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El Pomar donates 11K to preserve 19th century Leadville silver mine

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Matchless Mine in Leadville, Colorado (Photo from Wikipedia)

By: Liz Forster, The Gazette

One of Colorado's most iconic 19th century silver mines in need of repairs is getting a helping hand from the El Pomar Foundation.

The foundation awarded the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum $11,000 to help fund structural repairs at the Matchless Mine in Leadville.

"I am pleased that the foundation's grant proposal reviewers recognized the importance of preserving Colorado's mining heritage and supported rehabilitation of the headframe at the Matchless Mine," said Stephen Whittington, the museum's executive director. "Historic preservation projects are complex and expensive. It is only with funding from charitable foundations like El Pomar that nonprofits can successfully complete such projects."

Intense sunlight during Leadville summers and heavy snows during long winters have weathered the headframe that stands over the last remaining shaft on the mine's claim and was used to raise and lower miners and ore, Whittington said in a statement. Parts of the structure are more than 125 years old and are beyond repair.

In September, HistoriCorps, a nonprofit historic preservation organization based in Denver, treated the parts of the headframe that could be salvaged with preservatives.

Parts of the structure beyond repair were replaced with newly milled wood from the same tree species. HistoriCorps staff and volunteers also poured concrete pads to support the diagonal and vertical legs.

Other donors include the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, the Leadville Trail Legacy Foundation, former state Sen. Ken Chlouber, Periodic Brewery in Leadville and private parties.

Purchased in 1879 by Colorado "Silver King" H.A.W. Tabor, the Matchless Mine was one of the richest silver mines of the era. According to the Matchless Mine's website, the mine produced up to $2,000 a day in high quality silver.

Within 20 years, the mine was depleted of high-grade silver, leaving the family nearly penniless when Tabor died in 1899.

Tabor's wife, Elizabeth leased the property for various iron, zinc, manganese and silver ore mining operations, but the Tabor fortune never rebounded.

Tours of the Matchless Mine are available during the summer starting on Memorial Day.

For more information, visit the National Mining Hall of Frame and Museum's website, mininghalloffame.org.