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Catalog number 1997.2.1580
Object Name Clipping, Newspaper
Date 1933
Description TITLE: WHERE WINE OF LIFE ONCE FLOWED HOT SUBTITLE: Almaden, Ghost Hamlet, Rich In Past Glory Heydey of Mining Town Recalled; Romance Still Lingers AUTHOR: By CHARLES HOPPE PUBLISHER: SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, SUNDAY, JUNE 25, 1933
Sick Indians, with red daubed faces squatting in the sun flecked courtyard of San Jose Mission. A solicitous Spanish priest tending and dispensing medicine for their pain racked bodies.
Thus, mirabile dictu, were born the quicksilver mines of Almaden, a scant 12 miles from San Jose. The Spanish priest was not slow to perceive that the red pigments his fierce Indians used for their war paint consisted of a powdered red quartz which contained quicksilver. He cautioned them to discontinue its use. Very soon the aching pains caused by the quicksilver penetrating the pores of the Indians' bodies disappeared entirely.
But this was over a hundred years ago. It was left to an English company, in the early 50's, to commence operations on the rolling hills of Almaden.
Several hundred Cousin Jacks (Cornishmen) were imported from Cornwalls mines. Husky, six foot fellows. Two towns sprang up English Town and Spanish Town. Within several years Almaden became a mining center of 3000 inhabitants.
A saloon, a gambling house and the inevitable jail still stand. Over the rolling hills little wooden shacks of the miners cling precariously to the densely wooded slopes.
Ghost Town Today.
Today all is as silent as the dead. A great warehouse, built over half a half-century ago, moulders roofless and windowless. Heavy handwrought iron shutters evidence its antiquity. The interior, which stored quicksilver in early days, is now overgrown with wild rose, Queen Anne's Lace, Indian Paintbrush. A lizard scurries over crumbling foundations.
All that remains of the teeming [words missing] drenched cottages of the miners and shafts of the quicksilver workings. Over 130 miles of tunneling are still in existence.
Louis Artnous, who lives in the small hamlet of Almaden in the valley below the old mines, is one of the few left to remember the glamourous days of the 70's.
"We even had our own Opera House," he stated proudly. "The great actor Frank Bacon once gave several benefit performances in English Town. So enthusiastic was his reception that three performances raised enough funds to build the theater."
"Several of the adobes must be over 100 years old," he said. "At all events, they stood when I was born here and that was seventy years ago. The old towered building at the end of the street was used as an administration office by the Quicksilver Mining Company in the sixties."
Pfeiffer's Store in Almaden is a veritable treasure house of relics of the dead mining town. Its walls are framed with paychecks of the seventies.
The romance of Almaden's heyday still remains. A dirt road winds from, the valley to the crest of the hills through a forest of beech, pine, bay and oak. Wild columbine, lupins, larkspur and monkeyflower every color of nature's paintbrush forms a background of the picturesque deserted English Town and Spanish Town. Two thousand feet below stretches the checkerboard of vineyards, orchards and garnered glorious Santa Clara valley.
But the shutterless windows of the tumbledown shacks still whisper of the teeming life of English Town and Spanish Town. One can almost hear the click of the roulette wheel in the ruined gambling house.
A shaft of sunlight streams through the roofless timbers. A trimotor plane wings its way southward across the blue California sky, and the illusion in the mind's eye of dead Almaden is lost.
Photo Caption: The crumbling remnants of Almaden, once thriving quicksilver town 12 miles south of San Jose as seen by Wolo, Chronicle staff artist. Upper left The Old Administration building of the Quicksilver Mining
Company. Upper right The ruined gambling house. Lower left A deserted miner's cottage tucked away on the hillside. Inset: Louis Artnous, who remembers the heydey of Almaden in the seventies Lower right The ruined warehouse where quicksilver was stored before being freighted away.
Pub Place New Almaden
Cataloged by Boudreault, Art