Eldora's beginnings go back to 1850 and, of course, the discovery of gold. In 1875 the Fourth of July mine was opened eight miles to the west, and 14 years later 1,200 people thrived in the community. There were two other mining camps close by: Hessie, two miles west of Eldora, and Sulfide Flats, a mile below Eldora. The Hessie townsite remains today. Eldora also was on the "Switzerland Trail" railroad line, and for 16 years, starting in 1904, the 'little engine that could' (now in Boulder's Central Park) brought tourists to the community.
Eldora was originally named Happy Valley after the Happy Valley placer mine that opened in the 1890s. Later, it became known as Eldorado Camp, but this caused confusion with a camp of the same name in California, so the US Post Office changed the original name, Eldorado, to Eldora.
Today, Ward remains much as it was during its heyday when it was one of the richest gold mining towns in the country. Many of the old buildings are still intact, though it suffered a series of devastating fires just before World War I. Old mine dumps and scars on the surrounding hillsides are testimony to how hard miners worked looking for gold.
Calvin M. Ward made the first mining claim in the area in 1860. By 1892, the town had a weekly newspaper, a 15-piece band, and a school. Ward's most famous citizens were Horace Tabor, his wife Baby Doe and their daughters, Lilly and Silver Dollar. The family lived in Ward from 1897 to 1898 while Tabor worked the Eclipse mine north of town.
In Central City, you can see the famous Central City Opera House, built in 1878 by Cornish and Welsh miners. Tosca, The Barber of Seville and The Crucible, all sung in English, are just a sample of the high quality offerings of this historic theater.
Next to the Opera House, the Teller House serves as a living museum of Victorian artifacts and furniture once belonging to Governor John Evans and Baby Doe Tabor. It is also the site of the famous ŅFace on the Barroom FloorÓ immortalized in Hugh Antoine D'Arcy's poem of the same name.
Many of Central City and Black Hawk's streets were built on rock walls that were erected without mortar by the Cornish and Welsh miners. You can still see some of these walls today.
Above Central City are the cemeteries, and several times a year, the Gilpin County Historical Society provides ghostly tours, called Cemetery Crawls, complete with spirits from the past who tell stories about their lives.
Today, like its sister city Black Hawk, it continues to survive as a mixture of its mining past and town devoted to casino gambling.