Rehabilitation of the No. 6 hoist house and blacksmith shop at the historic Matchless Mine was successfully completed early in October. With a $104,332 grant from the History Colorado State Historical Fund and a $29,000 grant from the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation on behalf of the Climax-Area Community Investment Fund, staff and volunteers from HistoriCorps, as well as subcontractors, partners stabilized the structure so that it can withstand Lake County’s intense weather.
Many activities occurred throughout the rehabilitation. Soil was excavated from around all four sides of the building to relieve external pressure on the walls and improve drainage by moving water away from the structure. A concrete retaining wall and French drain were built between the blacksmith shop and Baby Doe’s cabin. Rotten wood at the base of the walls was removed and replaced by new wood cut to size. The roof was stripped and then covered with a layer of waterproof material before the corrugated metal was replaced. Recent plywood walls in the blacksmith shop were removed. One was replaced by rough-cut lumber and another was not replaced to provide more space for visitors.
The project faced some unanticipated complications, beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it uncertain the work would happen this year. Thanks to HistoriCorps’ safety protocols and closing the mine to visitors in mid-August, that problem was overcome. Then, it was discovered that the metal forge in the blacksmith shop had rusted away on the side facing the exterior walls and could not be salvaged. It was replaced by a replica similar in size and design. Finally, Lake County was hit by snowy weather most of Labor Day week, forcing the first group of HistoriCorps volunteers to weather the elements.
In addition to the project’s funders and HistoriCorps as the general contractor, other people and organizations were involved in the project. Scheuber+Darden Architects oversaw construction to assure that the contractor completed work according to approved construction documents provided by Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers. Metcalf Archaeological Consultants monitored excavation activities to ensure that the project complied with all federal, state and local cultural resource laws, regulations, and requirements. Local subcontractors were All Angle Construction, Digger Dan, Mountain Structures Company, and Quality Electric.
The Matchless Mine is currently closed for the season. It is scheduled to reopen for tours around Memorial Day of 2021.