The story

Holden Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum


Housed within an old barn in Aspen, Colorado, Holden Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum is located on the site of the Holden Lixiviation Mill.It provides opportunities to learn about the town’s short-lived silver boom as well as its ranching history. On display are former silver refining artifacts and the remains of a family ranch.Founded in 1891 as a 22-acre mill, the Holden Lixiviation Mill was one of only 18 plants built world-wide to utilize the experimental Russell Lixiviation process to refine low grade ore.Though it employed the most sophisticated technology and industrial design of the times, the mill had only a 14-month life. It went bankrupt and was closed down when Congress demonetized silver.In 1940, the Marolt family purchased the site and combined it with the Midland Ranch to form the Marolt Ranch. An extensive vegetable garden was also maintained here for family purposes.By the 1950s, they started to sell off the land due to several reasons such as decreasing forest service grazing acreage and financial strains of the children’s college education.The site, managed by the Aspen Historical Society, was opened as a museum in July 2003.


Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum

Explore Aspen's mining and ranching heritage through more than 20 exhibits and displays at the Holden Museum, where the location itself is part a part of the history. The museum is on the site of the 1891 Holden Lixiviation Mill. When it opened, the mill was a cutting-edge facility that refined low-grade ore. But it went bankrupt after only 14 months in operation.

The mill was one of only 18 plants in the world to utilize the experimental Russell Lixiviation refining process, according to the Aspen Historical Society. The process "used crushing, heat and chemical salts to refine silver form ore as low grade as 10 ounces per ton," according to the historical society. Though it had state-of-the-art technology, it also had bad timing. Shortly after the mill opened, Congress demonetized silver and the operation went bankrupt having never made a profit.

In 1940, the Marolt ranching family purchased the site for $1 and raised sheep and cattle there, thus combining on one site two of the industries that most contributed to Aspen's rich heritage.

Location/Directions

40180 Highway 82, just over the pedestrian bridge off Music School Lane in Aspen. The Holden/Marolt museum is on the bike path to the west of the pedestrian bridge across Castle Creek. Parking at the Marolt Ranch is off Castle Creek Road.

Adults: $10, Seniors: $8, Children (12 and under): Free. Admission fee also includes the Wheeler/Stallard Museum.

Season/hours

Open 10:30am to 4:30pm Tuesday through Saturday from June 17 through August 30, and then 1-5pm through October 4. Winter visits are by appointment only.


Holden/Marolt Mining And Ranching Museum

In 1891, the Holden Lixiviation Mill sprawled over 22 acres at the edge of Aspen, boasting state-of-the-art technology and industrial design. Just 14 months after the new plant opened, Congress demonetized silver and the mill went bankrupt. Mike Marolt purchased the property for a dollar in 1940 as a family ranch. This site is unique. It tells the stories of both Aspen&rsquos mining and ranching heritage.

Founded as a silver mining camp in 1879, by I890 Aspen was the single largest silver producer in the US. With a population of over 13,000, Aspen was the third largest city in Colorado. Only Denver and Leadville were larger.

Aspen&rsquos big news in 1891 was the building of the Holden Lixiviation works on the west side of town. The newspaper declared that "the sweet day dreams of those who have longed to see Aspen a great city are about to be realized." Completed just fourteen months before Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Act, the plant never cleared a profit and went bankrupt almost immediately. It was one of only eighteen plants built world-wide to utilize the experimental Russell Lixiviation process to refine low grade ore.

The Russell Lixiviation process used crushing, heat, and chemical salts to refine silver from ore as low grade as ten ounces per ton. (Aspen ores averaged 400 to 600 ounces of silver per ton, but much low grade ore had to be discarded.) The fumes from the plant&rsquos Stetefeldt furnaces were emitted from the main smoke stack 165 feet high, reputed to be the highest stack in the state.


Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum

The Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum is a historic site where the Holden Mining and Smelting Co. once was. The Holden Mining and Smelting Co. is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is a historic site that was once a state-of-the-art silver processing plant known as the Holden Lixivation Works in Aspen, CO.

In 1981, the Holden Lixiviation Mill sprawled over 22 acres at the edge of Aspen, boasting state-of-the-art technology and industrial design. Just 14 months after the new plant opened, Congress demonetized silver and the mill went bankrupt. Mike Marolt purchased the property for one dollar in 1940 as part of the family ranch. Holden/Marolt tells the stories of both Aspen’s mining and ranching heritage.

Founded as a silver mining camp in 1879, by 1890 Aspen had a population of over 12,000 and was the single largest silver producer in the US.

Aspen’s big news in 1892 was the building of the holden Lixiviation works on the west side of town. The newspaper declared that “the sweet day dreams of those who have longed to see Aspen a great city are about to be realized.” Completed just 14 months before congress repealed the Sherman Silver Act, the plant never cleared a profit and went bankrupt almost immediately. It was one of only eighteen plants build world-wide to utilize the experimental Russell Lixiviation process to refine low grade ore.

The Russell Lixiviation process used crushing, heat, and chemical salts to refine silver from ore as low grade as ten ounces per ton (Aspen ores averaged 400 to 600 ounces of silver per ton, but much low grade ore had to be discarded). The fumes from the plant’s Stetefeldt furnaces were emitted from the main smoke stake 165 feet high, reputed to be the highest stack in the state. One reason the Sampling building still stands today is because it was built to hold large machinery that crushed and pulverized ore.

By 1904, after several attempts to run the Holden Works as a concentrator (a process of discarding some of the worthless material to make the low grade ore cheaper to transport), the plant was closed. During the quiet years the Marolt family ranched near the mill. In 1940 Mike Marolt purchased the mill for one dollar and combined it with the Midland Ranch to form the Marolt Ranch. The Marolts raised sheep and cattle and planted potatoes. By the late 1950’s, the Marolts started selling off parcels of their land, due to decreasing Forest Service grazing acreage, financial strains of the kids’ college educations, and Mike Marolt’s deteriorating health.


The museum occupies a 2½-acre (1.0 ha) tract on the south side of State Highway 82 just west of the residential neighborhoods in Aspen's West End. A mile to the west along the highway are the two Maroon Creek Bridges, the older of which is also listed on the Register. Aspen Valley Hospital is a thousand feet (300 m) to the southwest.

The land is generally clear and open, reflecting its past agricultural use. The mature trees that shade many of the West End's houses end abruptly to the east, and there is a small grove of similar trees, all aspens, to the west of the museum. To the southeast is one of the ridges of Aspen Mountain, with the houses of South 7th Street near its foot. Across Highway 82 is Aspen's streets department, some dwellings of more modern construction, and a golf course.

A system of paved bike paths and unpaved roads and paths leads to the museum from both Highway 82 and the official parking lot at the end of Marolt Place to the south. The main building is the plant's former sampling house, a one-and-a-half-story 77-by-42-foot (23 by 13 m) wood frame structure with vertical siding and a gabled roof from which a square cupola arises in the center. To the south are the remains of the salt sheds, one of which has been restored. [2] In the vicinity are the remains of the smokestacks. portions of the sandstone foundation of the 250-foot-long (76 m) mill building. [1] As the only undisturbed mill site from Aspen's mining days, it is considered likely to have archeological potential. These two buildings and the site are considered contributing resources to the Register listing. [3]

Up a slight slope 400 feet (120 m) to the west is the original office building. It was converted into a residence in the 1940s by an added story and the addition of aluminum siding, so it alterations which affected its historic character too much for it to be considered contributing. A garage next to it, and the irrigation ditch that meanders around the entire property, are similarly non-contributing artifacts of the property's use as a ranch. [3]


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If you love history, check out this little museum

Lots of great information about the silver mining and trade in Aspen, which had the richest silver mine in America. Check out the "map" image of the underground mine and shafts that extend under some of what is currently the town of Aspen. Worth a look.

A nice little museum of history detailing Aspens booming silver mining period. When I say small I mean small, as it consists of a single small building and a few exhibits scattered around it, the most rest of the site is no longer standing. It's a very and informative tour about the history, not expensive and doesn't take a long time so definitely worth the time and effort.

The area around is very nice to walk around and moseying about in the afternoon during the summer and the fall when the leaves change. On a hill overlooking a small creek, Castle Creek. The tour is available at appointment only ATM.

Good luck finding this place! Our GPS was useless, but it did get us to the general vicinity where I was able to see the mill building off in a field. It is just outside the entrance to town near the traffic circle. Luckily they had a small sign set up by the highway or we might never have found the narrow gravel road that leads to it. Even then, it sort of just ended at a paved bike path, so we parked in the weeds and hoped for the best. The docent told us that's the right place to park, so I guess we did it correctly!

We were the only visitors, so we had the full attention of the very nice docent who gave us information and a short tour. Another tour guide arrived on a different tour offered by the Historical Society, so we were invited to listen to her discussion. She operated the restored steam engine that powers a real ore crusher. Although it now uses compressed air, it, is otherwise a very authentic and noisy demonstration. I think they'll demonstrate it for anyone who asks, so be sure do ask about it. It was very interesting to find out what happens to the ore after it is mined. That major detail usually isn't covered in mine tours, so it was nice to finally fill in some blanks.

I can't say enough about the docents at all of the Aspen historical sites. They're beyond friendly and willing to talk about every aspect of Aspen history. There is so much more to Apsen than a playground for the rich and famous. Be sure to take the time to have a chat with one of the docents and you'll be rewarded with many fascinating accounts of life in Aspen in the past and the present. The admission is a combo ticket for this museum with the Wheeler/Stallard Museum, also worth a stop. It is very inexpensive even if it only covered one of the sites.

Dear friends were married here and the location was perfectly Colorado. The museum provided a rustic and charming backdrop, while the reception tent was in open space next to the museum. The views were beautiful and the museum itself was really interesting. It is worth a walk-through and is a gorgeous backdrop for photos.

A nice museum, although a bit small. Guide was very informative and it was interesting to learn about Aspen history. A good value at $6. Note, the place is difficult to find.

We live in Aspen and had often been told how great the Holden Marolt was , so my 6 yo son and I spent a couple hours exploring this little museum and grounds on a summer afternoon. It's tucked away and you may miss the entry drive if you aren't paying close attention. It's right before crossing the Castle Creek Bridge on the way into Aspen. Tiny signage.
Anyone who enjoys Colorado mining history will be very entertained. There are several buildings, all used in the late 1800s in the mining and processing of silver. Short videos (the tv screens are behind old wooden shutters and you use a faucet handle to start and stop the videos) tell of local characters and history. They use local folks whose family were involved in mining and ranching in the videos. There are guides happy to show you all the farming implements and mining tools, tell about the history , even start up machinery. They let you wander around alone if you like but are at hand to answer questions without being obtrusive. There is a room where they have the phosphorescent rocks that glow when the lights are turned off. Any 6 year old will be wowed with THAT!
The museum is housed in the original buildings, perched over Castle Creek. Down the steep embankments, you can still see pieces of discarded mining equipment and huge rocks used to shore up the banks.
They are able to tuck in the ranching history of the Roaring Fork Valley nicely as it contrasts with the big mining boom years. Great photos and stories about these pioneers.
I think it was $5 for me and my son was free and we were given a pass to the Wheeler Stallard Museum in town so a really good deal. I think they are open only in the summer months.
Whether you are a local or just passing through, check out the Holden Marolt Museum. You won't be disappointed.


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  • Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum Address: 40180 CO-82, Aspen, CO 81611, USA , United States
  • Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum Contact Number: +1-9709253721
  • Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum Timing: 09:00 am - 09:00 pm
  • Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum Price: 3 USD
  • Best time to visit Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum(preferred time): 02:00 pm - 04:00 pm
  • Time required to visit Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum: 02:00 Hrs
  • Try the best online travel planner to plan your travel itinerary!

3.59% of people who visit Aspen include Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum in their plan

33.33% of people start their Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum visit around 3 PM

People usually take around 2 Hrs to see Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum

95% of people prefer to travel by car while visiting Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum

People normally club together Smuggler Mountain and Rio Grande Trail while planning their visit to Holden Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum.


Aspen Historical Society walking tours up and running

History coach Mike Monroney, right, jokes with intern Katia Galambos during one of the Aspen Historical Society's guided tours on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in downtown Aspen. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
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Intern Katia Galambos laughs during one of the Aspen Historical Society's guided tours on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in downtown Aspen. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
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Intern Katia Galambos talks during one of the Aspen Historical Society's guided tours on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in downtown Aspen. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Buy Photo

History coach Mike Monroney, back, talks while intern Katia Galambos watches to the side during one of the Aspen Historical Society's guided tours on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in downtown Aspen. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Buy Photo

History coach Mike Monroney, right, talks while intern Katia Galambos watches to the side during one of the Aspen Historical Society's guided tours on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in downtown Aspen. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Buy Photo

The Aspen Historical Society this week launched a slate of new outdoor guided tours for summer 2020, adapting to the restrictions of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Due to public health restrictions, the Historical Society will not host some its standard tours of summers past, including walking tours of the Hotel Jerome and Wheeler Opera House and will not host its Historic Pub Crawl or the History Coach Tour. Its museums also remain closed.

But the nonprofit has added tour offerings that allow for socially distant, outdoor experiences with its costumed tour guides.

“We’ve focused on summer operations that we’re sure we can pull off, like the walking tours, and we have a robust offering of tours for this summer,” said Historical Society president and CEO Kelly Murphy.

Additions for 2020 include a new Midland Railbed Tour, which goes from Gondola Plaza to the Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum along the historic railroad corridor. It runs Fridays at 1:30 p.m.

Historical Society guides also are offering new weekly tours of Red Butte Cemetery (Wednesdays, 1:30 p.m.) and Independence Ghost Town (Fridays, 10:30 a.m.), which also is open for self-guided visits.

The nonprofit also is reviving its popular Bauhaus Architectural Walking Tour, which takes guests through the West End to see home and sculptural works by and related to Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer. The Historical Society is also bringing back a weekly Mining & Ranching Machinery Tour, which shows off the operational steam engine and equipment outside of the Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum.

The walking tour staples of the Historical Society also launched operations this week: the Victorian West End Walking Tour and Historical Downtown Walking Tour, which each run Tuesday through Saturday all summer.

The socially distant walking tours are capped at six participants. Reservations are required in advance (970-925-3721). More tour information is online at aspenhistory.org .

The Historical Society’s Wheeler/Stallard Museum and Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum both remain closed due to public health restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. An application by Pitkin County to the state health authorities to open local museums was denied this month.

“We were confused as to why they would keep them closed,” Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann said Thursday.

Gov. Jared Polis cleared the way for museums to open Thursday under amendments to the state’s public health order. Koenemann said there’s no reason to think museums here won’t open Friday. The Pitkin County Board of Health will discuss opening museums at its Thursday meeting, where it is expected to clear the way for Aspen HIstorical Society museums as well as the Aspen Art Museum.

“I don’t think there’s any medical or public health reason why it wouldn’t make sense (to open them) in our community,” she said. “Bars are definitely more risky than museums.”

The governor’s Thursday order also allowed bars to open at 25%, though that won’t yet be allowed in Pitkin County.

When the Wheeler/Stallard opens, it will present two new exhibits.

“Decade by Decade: Aspen Revealed” tells the story of local life through photographs and artifacts, tracing Aspen from the mining boom to today. The display aims to underscore the community’s connection to national events and trends and, according to the museum’s announcement, “reflects on the community’s place within the larger historical landscape of the nations — sometimes congruent, sometimes divergent — but always exciting.”

The complementary display “Maps Through the Decades” tracks Aspen history through maps dating from 1870 to 1970 including mining claims and ski trail maps from the Historical Society collection.

Plans for summer events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment have been canceled due to public health restrictions. But the Historical Society is working on ways to honor the women’s suffrage movement later this summer and through the fall 2020 elections.

Staff writer Jason Auslander contributed to this report.


Hands-on history

It has been nearly 13 years in the making, and yet it’s only the beginning for Aspen’s Holden/Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum.

A dedicated group of volunteers celebrated the realization of a dream last week with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Aspen’s newest museum – one dedicated to the famous ski resort’s lesser-known historical eras, when mining and then agriculture were its economic drivers.

“What you’re looking at here is like the tip of the iceberg,” declared Carl Bergman, who has spearheaded the museum’s creation since the beginning. “I still feel, with what we do here, we’re on first base.”

The efforts of Bergman and his colleagues felt more like a home run, though, for first-time visitors to what’s commonly known as the “Marolt barn.” On a sultry July afternoon, young and old alike turned out for a day of old-fashioned fun and a peek at what Bergman and his buddies have been doing for the past decade-plus. They’ve been doing a lot, as it turns out.

They’ve restored the once-dilapidated barn and assembled a fascinating array of artifacts from both Aspen’s mining days and the early 20th-century ranching era in the Roaring Fork Valley. And, they’ve done it on a site that played an integral role in both pursuits.

“The piece of property alone is important, because it tells so much of the story,” noted local historian Larry Fredrick. “It was the site of the most advanced ore-processing facility of its time. Then ranching came in and sustained the community.”

The Marolt Open Space, west of Aspen proper, is a triangle of land hemmed in by Highway 82, Castle Creek Road and the creek itself.

The grassy expanse, though the focus of many a battle over whether or not the state should realign the highway through it, is by and large a passive place. Aspenites grow vegetables in the community garden within its borders and paragliders seek the safety of its landing zone. Still, the barn is largely hidden from view to all but those who cruise along the bike path that connects West Hopkins Avenue to Castle Creek Road.

That wasn’t always the case.

The barn-turned-museum was once part of the Holden Lixiviation Works, a huge complex of buildings that stretched from the barn site to the creek. The state-of-the-art facility, built in 1891, used crushing, heat and chemical salts to refine silver from ore. In those days, about a sixth of the country’s silver was being produced in Pitkin County – almost $1 million worth a month.

Nearby was the town’s baseball diamond, where up to 1,500 spectators reportedly filled the grandstand to cheer on Aspen’s semi-pro ball players.

Unfortunately for its investors, the lixiviation plant was completed just 14 months before Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Act, devaluing Aspen’s most precious commodity overnight and sending the venture into bankruptcy.

It’s difficult to visualize what was purportedly the tallest smokestack in Colorado at the time (165 feet) standing there amid a mass of brick buildings that housed 40 stamp mills, among other things. Ore was crushed beneath stamps that weighed up to 850 pounds apiece.

The plant was subsequently dismantled brick by brick – 700,000 were used in the buildings alone, not counting the smokestack.

In 1940, with the remaining buildings in decay, the Marolt family acquired the 22 acres and combined it with other land to form the Marolt Ranch, where they raised sheep and cattle.

The former plant’s assay office became their home and the remaining pieces of the lixiviation works, the barn and the salt shed, became ranch buildings. In the 1950s, the family began selling off pieces of the property, finally selling what is now the Marolt Open Space to the city in 1983.

Later, Bergman, owner of Carl’s Pharmacy and the Miners’ Building, along with Rick Newton, then-president of the Aspen Historical Society (now HeritageAspen), and Graeme Means, a local historian and architect, began negotiating to lease the barn for use as a museum.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a 75-year lease of the 1.9-acre barn site to the historical society in November 1989.

“We saw what was out here and we knew the Aspen Historical Society needed a mining aspect. It was sadly neglected,” Bergman said.

The barn wasn’t in great shape, either, he recalled. The windows were boarded up, and looking up from inside the inky blackness of the decrepit barn was like stargazing. Sunlight leaked through thousands of tiny holes in the roof.

Volunteers set to work repairing the barn and replacing the rooftop cupola, which the Marolts had removed, with a new one that matches the aged barnwood so well it looks like it has always been there.

In 1993, the Colorado State Historical Society provided a $38,000 grant to help fund the building restoration, leaving the society to raise $76,000 in matching funds, which it did.

“It was an amazing beginning,” Bergman said. “We spent one whole Sunday removing junk from the site.”

The city arranged for use of five dump trucks and a front-end loader for the cleanup effort.

The grounds are now dotted with historic agricultural equipment and other finds by volunteers who always have their eye out for a fitting artifact to add to the collection.

“We’re constantly collecting stuff,” Fredrick said. “We’re hoping the ranchers in the valley get excited. This is a chance to tell their story.”

Inside the barn is one of the biggest finds, literally.

With permission from the U.S. Forest Service, the historical society relocated a stamp mill, left standing in a shed at timberline at the headwaters of Difficult Creek. Local men Stoney Davis and Norbert Anthes dismantled the 15,000-pound mill, used to crush ore, hauled it down Taylor Pass last fall and reassembled it inside the barn, where it nearly touches the ceiling.

“That’s the kind of dedication that makes this place special,” Fredrick said. “I hope the community will catch on.”

Also inside the barn is a model of the Marolt property, with the former lixiviation plant painstakingly recreated in miniature detail by members of the Roaring Fork Valley Model Railroaders.

A shiny, reconditioned steam engine is also on display in the museum and volunteers are at work refurbishing another one in their workshop – the former salt shed. Bergman would like to see the latter engine operated to run a lumber mill on the property, showing visitors how the timber frames for Aspen’s mines and other uses were once milled.

The stamp mill and the steam engine inside the barn are both operational, and the volunteers who labored on the machinery dream of the day they hook up the two with a shaft and show a new generation how old-timers crushed ore. It’ll be an air compressor, though, running the steam engine.

“It’ll be a once-in-a-while thing,” Fredrick added.

A display of minerals collected from the Aspen area, including the kind that glow in fluorescent fashion under a black light (there’s a room for that in the museum, too) are likely to get oohs and ahs from schoolchildren.

There’s also a display on “natural ice” to show kids how ice was once cut at Hallam Lake and stored to keep local ice boxes cold all summer.

When third-graders previewed the museum last winter, one youngster said, “What’s natural ice?”

“Ice to them means you hit a lever on the fridge and ice comes out,” Bergman said.

For Bergman, teaching local youngsters about Aspen’s past is the museum’s key function.

“It’s a wonderful tool for them to learn about the valley,” Fredrick agreed. “It’s so cool.”

A tour of the museum for kids – and anyone else – comes with an explanation on the use of a coal-fired boiler (the museum has two, both scavenged from other sites in Aspen) and the steam engine.

“Steam was an era – the first mechanical source of power,” Bergman explains, his own enthusiasm gaining steam. “Steam was the basis of the industrial revolution, and the mining era. To me, it’s one of the most forgotten pieces of history that we have.”

Remembering is what it’s all about, according to Bergman, who rescued one of the two steam engines in the museum’s possession from a former lumber mill on the far side of Castle Creek a quarter-century ago.

Other possibilities for the museum include an outdoor plot where youngsters could plant potatoes in the spring and harvest them in the fall.

Bergman would also like to see interpretive trails around the former lixiviation site, allowing visitors to explore the ruins that remain on the property.

“This is a work in progress,” Fredrick said. “We don’t see this as being close to being complete.”

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