this blog post, and pictures are out of sequence with the rest of my Rocky Mountain National Park trip, but that's what happens when I'm doing my blog out of sequence with the rest of my life. I visited central city and Blackhawk on my way to Rocky Mountain National Park and instead of just taking a few pictures I decided to do a brief story on how they ended up looking the way they do. Tomorrow I'll get back to the mountains.
Central City, and Blackhawk Colorado were old gold-mining towns that had played out. They were about one mile apart, and Central City had become the bigger and more famous of the two towns and was a bustling tourist town which kept it alive and making money long after the mines went bust.
At the same time there wasn't much going on in Blackhawk, the town was all but nonexistent and very few tourists bothered to do more than just drive through it because there was hardly any of the old buildings left so there was no reason to stop. So Blackhawk and its small businesses withered on the vine.
Central City Colorado
Around 1990 The Colorado Constitution was amended to allow limited stakes gambling in Cripple Creek, Central City, and Blackhawk. The Cripple Creek Chamber of Commerce originally came up with the idea but those of us in the Chamber and owning the businesses in Cripple Creek didn't have the kind of money it took to amend the Colorado Constitution so we had to take in partners to share the expense and that became Central City and Blackhawk.
Central City Colorado
The law passed and the Colorado state government had to make new laws concerning the limited stakes gambling. And one of first thing they decided was you couldn't tear down the old historic buildings, they had to be brought up to modern UBC codes, which made it incredibly expensive to rebuild, and then maintain these crumbling hundred year old buildings.
Also gaming could only take place in certain downtown areas of the three towns, so Cripple Creek ended up with basically two streets of gaming. Central city had pretty much the whole downtown area for gaming, because they had a lot of old historic buildings right downtown. And poor little Blackhawk had almost no historic buildings left so they made the Main Street of Blackhawk the gaming area as there was hardly any historic buildings located in Blackhawk
Ever see a historic mining town with a building that looked like this? Decisions about what looks historic and what doesn't is determined by local politicians, and this could be what happens when Las Vegas money gets spread around to local, usually broke, politicians.
Cripple Creek and Central City developed first because they were the big names in tourist towns and everyone could see the potential there. But after gazillions of dollars were spent turning hundred year old buildings into modern casinos, somebody finally figured out that the gaming area in Blackhawk was nothing but bare-ground and you could build any kind of casino you wanted as long as it kinda, sorta, ever so slightly resembled, what might be construed as somewhat historic looking, especially if you were a local politician that was partially blinded by the large amounts of cash that was being spread around town by the likes of Caesar's and Bally's.
Historic Blackhawk Colorado?
So the big money went to Blackhawk and snapped up all that empty land, making a lot of folks that owned that property and barely made a living selling T-shirts and ice cream, instantly rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Cripple Creek and Central City both still look somewhat historic. But a lot of money went into bringing those historic buildings up to code, and keeping them that way, so there's less profit for the casino owners, and Blackhawk ended up looking like the Las Vegas Strip and I'm quite sure makes more money than Central City and Cripple Creek combined.