Sallie Barber Mine to be stabilized ahead of winter |

Sallie Barber Mine to be stabilized ahead of winter

The Sallie Barber Mine is pictured in 1968.
Photo by Maureen Nicholls

BRECKENRIDGE — Sallie Barber Mine, which produced zinc for over 50 years, is going through a stabilization effort to preserve the historic site.

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance is leading the project in cooperation with the Summit County and Breckenridge open space departments. Heritage Alliance Vice President Larry Crispell explained that preliminary stabilization will occur this fall to ensure the mine doesn’t collapse this winter and that more permanent work will be done next summer pending county approval.

Heritage Alliance Executive Director Larissa O’Neil wrote in an email that stabilization efforts will focus on the mine’s ore bin, which is “in poor condition and at risk of further deterioration.” Some siding and roofing materials will be used to protect the mine through the winter.

Crispell said the alliance is essentially being proactive in stabilizing the mine while it’s still standing.

“The mine is unique to Breckenridge and to Colorado in a lot of ways,” Crispell said. “It actually was a pioneer in zinc production in the Blue River Valley.”

The Sallie Barber Mine was discovered by prospectors in 1881. Crispell said the mine was not heavily developed until the 1890s, and peak production occurred around the 1900s. At the turn of the century, zinc ore was in demand on the national scale for manufacturing needs, and several Colorado mining areas became principal suppliers, O’Neil explained.

The zinc ore that was brought out of the mine had to be taken to Leadville via railroad for smelting because there was not a local capacity for smelting zinc, Crispell said. While the mine is mainly known for zinc, small amounts of gold and silver also were extracted. O’Neil wrote that the Sallie Barber Mine changed hands many times with the last owners operating the mine through the 1940s. The town of Breckenridge and Summit County jointly purchased more than 1,000 acres of open space in 2005, including the mine site.

As part of the work, the Heritage Alliance plans to reestablish the gallows headframe, Crispell said, which held a pulley and stood directly over the mouth of the mine, dropping miners’ ore buckets into the mine. He said the headframe will be returned to its original look with vertical elements of the headframe being reestablished along with replacement of some of the structure at the top, which ties vertical posts together. Work will be done to the base, using concrete to reestablish the connection to the ground.

The ore bin, which in the sorting process between ore and rock was used to carry the valuable ore, also will be stabilized. Once enough of the valuable ore was accumulated, it was transferred from the ore bin into a wagon or other vehicle and taken to a train car. 

“We’re really lucky to have so many elements left from the original work on the site,” Crispell said, adding that a steam hoist also remains. “By stabilizing and preserving what’s there, it will allow people to go up there and understand this mine for many years to come.”

Crispell noted that the Sallie Barber Mine is incredibly popular because it is easily accessed. He said he often sees multigenerational groups of people making their way to the mine in the summer.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to use a very popular site to keep introducing children — the new generation — and have them understand and value heritage so that as times goes on, these sites will continue to be valued and preserved and stabilized and understood,” Crispell said.

Crispell said Tony Harris, a general contractor, will carry out the Sallie Barber Mine project. Harris has worked on several other projects of historic nature in Breckenridge, including the Wellington ore bin.

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