Way We Were: The Spiro Tunnel
Park City Museum researcher
As Solon Spiro contemplated the future in late 1915, the outlook appeared excellent. His King Con mine had recently discovered a rich ore lode and had won a legal battle with the famous Silver King Coalition company. King Con accordingly announced major plans for mine improvements and a massive exploration tunnel project.
The story begins in March 1901 when Spiro and Samuel Newhouse purchased the Bogan mine and claims. The Bogan shaft was on today’s Claimjumper ski run at Park City Mountain Resort. The location of the mine is still marked by an impressive ore bin on the side of the run. The new operation was incorporated as the Silver King Consolidated (King Con) with Spiro as president. The Bogan shaft was down about 580 feet and King Con moved aggressively to drive the shaft deeper and to improve the surface facilities. By June 1907, the shaft was down 1,800 feet.
Then in 1908 legal troubles surfaced. The King Con and neighboring Silver King disputed claims on certain underground properties. King Con sued Silver King for unlawful extraction of ore. The case was known as the “Suit of the Kings.” In April 1911, the case was decided at the federal district court level and King Con was awarded $750,000 in damages. Appeals were filed and a decision was again rendered in April 1913 for King Con for nearly $900,000 which included additional damages plus interest. The Silver King appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take the case, thereby affirming judgment for King Con. Silver King paid the judgment in late 1913, finally settling the dispute and agreeing on a division of the ground in question in late 1914.
While the lawsuit worked its way through the courts, King Con continued expansion, acquiring over 800 acres of unexplored property up in Thaynes Canyon, which its technical experts believed had great potential. The experts also recommended that a tunnel would be a far more economical method to develop this property rather than driving a surface shaft and dealing with the associated hoisting works and transportation challenges.
With its strong financial basis reinforced by its lawsuit victory, in December 1915, King Con acquired 80 acres of the Sullivan Ranch (William M. Ferry property) as the site of the portal for the new tunnel. This site today is the Silver Star development.
In a report to King Con stockholders in March 1916, consulting engineer Harry Lee advised that the same rich geologic traits found in adjoining properties were evident in the formations that would be penetrated by the tunnel. Mr. Lee also noted that the intervening Woodside Shale carried a high percentage of water and the tunnel would afford a gravity drain for the water, which might itself be an asset. Total development cost was estimated at $400,000.
The story of driving the Spiro Tunnel will be the subject of a part two. For more information about the Spiro Tunnel and other mining history, visit the Park City Museum.
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