Park City mining-era relics on cusp of tight protections
February 26, 2010
Outside the Montage construction zone in Empire Pass sits a relic of Park City’s silver-mining heyday — the headframe of the Daly West mine, with hoisting works still inside a building next door.
Across Park City, on the grounds of the Silver Star development off Three Kings Drive, another reminder of the mining era — the entrance to the Spiro Tunnel — remains intact.
City Hall, in its ongoing efforts to preserve remnants of the silver-mining years, is preparing to protect the Daly West headframe, the Spiro Tunnel entrance and other mining-era structures.
The Historic Preservation Board, the City Hall panel that holds some influence in Old Town and over historic buildings elsewhere in Park City, could make a series of key determinations in March that the mining sites are significant. doing so, the municipal government would be placing another level of protection on them.
A building or a structure that has been determined to be significant cannot be torn down unless City Hall approves the razing through a tightly controlled certificate acknowledging that the building or structure is appropriate for demolition. The Planning Department and the Building Department issue the certificates, and the decisions sometimes are controversial since they often involve old buildings.
The Historic Preservation Board in March is tentatively scheduled to consider whether six mining-era sites are significant. They include well-known relics and ones that only Park City history buffs would likely know of.
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"There are very few mining sites left on the mountain," said Dina Blaes, a City Hall-hired consultant assigned to preservation issues.
The six sites are scattered throughout Park City, and the landowners did not request the additional layer of protection for the sites. Blaes said she is not aware of opposition from the landowners.
Others included in the set of six that Parkites might recognize are the Judge Mine in Empire Canyon south of Daly Avenue and the Judge Mine aerial tramway, which encompasses a series of towers on a ridge stretching from Daly Avenue to Prospect Avenue.
The sites are currently in "various states of preservation," Blaes said.
If they are found to be significant, the sites would join a better-known group of six mining-era relics that were granted the protection in 2009. The earlier group includes the Silver King building on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort close to the top terminal of the Town Lift and the mine towers along the Town Lift’s route.
"They’re trying to further cement what I’m already doing," said Rory Murphy, who led the development of Silver Star and pledged long ago to link the project to the mining history.
Murphy’s project, where the Spiro Tunnel entrance is situated, was known by the Spiro moniker as his side sought the development approvals needed for Silver Star. He sees the Spiro Tunnel as adding a historic flare to the development, which also houses other mining-era structures. He said he will not oppose City Hall’s expected determination that the Spiro Tunnel site is historically significant.
"The intangible value of the historic structures and history of the Spiro site was so obvious to us," Murphy said. "There was never a question with us that we would restore them."
Park City was founded as a silver-mining camp in the 19th century and the industry dominated the economy until the middle of the 20th century. The mining industry faded as silver prices fell sharply, eventually giving way to skiing as the economic driver starting in the 1970s.
Numerous relics of the mining days, though, remain in the mountains surrounding the city. Park City leaders and the city’s influential preservation community have long been committed to ensuring the mining era is not forgotten, with many saying that the city’s history sets Park City apart from other mountain destinations.
Sandra Morrison, the leader of the Park City Historical Society, supports the City Hall efforts to further protect the six sites, saying they represent "physical evidence of the history." She said tourists enjoy the mining-era relics, spurring the Historical Society to schedule ski tours and hikes of the relics and put up approximately 40 informational signs describing the history of the sites.
"They’re some of the last remaining physical structures that represent our past," Morrison said.
A City Hall panel in March could place further protections on a series of mining-era sites. They are:
Daly West mine site in Empire Pass close to the Montage construction site
Alliance mine site in Walker Webster Gulch south of Daly Avenue
Spiro Tunnel in Silver Star
Judge Mine site in Empire Canyon south of Daly Avenue
Judge Mine aerial tramway towers on a ridge stretching from Daly Avenue to Prospect Avenue.
Little Bell in the upper reaches of Empire Canyon, just off Deer Valley Resort’s Bandana ski run