Telluride - History : Telluride Mining Town Historical Overview

Prospectors came to Telluride in the 1870s and when silver and gold was discovered and the Columbia Mining Camp was established.  As another mining town in California had the same name of Columbia and there was great confusion with the postal system and in 1887 the town in Colorado changed its name to Telluride.  The reason for the name Telluride is disputed as some associated with the element tellurium often found with gold and silver, but not found in Telluride, Colorado while others say it meant “to-hell-you-ride” as there where numerous infamous gambling parlors, saloons and brothels during that time.  Butch Cassidy started his notorious career as a bank robber when he and his gang of men brought stolen mustangs to sell to the miners in Telluride and then sat and drank in the saloon across the street from the San Miguel Valley Bank.  For days, they drank and conceived the idea that they could actually make more money robbing a bank than rustling mustangs to sell to miners.  In 1889 they attempted and successfully executed their first bank robbery in downtown Telluride walking away with over $24,000 which was never recovered.  In the late 1800s the “boom” town exploded with the construction of the narrow-gauge railroad, the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, and the town's population expanded to 5000, or twice that of today’s permenant residents.  In 1893 silver crashed on the stock market but Telluride did not blink as gold was also in abundance.

Many of the large historic structures where built during the gold boom such as the pride of Telluride, The New Sheridan Hotel and the Sheridan Opera House.  These were meant to rival those of the big international cities such as the Brown Palace in Denver, Colorado.  During this time there were more millionaires per capita living in Telluride than in large cities such as New York and Chicago.  Demand for the finer things in life spurred on much of the building of the time as the town went from the temporary cabin-tent structures to grand Victorian mansions and a Main Street lined with every necessary shop and those of sinful delight.

As fast as the mining town of Telluride grew up out of the pristine San Juan Mountains, it also went into decline as mining became much less profitable and the recession of the 1930s ensued.  The population dwindled to one tenth of that at its height while the Bank of Telluride and the Silverbelle brothel closed their doors.  Telluride became a bit of a ghost town until the hippies of the sixties came to town and in 1968, Beverly Hills entrepreneur Joe Zoline dreaming of white gold recreational opportunities.  Telluride had always had plenty of snow often seen by its residents as a hinderance, however, Zoline saw only ski runs and lifts for the emerging new winter sport of down hill skiing.  Telluride Ski Area was officially opened in the winter of 1972 and with the end of that first winter season in Telluride came the beautiful summer when many of the now well known summer festivals such as Telluride Bluegrass and the Telluride Film Festival got their start.  Telluride was back on the map and when two Colorado natives, Ron Allred and Jim Wells purchased the ski area in 1978, their ideas of a European world class ski resort area began to take shape.  The mountain was outfitted with the latest and greatest technologies in the ski industry and Mountain Village was developed in 1985 along with the areas unique transportation system, the one and only of its kind in the United States, the Gondola which links the old western town of Telluride to the new town of Mountain Village, Colorado.  Telluride is consistently touted as one of the best places in the world to have a home as the luxurious amenities are bountiful and the pristine San Juans' scenery is second to none in the world.