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Ornament preserves a bit of Park City’s mining heritage

California Comstock Mill is this year’s item

The Park City Museum has found a great way to raise funds to continue its mission to preserve, protect and promote Park City’s rich mining heritage during the holiday season.

For the past few years, it has commissioned a local artist to create three-dimensional brass ornaments that are based on historic local buildings, settings and objects.

Past ornaments have been of the Silver King Boarding House, the Kimball Garage, the Union Pacific Depot and the Daly West Mine & Head Frame.

This year, the ornament depicts the California Comstock Mill. which is located at the Park City Mountain Resort.

The ornament costs $25 and can be purchased at the Museum’s store, 528 Main St. Park City Museum members receive at 10 percent discount.

The mill, which is currently undergoing a preservation effort headed by the Park City Historical Society, has been researched by local historian Sally Elliott for her book, “The Mines, the Mills and the Moguls.”

Elliott, who has served in elected office at City Hall and the Summit County Courthouse, said she has struggled in finding trustworthy information about the California Comstock Mines.

“I know they were two of our earliest mines,” Elliott said during an interview at her Prospector home. “The California Mine probably pre-dated the Comstock Mine. The Comstock Mine was adjacent, just north, to the California Mine.”

The Comstock Mine was incorporated in London in 1888, with a capitalization of 250,000 pounds at one share per pound, according to Elliott’s research.

“The Comstock mill was probably completed before 1903, according to the dates the Park City Museum has,” she said.

The California Mine, on the other hand, was incorporated between 1897 and 1900, although its claims trace back to 1877, said Elliott, who is co-chair of the Friends of Mining History preservation efforts.

“The most valuable ore came from the California Mine and evidently the Comstock Mine was undermining the California claims,” Elliott said. “There was a lot of that going on because they all were bad boys.”

Although there are conflicting dates, Elliott recently found — through reading the book “My Treasure Mountain Home ” by George Thompson and Fraser Buck — that the California and Comstock mines consolidated in 1903.

Other sources have documented that the two mines merged into the California Comstock Consolidated Mining company in 1906, according to the card included in the ornament packaging.

“There were lawsuits about the undermined ore that lasted until 1908,” she said. “Now, I can’t find how they settled or if they were settled, but they must have been settled by incorporating the two mines.”

The Comstock Mill was last remodeled in 1918.

“That was right after Solon Spiro got his hands on it for $300,000,” Elliott said.

Park City based artist Jan Massimino, who has created the Park City Museum ornaments for the past few years, created an ornament of the California Comstock Mill because of the focus it has garnered over the past few months.

“I knew the building was being restored and thought it was important to commemorate it this year,” Massimino said.

Although the museum usually gives Massimino free reign in creating the ornaments, the artist works closely with Executive Director Sandra Morrison and her staff.

“The Park City Museum staff will send me a photograph or a combination of photographs and that’s where I start,” Massimino said.

She usually begins with a free sketch of the building to get the proportions right.

“I try to make the ornament historically correct,” she said. “A lot of times, however, the scene needs to be livened up a bit, so I’ll add animals like a dog or a deer in the scene.

“Even though it’s left up to me to do it, I do listen to other people to get ideas of what might be more representational of Park City,” Massimino said. “This helps me come up with new designs every year, and adding those things make the ornament more
attractive.”

After the sketch is done, Massimino and Morrison work together to come up with the final composition.

“We send the drawing to the manufactures and go back and forth deciding what the finished product will look like,” Massimino said.

This is important because there are some technical aspects that come with making a three-dimensional object.

“We have to decide what should be in the foreground and what should be in the background,” Massimino said. “We also go over what kind of pattern should be etched into the ornament itself to give it a realistic representative of what the building or scenery looked like at the time. We want the ornaments to represent our historic past, but also be marketable for the people who buy them.”

Massimino began working on the ornament last summer.

“I’m honored that the Park City Museum will continue to ask me every year to do this,” she said.

The Park City Museum’s holiday ornament of the Comstock Mining Building can be purchased by visiting the Park City Museum, 528 Main St. In addition to this year’s ornament, there are a number of past ornaments remaining that are still available for purchase. The museum will offer a locals appreciation shopping day on Friday, Dec. 16. Park City and Summit County residents will receive a 10 percent discount all day. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityhistory.org.


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