposure for the potential of an artists colony?

With the contract pending on the land, I am really hopeful that I get to spend some more Saturdays exploring this place and meeting its people. 


  1. History of the Wing and Son piano company
    Wing and Son