Historic Daly West Mine head frame standing again after 7 years
Efforts to preserve the 107-year-old steel structure cost around $400,000
The historic Daly West head frame is upright once again, symbolizing a successful preservation effort more than seven years in the making.
The 107-year-old, 85-foot-tall, 80,000-pound steel structure was initially scheduled to be raised on Thursday, after being pushed back last fall, but stormy weather caused the event to be delayed until Friday. As construction crews continued work on the head frame that once stood above the Daly West Mine in upper Deer Valley, preservationists, elected officials and other community members celebrated the important milestone in honoring Park City’s mining history.
“I would postulate that had we not been noisy and vociferous, this probably wouldn’t have happened,” said Sally Elliott, a member of the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History, a subgroup of the Park City Museum, and longtime Park City preservation supporter. “I think [Montage Deer Valley] is really glad to have this dead cockroach out of their backyard and have it standing proudly as a monument to our auspicious heritage.”
The original Daly West head frame, which was made of wood, was built over a 2,100 feet deep mine shaft. It was replaced with steel after being destroyed in a 1914 fire and stood for around 100 years, serving as one of the most prominent mining-era structures in the area until May 2015.
That spring, the steel structure collapsed into a 40-foot crater that formed in the mine shaft and landed on its side, crumpling portions of the metal in the fall. Parkites quickly called for the head frame to be raised once again but restoration efforts were paused as those involved discussed what to do with it. The Jordanelle Special Service District, which owned the Daly West location at the time it collapsed, said it would not fund the restoration.
Deer Valley Resort purchased the land for $35,000 in 2020 with the intent to raise the head frame. Steve Issowits, who served as the director of real estate and resort planning for Deer Valley at the time and is one of the figures who negotiated the transaction between Deer Valley and the Jordanelle Special Service District, was praised on Thursday for his role in the deal.
As Deer Valley, City Hall and other entities involved with the restoration discussed how to proceed, the group realized the structure needed to be moved about 100 feet southwest from its original location to a new foundation that was created last summer.
Doug Ogilvy, who heads the Empire Pass Master Owners Association and is the head frame project manager, described how the structure was taken apart, new parts added and reassembled through a surgery-like restoration process. The structure was slated to be lifted in October 2021, but an early winter delayed the project until this summer.
Construction crews hoped to put on the finishing touches on Thursday, which included welding attachment points onto the head frame to avoid touching it directly as it was raised, but lightning pushed the project to the following morning.
The points were put on the top of the head frame as well as near the bottom legs. Two cranes were then used to alleviate pressure by lifting each section. Mike Schvameveldt, the main crane operator, said the head frame would gradually be pivoted until it was vertical. Then, the smaller crane would be disconnected as the larger crane swung the structure into place. Once on the new platform, the head frame had to be fitted to the foundation because of how its legs were mangled when it fell.
Schvameveldt, who has 45 years of experience, said the Daly West head frame is the oldest structure he’s worked on. He was confident in the restoration work.
Geologist Brian Buck, who’s been involved in the preservation efforts, admitted on Thursday he was nervous to see the head frame be raised. He described the “abuse” the structure has endured over the years and went over the history of how mine shafts are built. Buck suggested other structures in the Park City area could face the same fate as the Daly West head frame, which is why the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History are committed to funding similar projects.
“They were all built the same way so all of these shafts that have these wooden sets in them are a risk and they’re at risk of collapsing. Particularly, where they collapse is not so much far down, but near the ground surface … it’s particularly weak in that upper portion and that’s what happened here,” he said.
It cost around $400,000 to preserve the Daly West head frame, which was funded by the Empire Pass Master Owners Association and City Hall as part of the Flagstaff Development Agreement. The Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History were strong advocates of the project.
Park City Councilor Tana Toly spoke on behalf of the municipal government on Thursday and thanked those involved for their work and collaboration.
Elliott said she was glad to finally see the head frame be raised after the effort put into the restoration. The project is important, she said, because Park City is one of the only places where someone can ski around an old mining town and see the remnants of history.
“It’s part of our brand, it’s part of who we are,” she said. “I’ve been working in preservation for 36 years. This is the culmination of a dream come true.”
With the Daly West head frame standing again, Deer Valley plans to preserve what’s left at the original site. Although it was once a rite of passage to climb the structure, the head frame will now be enclosed. Interpretive signs will be installed there, as well as around the former hoist and control station, to help educate visitors about the community’s mining history.
Photos from the this year’s Kimball Arts Festival.
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