SILVERTON – The iconic Old Hundred Boarding House, high up on Galena Mountain four miles northeast of Silverton, needs help.
During a climb to the site last summer, a contingent of San Juan County Historical Society members determined that the structure, built 111 years ago, is slowly peeling away from the mountainside because of ice getting wedged between the building and the rock face.
“Ice gets between the building and the rock wall, and it just presses that building,” said Bev Rich, chair of the historical society, which is launching a fundraising effort to alleviate the problem.
The project will involve fastening the structure to the rock face with steel.
There also are reported to be “some healthy and ravenous” marmots residing in the boarding house, and they actually seem to subsist on the boarding house floors. Flooring and windows will have to be installed to secure the structure.
Preliminary estimates indicate that it may take $30,000 or more to do the work needed, but that’s if helicopter time can be donated to reach the precarious site.
The historical society is trying to raise 25 percent of that (about $7,500) to cover matching funds for grants.
The historical society obtained grants to repair a caved-in roof and to fix the adjacent tram house, too, in 1998-99. And so far, the historical society has gotten a donation of $500 for the upcoming effort.
“Now that we’ve spent all that money on it before, we’d hate to see it tumble to the bottom of the canyon now,” Rich said.
Construction of the boarding house, now a state historic landmark, was a daunting task.
“In 1904 – when weather permitted – construction crews led mule teams burdened with building materials 6½ miles up a trail of repeating switchbacks to Galena Mountain’s 13,278-foot summit,” according to a 2001 article by Ben Fogelberg, editor of Colorado History NOW.
“Workers hand-winched the materials down a wooden chute 200 feet to the Old Hundred Mine’s Level 7 adit. There, 2,000 feet above the valley floor on the mountain’s pitched eastern face, they carved two slim ledges on which they built the mine’s boarding house and tramway terminal.”
The boarding house accommodated 24 miners during their off-hours, while the tramway transported ore from the mine’s mouth, located directly behind the terminal, to a mill in the valley below.
A slim boardwalk connected the two structures on the steep mountainside. But by 1908 the mine had shut down, and the buildings have remained vacant for most of the time since.