Cripple Creek is a statutory city that is the county seat of Teller County, Colorado, United States. Cripple Creek is a former gold mining camp located southwest of Colorado Springs near the base of Pikes Peak. The Cripple Creek Historic District, which received National Historic Landmark status in 1961, includes part or all of city and includes surrounding area. The population was 1,115 at the 2000 census.
At an elevation of 9,494 feet and just below timberline, for many years Cripple Creek's high valley was considered no more important than a cattle pasture. Many prospectors avoided the area after the misnamed Mount Pisgah hoax, a mini gold rush caused by salting (adding gold to worthless rock).
In 1891, however, rich ore was found and the last great Colorado gold rush was on. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region, and before long W. S. Stratton located the famous Independence lode, one of the largest gold strikes in history. By 1900 Cripple Creek and its sister city, Victor, were substantial communities.
During the 1890s, many of the miners in the Cripple Creek area joined a miners' union, the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). A significant strike took place in 1894, marking one of the few times in history that a sitting governor called out the national guard to protect miners from forces under the control of the mine owners. By 1903 the allegiance of the state government had shifted, however, and Governor James Peabody sent the Colorado National Guard into Cripple Creek with the goal of destroying union power in the gold camps. The WFM strike of 1903 and the governor's response precipitated the Colorado Labor Wars, a struggle that took many lives.
Through 2005, the Cripple Creek district produced about 23.5 million troy ounces (731 tonnes) of gold. The old underground mines are exhausted, but open pit mining has operated since 1994 east of Cripple Creek, near its sister city of Victor, Colorado.
With many empty storefronts and picturesque homes, Cripple Creek once drew interest as a ghost town. At one point the population dropped to a few hundred, although Cripple Creek was never entirely deserted. In the 1970s and 1980s travelers on photo safari might find themselves in a beautiful decaying historic town. A few restaurants and bars catered to tourists who could drive by weathered empty homes with lace curtains still hanging in broken windows.
Colorado voters allowed Cripple Creek to establish legalized gambling in the early 1990s. Cripple Creek has a population of around 1500 residents and is currently more of a gambling and tourist town than a ghost town. Casinos now occupy many historic buildings. Casino gambling has been successful in bringing revenue and vitality back into the area.
In 2006 Cripple Creek broke ground on the new Pikes Peak Heritage Center. This new building is being constructed during the 2006/2007 season and will cost over $2.5 million. The building will be over of educational displays. State of the art electronics will be used throughout the building and there will also be a large theatre showing historical films about the area. Admission will be free and there will be no retail space in the building, so as to enhance the educational experience of visitors.
Cripple Creek is also home to the Butte Opera House, a theatre first managed by the Mackin family (previous owners of the Imperial Hotel and producers of a long-running, much-loved melodrama theatre company). The Butte is currently the home of the Thin Air Theatre Company that produces shows year-round.
From May through October, Cripple Creek features events like chili cook-offs and pony express races. Cripple Creek also features a 1200-seat outdoor concert venue with several concerts through the season.
Like many other mining towns of the Old West, Cripple Creek has a reputation for being haunted. Given its rich history, complete with mining accidents, floods, fires, lawlessness, and bloody battles between mine owners and labor unions, this comes as no surprise. In fact, there are so many tales of spirits wandering this historic town, that at one time boasted one homicide per day, believers say it is one of the most haunted cities in the United States.
There were 494 households out of which 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.7% were married couples living together, 7.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.9% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.82.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 29.2% from 25 to 44, 30.2% from 45 to 64, and 8.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 104.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $39,261, and the median income for a family was $41,685. Males had a median income of $27,600 versus $25,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,607. About 4.7% of families and 6.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.8% of those under age 18 and 6.1% of those age 65 or over.
Students are served by the Cripple Creek-Victor High School.