Some people consider Victor to be second-rate compared to nearby Cripple Creek. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In 1900 Victor was the fifth largest city in Colorado with an area population of 18,000, and 8,000 within the city limits. Gold mining was booming, and the city was growing by leaps and bounds. A devastating fire on Aug. 21, 1899 destroyed most of the downtown business district, but Victor quickly sprang back to life with brick construction replacing the previous wood frame buildings on the main streets.
At the turn-of-the-century, there were two streetcar lines in town, and three railroad districts in the area bringing 58 trains into Victor daily. Victor was considered more modern than Denver, with electricity, hot and cold running water, bustling businesses, and elegant hotels. The mines of Victor and Cripple Creek produced more gold during their heydays in the late 1800s and early 1900s than the gold rushes of California and Alaska combined.
On July 20, I took the scenic drive from Colorado Springs to Victor for the Historic Home and Building Tour sponsored by the Victor Heritage Society. I was amazed at the progress Victor is making toward returning to its former glory days. Besides the tour, there was a lively street festival in progress complete with live music, food, and merchandise booths. Cheering by spectators could be heard from the nearby baseball field. Obviously, the townspeople are taking pride in making Victor a fine community to live in and to visit.
Five structures were open on the annual historic tour:
Midland Terminal Railroad Depot
The Stitzel family has owned the building since 1953, using it as a place for “indoor camping.” Ken Stitzel, who is the current owner along with his wife Robin, has been coming here his whole life. Renovations are ongoing, highlighting the original woodwork, ticket windows, arched office windows and cavernous baggage room. During its use as a depot from 1895-1949, there were separate waiting rooms for men and for women to maintain “an air of respectability and social propriety.” The baggage room has original two-foot thick wood floors and entrances on opposite sides of the room — one trackside and the other for freight wagons.
Joanne and Rick Killday bought this charming, late-1800s cottage in 2014, and are lovingly bringing it back to life as a vacation home. The house is on a hillside overlooking the town below. The road that now runs in front of it was formerly the railroad tracks. The Killdays have documentation that the house was sold for $150 in 1914. The yellow cottage with bright blue trim was likely added onto several times in the early 1900s, and although the kitchen has been updated, the original wooden cabinets remain.
Stults Log Cabin
The original one-room log cabin was built in 1893, and was spared destruction in the fire of 1899. It was used as the Victor Daily Record Newspaper office from 1895 to around 1913. The home is described as “topsy turvy” construction as doorways and windows are not plumb. The home has recently been completely restored and is for sale.
Shopkeepers Apartment at Junk Posse/Gardner Mercantile
Old and new have been combined in this totally recreated and “adaptive re-use” space. The building has served many purposes including mercantile, bakery, mortuary garage and storage, wool processing plant and antique store. Original brick walls and windows between the store and apartment remain.
The focal point of this historic cabin is definitely the forever 360-degree views of layer upon layer of distant mountains peaks. Every window in the house looks out on stunning vistas. When it was built, this was likely a one or two-room log cabin, and the logs remain within the current walls. “Pay-day additions” (additions made when the owners received extra wages) were made throughout the years. The Crowsons frequently make historic finds on their property, including old metal tools, colored glass shards, broken crockery, a gold crucible, and even a tiny dolly minus its head.
Victor is currently in “growth mode” according to Marilyn Hay, a member of the Victor Heritage Society. Three casino expansions are in the works in Cripple Creek necessitating additional housing for casino employees. The local mine will likely be in operation at least another 10 years. Retirees, as well as families, are discovering that Victor has a close community feel with excellent roads and services, a strong sense of uniting past and present, and 300 days of sunshine.
Libby Kinder is a freelance writer and retired clinical mental health counselor. She and her husband have lived in southwest Colorado Springs for 14 years. Contact Libby with comments and travel ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.