Up In Flames
Victor was founded in 1893 at the foot of Battle Mountain – a stone’s throw from where the richest gold mines in the Gold Camp were eventually located. Underground mining was very labor intensive so, like many gold rush boom towns, Victor grew almost overnight from a crude mining camp with a haphazard collection of tents and shacks, to one of the most prosperous and populous cities in Colorado. For a short time, Victor was the fifth largest city in the State.
In the early years, false-fronted pine buildings faced dirt streets and boardwalks. Housing was in such short supply that men might pay a dollar a night to sleep on a pool table or on the floor of a saloon. At meal time, long lines of men formed in front of eating establishments. There were only two or three bath tubs in town, and water sold for five cents a bucket from horse-drawn tank wagons.
Once the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad reached Victor in May of 1894, it was easier to ship building materials to the city and more substantial hotels, stores, shops and offices were constructed. But still most commercial establishments were wooden, false-fronted buildings with only a few brick structures. Dwellings were log cabins, small woodframe houses, and tents. Due to constraints on suitable space for building, both commercial and residential
On the afternoon of August 21, 1899, much of Victor was leveled by a fire that started in a pine shack in Paradise Alley behind Jennie Thompson’s 999 Dance Hall – on Portland Avenue.
Strong winds fanned the frames that leapt from one flimsy pine building to another. Twelve blocks of Victor’s business district were totally destroyed from First to Fifth Street and from Portland Avenue to Granite Avenue. Roughly 200 buildings were destroyed with the losses estimated at $2 million. Over 3,000 people were left homeless.
The following morning hundreds of men began working to clear the debris. Businesses reopened in tents and makeshift structures. The City Council appropriated $8,000 for building a new City Hall and authorized regrading the streets before new building commenced.
A New City Emerges
To protect against the danger of future fire, the City Council mandated that all temporary frame buildings be removed within 90 days, and that all new commercial buildings be constructed with brick or stone.
Plans for rebuilding were formulated immediately as investors and speculators poured into the city. Business lots without buildings after the fire were worth more than lots with buildings before the fire. Within eight months a totally new and more magnificent city was rebuilt.
For the most part, the brick and stone buildings that line the streets of the business district today have cornerstones dating from late 1899 or early 1900 when the City of Mines was reborn after the great fire of August 1899.
Photos courtesy of Denver Public Library, Victor Lowell Thomas Museum, ZStudios.
Location. 38° 42.612′ N, 105° 8.397′ W. Marker is in Victor, Colorado, in Teller County. Marker is at the intersection of Victor Avenue and North 3rd Street on Victor Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 291 Victor Avenue, Victor CO 80860, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Bawdy Side of Town (a few steps from this marker); North 3rd Street (within shouting distance of this marker); Lowell Thomas’s Victor (within shouting distance of this marker); East Victor Avenue (within shouting distance of this marker); North 4th Street (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Labor Wars (about 400 feet away); Welcome to Victor Colorado (about 600 feet away); Victor City Hall (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Victor.
Categories. • Disasters • Notable Events •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 3, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 605 times since then and 40 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on September 3, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.