B l a c k H a w k
"The City of Mills"
Black Hawk- 1870 - (www.photoswest.org)
Black Hawk, "The City of Mills," is one of Colorado's oldest cities. It is one of a number of towns that grew up in "Gregory's Gulch," the
narrow ravine where Georgia prospector John H. Gregory first discovered lode gold in the western part of Kansas Territory in 1859.
Within months, thousands of would-be miners poured into the gulch, hoping for more big strikes like Gregory's. A few found bonanzas,
many found paying claims, but the great majority either moved elsewhere to try their luck or, proclaiming the whole "Pike's Peak Gold
Rush" a hoax, went back to their settled lives in the States.
Mountain City was the first name given to the ragged string of camp- like settlements, but as the boom subsided and the hard work of
extracting the gold began, the remaining population began to coalesce into more organized town sites. Up the gulch to the west was
Nevada, also known as Nevadaville or Bald Mountain. Below it lay Central City, and further down, where the gulch flowed into the North
Branch of Clear Creek, was established Black Hawk Pointe. Most accounts insist the name came from an early "stamp" mill brought in
from Illinois and named for the famous Indian chief.
Black Hawk was incorporated by an act of the territorial legislature on March 11, 1864.
Within a few years, the Colorado Central railroad line had reached Black Hawk, making it possible for coal to be shipped to the smelters
and mills and supplies to be shipped up to the growing mining towns. The town's skyline also boasted a new school and Presbyterian
Church. Fine brick business blocks spread along the gulch from the intersection of Main and Gregory Streets but the economic boom
was an environmental disaster.
Through it all, the towns continued to grow and prosper. From the outset, many of the miners and mill workers were immigrants,
originally from Sweden, England and Ireland. Cornish miners experienced in hard-rock mining arrived in the 1870's, battling with their
British brethren until all were united by the threat of Tyrolean miners willing to work for lower wages near the turn of the century.
.....Entering yet another century, Black Hawk faces the prospect of trying to sustain and survive yet another boom period. The
opportunities and challenges are there for those who will respect its rich heritage while at the same time welcoming its unlimited future
with the spirit of adventure that brought forth those ambitious miners and merchants of the 1800's. And if the past is but prologue, Black
Hawk's full story, yet to be told, will be a fascinating one indeed.
Directions from Denver:
Take 6th Ave. west out of Denver toward Lakewood and Golden. W 6th Ave. becomes US-6 W. Continue on US-6 W until you reach CO-
119, which will take you straight into Black Hawk.
The ghost of Black Hawk Grade School
By: Joan Pomeroy
Published: November 26th, 2009
From the Weekly Register-Call/ Gilpin County News
Looking back to the ‘50’s from a student’s perspective
Growing up in, Black Hawk, Colorado, a small community was an experience that I only began to appreciate after I was married and lived
in a larger community.
Black Hawk was once a town known for its mills, which processed the gold for the “Richest Square Mile on Earth” located in Gilpin
County, territory of Colorado. I can only imagine the twenty four hour a day noise that rumbled through the gulches and bounced off the
mountains when all the mills were in operation.
The narrow gage train rain daily from Golden, Colorado, up through Clear Creek Canyon to Black Hawk, bringing more miners and
taking back the gold. Saloons were open 24 hours a day and the beds in the hotel were rented by the eight hour shift. Sheets were
changed once a week. Men made a fortune in a week and lost it in a night. Women were scarce and the rugged life brought early
deaths in the high altitude of 8,500 feet.
Soon the miners began to send for their families and with the families came the, churches, schools, and opera houses. Once I read an
article that said “families bring culture to mining camps, turning them into towns.”
A school house was built by 1860, right next to the church in Black Hawk. You can still see the church and school sitting on the hill
overlooking the town.
The gold veins petered out, and some of the miners left to find another boom town. By the time we moved to Black Hawk in 1952, it was
almost a ghost town. Most of the men worked in Denver or for Coors Brewery in Golden. Gone were the glory days.
I started the second grade in the four-room two-story school house, which was only using one room. It had a wood/coal stove on one
side, and to sit near the stove it was too hot, but to sit on the other side of the room it was too cold. First through eight grades were all
in that one room and in my remembrance there was less than 30 students. Our teacher, Miss English, was of an age where most
teachers retire. She was single, came from Indiana, and lived in Central City a mile away. We, as a community, were lucky to have Mrs.
Garwood, the music and art teacher. She also lived in Central City and taught at all the Gilpin County schools. It was a long drive to
some of the schools, as the town of Rollinsville was at least 20 miles away.
Some of the uniqueness of being in this one room school house was that every morning a man from town would bring a jug, made out of
pottery with a silver colored spigot to the school house. I learned that this was the school’s drinking water, as our school did not have
indoor plumbing. The bathrooms were interesting. In the hall just outside our room, was a wide, windowless flight of stairs that led to the
second floor. Across the unlit, same-width upstairs hall, was a set of double doors that opened to the out doors, revealing a long flight
of stairs that led to the outhouses. The outhouses were really one building, divided into two sections with two doors; one door was
marked girls and the other boys. On a cold, snowy day this flight of stairs seemed to stretch to eternity. Of course they were not swept
clear of the snow, which caused them to be approached with caution. I had been in school about two months when the three of us
second graders, which was the entire class, decided to make that big climb to the outhouse. As we entered the downstairs hall and
looked up the stairs, we saw a young girl. Well almost saw a young girl, as we could see right through her. The other two girls
recognized her as a classmate who just that summer, had fallen off the school yard wall and had her young life cut short.
They were not afraid, so I was not afraid. They talked to her and told her who I was and asked her if she was okay. She then nodded
and faded away. I was so young I did not realize I had just seen a ghost, but ever since that day, I have never been afraid of a ghost. In
my young mind, they were just people who had died and not left yet.
The community would have pot luck dinners now, and then and dances in what once was the church, but now was used as a gym.
Christmas time was my favorite pot luck dinner, because a special menu was created by the women in charge of the occasion. Each
family was asked to bring a certain dish, or bread, or dessert. The ham and turkey was furnished by the school board. Looking back, I
realize that many children today do not have the opportunity to get to know their community as the people of my one room school house
did. We knew that Mrs. Mueller made the best yeast rolls, Mrs. Ruth Blake made the best cake, the ham was cooked by Mrs. Mildred
Blake, Miss English brought the soda pop, and my Mom brought green beans with bacon and almonds. The list goes on and on. After
dinner, we would have a school play that was directed by Mrs. Garwood, and then Santa would appear with a bag of toys. It wasn’t until
much later that I realized how similar he looked to the sheriff. When the last Christmas carol was sung and people started to go home,
this signaled the beginning of Christmas, and excitement filled the cold night air.
One day when I was in third grade we had an unusual occurrence, which started when eighth graders Henry Fisher and the Berillo boy
got into a fight on the school ground. Apparently Henry delivered a low blow to the Berillo boy where boys should not be hit, and as
soon as he could stand up, he walked home and told his mother. Mrs. Berrillo was a busy housewife and this was her day to bake
bread. By the time she arrived at school without her son, school was back in session. As I remember it happened something like this –
suddenly the school room door sprang opened, and there she stood her hair in curlers, the apron covering her dress was dusted with
flour, and in her right hand was a rolling pin. The words from her mouth could have only been understood by someone of her
nationality, which I believe was Spanish or Mexican. Today I realize that it was a good thing that I could not understand what she was
saying, for the words were not fit for my young ears. We all turned to look at her, and then saw that Henry Fisher had jumped out of his
seat, and started running around the room. Mrs. Berillo was right behind him still yelling in that strange language, and now and then
saying in English “My boy, my boy.” They must have run around the room three times before Henry Fisher exited the door. In the
meantime, Miss English, who wore dresses with long full puffy sleeves, was standing by her desk, her arms were rising and falling in
tune to her saying “Now Mrs. Berillo, now Mrs., Berillo,” over and over again. Just for a moment in time, I thought that Miss. English was
going to take off flying like an angel. When it was all over, the students were laughing so hard that Mrs. English had us walk around the
room until we could gain control of our laughter.
I was in fifth grade when one day all of the students were late for class. It was early spring – a sunny, warm morning with no wind. The
North Fork of Clear Creek was still frozen over, creating a nice size skating pond. As if that wasn’t enough distraction, the wild donkeys
certainly were. The donkeys were turned loose by the miners when the mines closed so they wandered the mountains and usually came
into town with the spring days.
I am certain that every parent told their children to stay away from the donkeys. Did this advice matter when it was an accomplishment
for which others would admire you if you could catch one of the donkeys and ride it for more than five minutes? Not in the least. On this
particular day as my sister and I walked around the last curve and the town came into view, so did the frozen pond. Some of our fellow
students were skating on the pond. Then the donkeys approached the creek by way of the steep mountain on the opposite side of the
creek. The game was on; yes we heard the school bell. We did not stop chasing the donkeys until one of the boys caught the donkey
and was riding it across the frozen pond. The ice broke, and into the waist deep water fell the boy. The donkey, remaining on the frozen
pond, kicked up his back feet and took off. The school bell tolled again for the fourth time. All the students knew Miss English was not
going to be happy with us. Nevertheless many of us stayed to help the boy out of the water, and his best friend walked him home to
change clothing. The rest of us faced Miss English. To our dismay, after a short lecture about how important it is to be prompt, she
decided that she could not punish all of the students, so she made each of us promised never to let this happen again. True to our
word, we never did.
By the time I entered sixth grade, I was well versed in how the older students could help the younger students, and what we learned
from helping them. It is a lesson that I valued the rest of my life. I knew that not everyone learned the same way. What I struggled with in
second grade was exactly what other students in second grade struggled with. I also learned the children who were taught the alphabet
in first grade could sound out words a lot better than those of us who were taught word recognition by memorization.
Two years before, the seventh and eight grade students had been moved to Central City, to attend Gilpin County Junior High. That left
less than 20 students in the school. It was this same year in the spring time the secret of the school was exposed; Miss English would
send the students out for lunch recess, and then fall asleep at her desk. She had done this since the beginning of the school year.
Linda Blake, Christine Muller and myself, the whole sixth grade class except for Harry Moore, would watch the time and ring the bell
signaling the end of recess. When the students settled down at their desk, we would start them on their school work. One day Mrs.
Mildred Blake, head of the school board, came to the school unexpectedly and Miss English was still sleeping. For some reason, at the
next month’s school board meeting, it was unanimously decided to not renew Miss English’s contract.
In many ways it was the end of an era, gone were the pot luck dinners, community dances and school plays. The new teacher, a young
man, began his career in the fall of 1957, and I moved on to Junior High.
In closing, I would like you to know that after standing empty for many years and then being used as a storage building for the county
schools, the old school house was renovated. It is now the police department and the church is the annex. When I am in Black Hawk, I
often go to the police department, and speak with a police officer. I tell the officer that I attended school there and ask them how they
are getting on with the ghost. The officers always seem surprised that I know there is a ghost and give me a variety of answers. I then
suggest to the officers to introduce themselves and ask how she (the ghost) is doing. On a return trip to Black Hawk, one officer told me
the suggestion worked and her papers were no longer thrown around the room, nor did she have problems finding her keys or purse at
the end of a shift. My guess is the ghost of that young lady is still waiting for the bell to ring and class to begin.
5 Comments on “The ghost of Black Hawk Grade School”
Subscribe to this post's RSS feed
Jere Collins Baxter
December 3rd, 2009 at 7:16 pm
Really enjoyed the article on the Black Hawk grade school. The donkeys that were around the school were our donkeys and think that
was in the early 50’s. Dad owned the Peak To Peak Bar where the Bullwacker is now standing. His name was Tom Collins. I went to
school first grade thru the 4th in that school and Bobby Clay and myself were the only two in our class and all the class were in the one
room. . Mrs. Garwood was our teacher. I think that I was about 4 or 5 years ahead of Joan Don’t remember any ghosts, but have
wonderful memories of that old school. Thanks for the memories.
December 19th, 2009 at 8:59 pm
Would love to know Joan’s maiden name. I have a guess but don’t know for sure. I also don’t remember a little girl who fell of the wall
and died – would be nice if someone could let us know who that was. I do remember much of what Joan wrote. I was one year behind
her in school and always waited until I went home for lunch to go to the bathroom. Bathrooms were added when I was in second grade
but the coal stove was there through my sixth grade year, after that I went to Gilpin High School. The teacher after Miss English was Mr.
January 17th, 2010 at 1:39 am GREAT story!
January 24th, 2010 at 8:22 am
Was "Mrs. Garwood" Mrs. Mary Ann Garwood, who later taught music for many years in the Denver Public Schools?
If so, further information on her?
The Lace House Museum
161 Main Street
The historic Lace House Has been relocated to Mountain City Historic Park to make way for gambling. The area where the historic
Lace House is now and has been for over 130 years on historic Main Street will be used for a parking lot for a casino owned by Eagle
The Lace House is a very good example of the decorative trim that is sometimes called gingerbread trim.
**Note: The Lace House is owned by the City of Black Hawk and MAY be closed to the public at this time.
.....Currently closed for remodeling, but group tours can be arranged by calling the City Clerk at (303) 582-5221.
The decorative Lace House, built in 1863, has since been restored by the city and offers a glimpse into mountain mining history and at
19th-century Carpenter Gothic architecture.
Lucien K. Smith built this house for his wife, and if it was modest in size, he more than made up for that with the gingerbread exterior,
which earned the building its nickname and also a reputation as one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the Rockies.
In 1974 the house was donated to Black Hawk as a museum. It was renovated just in time for Colorado's centennial and for the next
twenty years remained a draw for tourists heading for the hills.
Cheryl Donaldson met the famed Lace House ghost while working as an intern for the city of Black Hawk last summer. Late one
afternoon, she was working alone in the 133-year-old house, researching and dating the furniture inside as part of a project to restore
the home as a museum.
"I'm truly a nonbeliever, and even though this happened to me, I'm still a little skeptical. I mean, after all, I'm trying to establish myself as
a professional in this field and here I am telling ghost stories," Donaldson said.
"Just the house settling'
"I'd been working in this house by myself, and throughout the summer I kept hearing the floorboards creak upstairs, but I thought it was
just the house settling. Once I swore someone was up there, so I ran up the stairs but I saw nothing. Once you've been in an old house
long enough, your imagination starts running wild," she said.
"One afternoon, I was standing in the dining room in front of the mirror, talking on the phone. I glanced up in the mirror and I saw
something - not a figure exactly, more of a misty form - that walked through the parlor. I just gasped. I told the person on the phone, "I
gotta call you back.' But by the time I hung up the phone and turned around, I couldn't see anything."
Heart pounding, Donaldson walked warily into the parlor, but the ethereal form apparently had moved on.
"I immediately left the house and went up to city hall and said, "How come you guys didn't tell me I was working in a haunted house?'
Their reaction was "This is Black Hawk. Everyplace is haunted."'
Policeman Al Elio could have told Donaldson that much. He had his own close encounter with the ghost. And in 4 1/2 years on the Black
Hawk police force, Elio says he's heard enough ghost stories to give anyone goosebumps.
Two years ago, Elio and another officer responded to a motion-detecting alarm at the Lace House at noon on a summer day.
"We had an alarm; I went there. Officer Todd Renner showed up with me. We got the key from our office and went into the Lace
House's back room - the bathroom area - and disabled the alarm. In that small house, the alarm rings so loud you can hardly hear
yourself think. We walked out of bathroom into the dining room area, and as we were standing there in complete silence, we heard a
laugh, a female laugh, kind of a younger child laugh, coming from upstairs."
"Did you hear that?'
Guns drawn, the two officers searched the entire house once, then twice. "Then we walked back outside and said to each other, "Did
you hear that?' Both of us heard the laugh. We would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that there was someone upstairs when we heard
it. We checked all the doors. They were locked. After talking about it, the hairs on the back of my neck just came up. I was wondering:
"Should I tell someone about this or not?"'
A few times since, Elio has been summoned to the house by the alarm. But each time, after the alarm was turned off, the house was
"Nothing has happened since, but there was something in there that one time. I heard it and another officer did, too. I would probably
not go in there again alone. Really."
Sources: DENVER POST March 26, 1996
Section: Living Page: E-01 Michelle Mahoney Denver Post Staff Writer
'No right answer' in landmark's future
Redrawing of historic district lines means move for Lace House
By Joe Garner, Rocky Mountain News
July 27, 2005
BLACK HAWK - The historic Lace House is to be moved as part of a recommendation to redraw the boundaries of Black Hawk's historic
A symbol of gentility in frontier Colorado, the 1863 house has been marooned on Main Street, with only mega-casinos in either
direction. The two-story, wooden house, built as a wedding gift, takes its name from its fanciful gingerbread trim, which made it a
landmark among the tents and shanties in the mining camp.
"There are no other historical structures to draw people to this part of town," said Sean McCartney, Black Hawk's community planning
and development director.
Instead, the southern end of Main Street is home to some 10 new, high-tech casinos, with names like Mardi Gras, Isle of Capri and
Riviera that conjure up faraway places instead of small-town preservation - the original goal of Colorado gaming.
That end of the mountain town would lose its historical designation, but longtime residential areas and casinos that have opened in
renovated buildings would remain in the redrawn historic district.
As the new casinos pushed aside the past, preservationists in 1998 won a legal battle to let the house stand where it was, but attempts
to turn it into a museum among the casinos failed and it has fallen into disuse. Part of its charm is a second-floor doorway to a steep
stairway that leads up to a privy high on the mountainside above the house's green roof and brick chimneys.
After August 2006, the house will be eligible to be moved about a half-mile to the Mountain City Historic Park, where 11 other historic
buildings already have been relocated and refurbished, according to city officials. Some of the other houses are used for municipal
offices, and the Lace House could be restored as a museum.
Eagle Gaming, which owns the ground on which the house sits, has agreed to pay the $500,000 cost of the relocation to the park site,
according to Black Hawk officials. The gaming company is expected to offer plans for a casino expansion and parking structure for the
Lace House site.
Mark Rodman, executive director of Colorado Preservation Inc., a nonprofit, said he doesn't support moving the Lace House.
"However, it is a complicated situation because the neighborhood has lost its historic context," Rodman said. "There's really no right
On the other hand, tourists Tuesday saw benefits to relocating the house.
"It's better to move it than to lose it," Nick Dixon, a tourist from Kansas City, said Tuesday. "To the casinos, it's just a loss of revenue."
Dave Spangenberg, a vacationer from Boise, Idaho, agreed with the move, pointing out that, "No one sees it here."
A steep site in the park has been identified for the Lace House. The site also would allow the second-floor privy to be moved with the
"The privy is unique," said Philo Shelton, the town's public works director. "We definitely want to put it back the way it is now."
garnerj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5421
The Gilpin Casino
111 Main Street
The Gilpin Hotel- 1896 - (photo from www.photoswest.org)
Do Ghosts Haunt The Gilpin?
The Gilpin Casino was mentioned in a Denver Post article entitled Do Ghosts Haunt Many of State’s Venerable Hostels? Here is what
the article had to say:
At Black Hawk’s Gilpin Hotel (now The Gilpin Casino) in the 1980s a travel-weary guest checked in, retired to his room, tossing his duffel
bag on the floor, and stretched out on the bed, exhausted. Almost immediately he felt something thrown on his chest; it was his duffel
bag. He ran from the hotel, not even bothering to wait for a refund.
It seems The Gilpin Casino has inherited one or more of the old hotel’s ghosts. A Gilpin Manager is positive he saw a woman entering a
second-floor room. When he approached the room, no one was there. He’s sure it was Lucille Malone who jumped to her death a
century ago, when she learned her lover was run over by a wagon in front of the hotel.
"People are very accepting, very matter-of-fact about the ghosts up here," said Jeri Bowles, who owned the Gilpin Hotel in the early
1980s. "They exist, according to most folks you talk to. When we lived in the Gilpin Hotel, there were rational explanations for some of
the things that happened, none for others."
Lucy Malone is said to haunt part of the hotel's dining room. Several construction workers rebuilding the hotel for the casino's 1991
opening said they saw a figure of a woman in a white blouse and black skirt roaming the hallway. "We had one window in the hotel that
kept blowing open no matter if we kept it locked or whatever," Bowles said. "It always blew open to the outside.
"I lived with the ghosts quite comfortably. But I did have one fellow leave after being in one room for an hour. He fell asleep and he said
he woke up after his duffel bag landed on his chest. He just came running down and I gave him his money back and he left."
DENVER POST March 26, 1996
Section: Living Page: E-01 Michelle Mahoney Denver Post Staff Writer
Julia Anderson, the local county court bailiff, told stories of strange happenings at her home to videographers.
"I know there are spirits here," Anderson said as she gave a visitor a quick tour of the 130-year-old home. "People who walk into this
house say there's a coolness, especially in our parlor, and people say it feels like there are spirits here."
Anderson's husband, James, who works in audiovisual production at Red Rocks Community College, has even named one ghost "Lily."
"I've seen her twice for sure," Anderson said. "I was standing at the top of the stairs looking down and saw a shadow go by from left to
right." In 1985, before the couple moved from Denver to live in the house full time, John had several strange experiences. Lights on,
"I'd been working upstairs replacing some ceiling joists, and I came down and the kitchen lights were on and all cupboard doors and
drawers would be open. The first time, I didn't think much of it, just closed them all, turned off the light and went upstairs. Later I'd come
down and they were all open and the light was on. This happened no less than half a dozen times in a one-week period.
"I sort of had the feeling that whoever was still hanging around up here was delighted with the fact that we were restoring the place."
Source: DENVER POST March 26, 1996
Section: Living Page: E-01 Michelle Mahoney Denver Post Staff Writer
Back to home page