An effort to preserve the 130 year old Crystal Mill, built in the 1880s, has resulted in the formation of a new foundation. The Crystal Mill Foundation has purchased the property from the private family owners to prevent it from possible destruction.
According to foundation president Heather Leigh, purchasing the Crystal Mill and placing it into this nonprofit foundation allows the mill to be preserved and managed for the next generations of visitors. The foundation intends to install much-needed health and safety measures like public restrooms and public drinking water for hikers, bikers and other recreationalists. It also will be able to create a safe way to get down to the water’s edge by installing stone steps and an observation area so the young and old can experience the mill together in a safe way.
“Most visitors think the Crystal Mill is a state or county owned historic structure that is already preserved. They have no idea it is privately owned and could be torn down tomorrow. We need to move it into this nonprofit foundation so we can manage it and protect it for the next hundred years,” said Leigh.
The Crystal Mill, six miles east of the Town of Marble, has been recognized by its historic value both statewide and nationally.
Current owner Christopher Cox is the great-grandson of Emmett Gould, a miner who learned that housing and feeding other prospectors was a more profitable business than trying to find silver himself. Yet, as miners began to flee the area by 1917 due to the silver crash, Gould began purchasing land, accumulating more than 60 mining claims which were passed on to family members.
Cox eventually bought out other family members and began to allow greater access to both the historic mill and the remaining townsite.
Historic tourists make up more than 60 percent of Colorado’s visitors and thousands of those tourists visit the mill each year, said Leigh, and the Crystal Mill is being loved to death and is in danger of destruction if not properly managed and maintained. Once the mill structure is purchased by the nonprofit, the goal will be to hire professional staff that can act as historic educators and guides who will not only teach about the mill’s history but act as safety managers for the high traffic volume. The foundation will also develop historic education programs to share the amazing stories of the grit and determination of men and women who lived and mined silver in Crystal in the 1880s and help their legacies live on.
“The number of people that come up to the Mill has increased dramatically with the popularity of social media in the past several years. It was never like this when I was a kid,” said Cox. “Now crowds gather daily and weekends are out of control!”
Cox said that each year visitors are seen gathering daily at the railing or hike down to the water’s edge to get that perfect selfie with the mill as the backdrop.
“It has simply outgrown us. There are literally thousands of people that visit each year and we are overwhelmed,” said Cox. “It’s becoming unsafe with the size of the crowds. It is time to place the Crystal Mill into a nonprofit and let the public experience it in the future.”
Both Leigh and Cox worked together, exploring potential partners including local, state and federal government agencies for more than a year. It became clear to them that no organization could purchase and manage the project due to its size, scope, staff and budget challenges.
The nonprofit will actively seek donations to purchase the mill and manage it for generations to come.
For more information on the Crystal Mill: visit: www.crystalmillfoundation. org