Nestled among the mountains in Mineral County, about 130 miles southwest of Colorado Springs, lies Creede, a mountain town originally founded on the silver boom. The end of the boom led to a rapid decline for this picturesque little burgh in the San Juan Mountains, but a wartime need for metals in World War II led to a brief revival in Creede, Colorado.
The first silver discovery in this area was at the Alpha mine in 1869, and Creede started to grow in the 1870s. Precious minerals were discovered in Willow Creek Canyon in 1889, and over the next two years the population of Creede boomed from 600 residents to more than 10,000. Robert Ford, the man who killed Jesse James, took up residence in Creede during the boom years, and he met his end there when Ed O’Kelley shot him dead on June 8th, 1892.
In 1893, Creede was put to sleep by the silver panic, also known as the Denver Depression of 1893. Miners and their families left in droves, and Creede teetered on ghost town status. Zinc and lead mines provided enough for the remaining residents to scratch out a living, and the local economy even got a slight bump during World War II when metals were at a premium.
It was during that time, in 1942, that renowned photographer Andreas Feininger captured these photos of Creede for the Office of Wartime Information.
Several of Mr. Feininger’s exposures were color transparencies, giving us a rare look at 1942 Creede in full-color. Below, some zoom views.
Above: A birds-eye view of Creede in 1942.
A look at the mining operation in Creede.
More mining photos from Creede, 1942.
The alcohol signs are abundant in the shot above–signs for Love’s Liquors, Phillips Liquor, Weaver’s Beer Parlor, and Walter’s Beer are all present.
Some slice of life photos from Creede.
Eventually, even the WWII mining activity would fade in Creede, as the demand for metals for the war effort ended. The last mine closed in 1985.
Today, Creede survives as a tourist town with a population of 290 residents. In 2015, YouTuber Hunter Pontious captured flyover drone footage of Creede, Colorado in 4K resolution. Watch his amazing video below.
Photos by Andreas Feininger. Drone footage by Hunter Pontious.
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