The Interesting History Behind Colorado’s Idarado Houses
Colorado's rich Western roots can be witnessed in many different places around the state. Architectural examples give some of the best glimpses into how Coloradans used to live many years ago.
Located around a tight curve on U.S. 550/Red Mountain Pass, four historic homes have stood the test of time. The abandoned Idarado Houses provide a look at how life once was in a thriving mining town.
No one knows exactly who built the Idarado Houses, but it's believed the simple clapboard structures were constructed sometime around the early 1900s. The ten houses were originally built in Eureka, Colorado, but when the Sunnyside Mine went bankrupt in 1948, the Idarado Mining Company purchased the homes and moved them to the Red Mountain location.
The dwellings were remodeled and used to house Idarado mine employees. From 1948-1978, a total of twelve families lived in the homes. The Idarado Mine provided a station wagon that took the kids who lived at these houses to school in Ouray daily.
Once the mine shut down, families began moving out of the area. As a result, four of the Idarado Houses have been sitting vacant for 40 years, the other eight have since been demolished.
The peeling white paint now reveals the bones of each home, but thanks to the four abodes, pieces of the past can still exist.
The two-story Griffith’s-Noel House sits closest to the highway. A 'no trespassing' sign hangs on the faded blue door and the front steps have been removed. Sadly, the windows have been shattered, and the once-cheery home now looks bare and bleak.
Hammond’s Hotel is the building right next door to the Griffith’s-Noel House. According to a former Idarado resident, the single men used to live inside this roomy structure.
The Newlywed House is another one of the buildings still left standing. It's tucked against the wooded hillside and can be viewed best from the top of the pass. Rusted '60s-era appliances can still be seen when peeking through the aluminum-framed windows. The updates in this house were more extensive than any of the others. Rather than Celotex fiberboard, the Newlywed House had Insulated walls and sheetrock.
Finally, the Bachelor’s House is the fourth of the historic homes. It looks like the other three houses on the outside and has green walls on the inside. A clear view of the Bachelor's House can be seen while driving on the highway.
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Ten years ago, the Ouray County Historical Society explained that the architecture and construction of the homes are not necessarily significant. However, together, they form a fine example of company housing in an isolated mining setting. The old homes also tell a story important to the history of the region. This is why local groups have continued to care about their preservation, making stabilization efforts a priority in the past few years.
The Idarado Houses can be seen when traveling on Million Dollar Highway/U.S. 550, about 2 miles south of County Highway 30 (they'll be on the left when heading north). The historical marker is located at a small scenic roadside park at milepost 82 near Ouray. Informational signage explaining their history is also posted on the site.
If you do stop to visit the Idarado houses, it's important to respect the historic buildings. Do not remove anything from the structures or damage them in any way.