More than 125 years after its first Gold Rush, the tiny Teller County town of Victor is seeking outside investors to fulfill its economic dreams.
Those dreams, residents say, are an effort to attract investors to the mining town’s historic downtown, revitalizing the city as a tourist attraction.
Called the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Acceleration Movement, the ongoing effort is “dedicated to advancing the City of Gold Mines in four key areas: design, promotion, organization and economic restructuring,” according to its website.
City officials acknowledge the town four miles south of Cripple Creek has its challenges.
“We have some things to overcome,” said Becky Frank, who leads Victor’s Main Street program, a community effort to revitalize the city’s historic commercial district. “We have buildings, but very few people — so we have to rely on visitors and on special events. We’d like to attract investors, but we realized that we needed a comprehensive commercial property database, and that we needed to address other problems as well.”
The first step — the database — is completed. Potential Investors can go to victorreco.com to examine available properties in the city. Click on ”Properties” and an aerial view of historic Victor tags 62 buildings. Drill down, and publicly available information about any particular structure is gathered in a single site.
That’s a good first step, but what’s next?
“One of the problems we had was the Teller County Building Department,” said Frank. “Their codes and requirements really weren’t appropriate for 19th century buildings — it was almost impossible to comply. So we formed our own building department. We’re just as dedicated to public safety and building integrity, but we’re right here — we understand the problems.”
Most of the buildings seem well-preserved — and many have successful businesses already in place — but tiny Victor remains in the shadows, waiting to be discovered. The downtown includes such gems as the Gold Camp Bakery and the Fortune Club, where new owners have expanded the restaurant, opened an adjacent bar and renovated the upstairs floor to add nine hotel rooms.
There’s also the Victor Hotel, which has a lobby eatery with another bar next door, and the Claim Jumper convenience store with Victor’s post office inside. Several galleries, museums and antique stores complete the current mix of downtown businesses.
It’s estimated that 300,000-500,000 visitors go to Cripple Creek every year, but few venture to Victor. That is already changing, however.
Posting on TripAdvisor about her stay at the renovated Victor Hotel, Denver resident Sheila O. was enchanted.
“Wanted to get away in the country for a day so went to Victor for the day,” she wrote. “As a Denver native, I was happy to get to a mountain town not overrun by tourists. We had open windows to breathe in that fresh Colorado air so unavailable in the city. Beautiful, uncrowded landscapes … what Colorado was like before the I-70 corridor.”
And as Victor continues to invest in its downtown, opportunists are needed to invest in its historic buildings.
“The Monarch Building is really beautiful,” said Frank. “It’s vacant and for sale now. Look at the stained glass above the entrance. A bank has it — that’s their sign in front.”
The bank-owned building is one of about 60 significant Victorian commercial structures in and near the town’s historic center. Most date from the early 1900s, after an 1899 fire destroyed the downtown, and many are within a national historic district.
Victor has shrunk dramatically through the decades. Today’s estimated population of 389 is less than 10 percent of the 4,985 counted in the 1900 census.
Gold created Victor — and still provides its main employment. The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine is still operational and will be for years to come, now owned by Greenwood Village-based Newmont Mining Corp. — but the city is also pinning its hopes on its historic downtown to capture the attention of outsiders. Also, if those investors materialize, they could turn many of those downtown buildings into weekend escapes for people from Colorado Springs and Denver.
For the moment, Victor is an undiscovered gem — think Aspen in 1950 or Telluride in 1950. But sleepy, affordable little mountain towns — like weathered boulders dusted with sylvanite — eventually draw notice.