One is never quite prepared for the magical transformation that occurs as you enter the storybook setting of Silverton.
Take a step back in time starting around 1860, when Charles Baker and several prospectors entered the San Juan Mountains in search of wealth. They soon found deposits of gold and silver along the Animas River in an area that was later called "Baker's Park."
In 1874, the Silverton town site was laid out and it soon became the center of the numerous mining camps located along the Animas River. In addition to the miners, Silverton caught the eye of railroad companies in Denver. In July 1882, the first train operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad rolled in to Silverton from Durango. By 1883, Silverton boasted having a population of 2,000 people with 400 buildings-two banks, five laundries, 32 saloons and several hotels. An invisible line ran down Greene Street keeping the respectable side of town divided from the bawdry red light district -the infamous Blair Street.
During Silverton's early history, Blair Street developed as the red-light district. In May 1883, a Grand Jury brought 117 indictments against "lewd women." Prostitutes were fined $5.00 plus court costs and dance halls that were open on Sunday were fined $25.00.
Although fines were levied, gambling and prostitution were generally accepted as long as the practice did not migrate into the more respectable sections of town. Lascivious behavior was not necessarily condemned, as fines were readily used for the growing community. Today there is still a town ordinance on the books prohibiting curtains on saloon windows. The law wanted to see what was going on inside those dens of iniquity!
By the 1940s most of the gambling was over and the "ladies" had moved on, citing competition from the local girls who "gave it away" in fits of patriotic fervor during WWII. The old saloons on Blair Street had a rebirth in the 1950s as movie sets, where westerns such as "Run for Cover," "Across The Wide Missouri" and "True Grit" were shot. The train, a world-class attraction, was often the star, too. Today the train brings over 140,000 passengers a year into Silverton from Durango to visit, unloading in the middle of notorious Blair Street, a step back in time.
Today, Silverton is nationally noted for its excellent preservation of such unique history, buildings, Silverton Mountain Ski Area, Kendall Mountain Recreation Area, the scenic highway and back country byways, small town friendliness and as a year-round recreational paradise. One will have plenty to do with such a variety of shops, restaurants, lodging, camping, museums, tours, events and all your favorite summer and winter recreational offerings.
Just a short drive north of Durango and easily accessible year round via US Highway 550, you will find many reasons to keep coming back to stay, shop and play.
Silverton is more than a train town; the entire community is listed on the National Historic Register.
For more information visit: www.silvertoncolorado.com, call 1-800-752-4494 or stop in at The Silverton Visitor Center: Intersection US Hwy 550 & Greene St.