Monday, June 4, 2012

Cerro Gordo, California

Cerro Gordo (Fat Hill) is a ghost town now, but once it was so important that it helped transform Los Angeles from a sleepy small town to an important city. Around 1870, nine tons of silver-lead bullion per day was being smelted and transported to Los Angeles for shipment. Cerro Gordo had a population of 4500, so goods to support all these people were sent on the returning 14 mule ore wagons. Los Angeles prospered with all this commercial trade.
Cerro Gordo sits at 8500' elevation, about 5000' above Owens Dry Lake. This photo shows the Yellow Grade Road that climbs the mountain over a very steep gravel road with plenty of switchbacks and dramatic drop-offs. The large building is the American Hotel, and the building to the left is the Crapo house.
When the owners of Cerro Gordo passed away, the ghost town was closed to the public. Recently, a caretaker was placed on site and the town was opened for tours. We were extremely lucky to be given a tour by Jim Phillips and his three-legged dog "Patch". They are on the porch of the American Hotel in this photo.  When we were through exploring, Jim invited us into the old Belshaw House, where he lives, to relax and tell stories.
The American Hotel still has a beautiful old bar inside.  The portrait over the bar is Jody Stewart Patterson.  She and her husband, Mike, owned the town until she died in 2001 and Mike in 2009.
There are mines, old equipment, and artifacts everywhere you look.  This old ore bin and trestle dangle up the hill from the town.  After the silver and lead played out, the population decreased, then zinc mining brought back a few people about the turn of the century.  That lasted about 20 years before Cerro Gordo became a ghost town.
The corrugated steel building may have been a store once, but now it is a museum of sorts.  It is stuffed full of dusty relics found all over the mountain and in the mines.  The building on the right is the Belshaw House, where the smelter operator once lived.
I found her inside the museum.  Could the exotic spirit of Lola be trapped here in the dust and rust?

We revisited Cerro Gordo in 2015.  You can see my post about that visit here: