St. Elmo, Colorado: Best Preserved Rocky Mountain Ghost Town

St. Elmo, Colorado: Best Preserved Rocky Mountain Ghost Town

It is believed that the residents in St. Elmo boarded the final train that left the city, and then never came back.

St. Elmo is a charming ghost town located in Chaffee County in Colorado, USA. It’s probably one of the most well-preserved ghost towns found in America.

St. Elmo ghost town, Colorado, Rocky Mountains.
St. Elmo ghost town, Colorado, Rocky Mountains. Author: Darekk2 CC BY-SA 3.0

Saint Elmo, Colorado is one of the most accessible and well-preserved Ghost towns. It’s about 30 minutes from the town, and is located south from Buena Vista in Chalk Creek Canyon.

There are 43 structures that are still in use which include a saloon, courthouse/jailhouse, mercantile, and private homes.

The ghost town is open throughout the year, which makes it among the very few places that is worth visiting during winter months. Each summer, the General Store is open for business.

640px house with bay window main street st elmo colorado
House with bay window. Author: John S. Hirth CC BY-SA 3.0

St. Elmo was discovered in 1880 when copper, silver, gold and iron mining started in the region. Around 2,000 people moved into the town due to the Gold Rush.

The town’s initial name was Forest City, but due to the number of towns bearing identical names it was renamed St. Elmo when the post office was established.

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St. Elmo, Colorado Main Street, about 1885.

St. Elmo, Colorado Main Street, about 1885.
St. Elmo, Colorado Main Street, about 1885.

Griffith Evans, one of the town’s pioneers who came up with the name “Griffith Evans” following the popular romance novel of the 19th century that was titled the same.

The first settlement was made in 1878. It was officially declared in 1880. It was during this time that silver and gold started to draw a lot of residents to the region.

Gasoline filling station

St Elmo Gasoline filling station. Author: Darekk2 CC BY-SA 3.0
Gasoline filling station. Author: Darekk2 CC BY-SA 3.0

The town was originally called Forest City, the name was changed following a complaint from the post office complained about having too many towns bearing similar names.

Griffith Evans, one of the founding members who was the one who came up with the name after reading a romantic 19th century novel with the same title.

The town reached its peak around the time of the 1890s. Numerous mining towns that were thriving had also been flourishing during that period, including saloons and dance halls and bawdy buildings.

St. Elmo also had an torygraph and post office as well as a town hall, three hotels, several retail shops, five restaurants, two sawmills The Mountaineer, a weekly newspaper and an elementary school.

It was a station along the Denver, South Park, and Pacific railroad line in 1881. It also had trails that continued throughout Hancock and the historical Mountain Tunnel. St. Elmo was a important source of supplies that came via train to mining workers in the region.

The Mary Murphy, Theresa C., Molly, and Pioneer were the most important mines. A majority of the population of St. Elmo’s residents were employed at these four mines. Mary Murphy Mine Mary Murphy Mine was the largest and most productive mine.

Saint Elmo General store.
General store.Author: Darekk2 CC BY-SA 3.0

The mine, situated high in the mountain ranges, was able to ship between 50-75 tonnes of gold daily to the Alpine Smelters.

While other mines were shutting down, Mary Murphy Mine remained operational up to the time that railroads were shut down in 1922.

In the region around there were more than 150 mines. However, once the minerals ran out and the mining industry shut down people living in St. Elmo plummeted.

Miners emigrated elsewhere to find work as the economy plummeted. There were fewer residents who remained in the town. St. Elmo was erased from the map of the postal service of the United States after the postmaster passed away in 1952.

St. Elmo is now one of the most popular tourist destinations. Most of the structures are uninhabitable and well-maintained, conveying the essence of the once vibrant town.

The region’s mining roads are suitable for 4 wheel driving and the nature surrounding is a favorite camping area.

Unfortunately, on the 15th of April 2002 an blaze at Saint Elmo destroyed six of the structures which included the former Town Hall and Jail, and a few belonging to the Stark family’s homes.

St. Elmo, Colorado School by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
St. Elmo, Colorado School by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

A different skier reported that he saw a beautiful woman wearing an elegant white dress, which was framed by the second-story window of the hotel’s old building.

The owner was away on vacation So who could have been the culprit? The young woman’s eye was attracted by something in the distance. When the skier sat down she saw the snowmobilers cruising across the street.

The skier dispersed the group and informed them that snowmobiling is banned within St. Elmo.

The group apologized before going off on their own. The skier then returned her eyes to the hotel The woman smiled but then turned away and disappeared.

Legend of Annabelle’s ghost lingers among the residents who live part-time in Saint Elmo, who believe Annabelle is still guarding the property she owns from vandals and other trespassers.

The Saint Elmo Property Owners passed an ordinance the 6th of July, 2002 giving their Town Hall property as well as the Saint Elmo School House to the Buena Vista Heritage Museum.

The Museum plans to work in close collaboration with Association and the local community to protect and preserve Saint Elmo.

Town Hall, St. Elmo, Colorado, 1984.

Town Hall, St. Elmo, Colorado, 1984.
Town Hall, St. Elmo, Colorado, 1984.

Presently, St. Elmo has numerous structures which have been conserved and are privately owned. It is among the most well-preserved ghost towns in Colorado and has handful of residents.

A general merchandise store which is in operation from May to October as well as a church, school, several other buildings for business, as well as a variety of buildings are included among the structures that remain. A lot of them were built in the 1880s and 1890s.

Lot where the St. Elmo Town Hall stood, by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2004.

There are many four-wheel-drive trails within the region, and rockhounds can find aquamarine and quartz, as well as fishing in the upper mountains and camping are abundant.

To reach Saint Elmo, take US 285 south from Buena Vista to Nathrop, and then County Road 162 west for about 16 miles until Saint Elmo.

Read our next Article Here: Abandoned Salton City: Once a lush Resort Oasis, Now a Wasteland Once

2012 10 07 St Elmo21
Abandoned St. Elmo Ghost Town


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