We were so excited, when we noticed, that we could visit a ghost town. YES!! Idea of houses left alone, in middle of nothing, just being there, ghostly, was excited.
Boy did we came down from our day dreams, when we came to Calico. Yes, its a ghost town and former mining town. Located in Calico Mountains, San Bernardino County, California.
It was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town, sure sure, but today it has been converted into a county park named Calico Ghost Town. In the mountains there is big white letters saying CALICO to get you in that Hollywood mood. I always thought that ghost towns are hidden, secret, but this was missing a big arrow pointing in this little town, that obvious it was.
Wikipedia tells this history about the town: “Walter Knott purchased Calico in the 1950s, architecturally restoring all but the five remaining original buildings to look as they did in the 1880s. Calico received California Historical Landmark #782, and in 2005 was proclaimed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.”
And lets jump a little bit deeper for general knowledge:
“In 1881 four prospectors were leaving Grapevine Station (present day Barstow, California) for a mountain peak to the northeast.- – The four prospectors discovered silver in the mountain, and opened the Silver King Mine, which was California’s largest silver producer in the mid-1880s. A post office was established in early 1882, and the Calico Print, a weekly newspaper, started publishing. The town soon supported three hotels, five general stores, a meat market, bars, brothels, and three restaurants and boarding houses. The county established a school district and a voting precinct. The town also had a deputy sheriff and two constables, two lawyers and a justice of the peace, five commissioners, and two doctors. There was also a Wells Fargo office and a telephone and telegraph service. At its height of silver production during 1883 and 1885, Calico had over 500 mines and a population of 1,200 people. Local badmen were buried in the Boot Hill cemetery.” Cool!
When corate mineral colemanite was discovered few years later, it helped Calico’s fortunes, and in 1890 the estimated population of the town was 3,500, with nationals of China, England, Ireland, Greece, France, and the Netherlands, as well as Americans living there. Then started the down hill. More silver was found, and silvers price came down and finally Calico’s silver mines were no longer economically viable. Then the downhill speed rapid:
“The post office was discontinued in 1898, and the school closed not long after. By the turn of the century, Calico was all but a ghost town, and with the end of borax mining in the region in 1907 the town was completely abandoned.”
“In 1951, Knott purchased the town and began restoring it to its original condition referencing old photographs. In 1966, Knott donated the town to San Bernardino County, and Calico became a County Regional Park.” Good man that Walter.
“In 2012 Calico became the first ghost town in America to be re-opened for residential purposes. 100m from the ghost town site, six luxury villas were built with a trading value of $4.5 million. – – Today, the park operates mine tours, gunfight stunt shows, gold panning, several restaurants, the historic, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge Calico & Odessa Railroad, and a number of trinket stores. It is open every day except Christmas, and requires an entrance fee. Additional fees are required for some attractions (like the train that goes around the area). Overnight camping is also available. Special events are held throughout the year including a Spring Festival in May, Calico Days in early October, and a Ghost Town haunt in late October.”
So that’s the fact. What I really felt? I was disappointed. It was fake. It was a show. In our trip, we visited more real kind of Ghost towns like Bodie, so to be honest: if you want to visit only one real ghost town in your trip, skip this and go to Bodie. If you want show, then this is your place. Its comfortable: it has working restaurants, stores, toilets in every corner etc. If you want the real thing: nope.