The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
The ghost tales in Silver Plume, a former mining town which was largely abandoned after the 19th century, span centuries.
There’s the one about Clifford Griffin, superintendent of the 7:30 Mine who played his fiddle nightly to the delight of tired miners—before he was found outside of the mine’s entrance with a bullet in his head in 1887. Then there’s former high school teacher Tom Young who ran a bookstore in town and vanished with his dog Gus in September 1987. Ten months later, two hunters discovered their tarp-covered remains on a nearby mountainside, both with bullet wounds. Keith Reinhard, a journalist from Chicago who was researching Young’s disappearance for a novel, disappeared himself just a week after that.
Give One Year of 5280 for just $16.
Pepper in stories of lingering mining-era ghosts messing with locals and it’s no surprise that reporters from Unsolved Mysteries and the Travel Channel have crunched down the tiny town’s gravel roads to stir up supernatural energy—or that tourists have become a more common sight.
“I never thought about ghosts before our time in Silver Plume, but it seems to be a common topic of conversation,” says Plume Coffee Bar owner Julie Smith. “Many visitors to our building over the years have felt the pull of the past, some feeling a more supernatural pull.”
Smith took over the Main Street coffeehouse in June 2022, turning the 1875 building—previously a Knights of Pythias fraternity meeting hall—into the beloved town living room, complete with couches, treats for pups, thriving houseplants, and an impressive antique collection. “It’s pretty cool to have a gathering space for everyone in town, from newborns to those over 80 that have lived in town for decades,” says Smith, who hosts movie nights and a monthly book club at the shop.
Silver Plume sits 45 miles west of Denver, sandwiched between steep canyon walls next to a steady stream of I-70 traffic. Once buzzing with more than 2,000 people in the late 1800s, Georgetown’s sister settlement now accommodates a fluctuating population of around 200. The quirky mountain village shares a loop railroad with Georgetown, and when the train whistle blows, Plume Coffee Bar regulars know that there’s a good chance a line will begin to snake out the door.
Hungry tourists scoop up cinnamon- and nutmeg-laced lattes and Colorado Cookie Company coffee cakes Smith brings up on her commute from Lakewood. Kids love the coffee shop’s board games and coloring books along with Bonfire Burritos and hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and seasonal sprinkles.
When the snow starts to fly, Smith keeps the antique wood-burning stove stoked and locals’ drip coffees topped off in mugs labeled with their names. Looking out the glass windows and door—where hummingbirds and Bob, the town bear, like to try and mosey in—you’ll see boarded-up cabins, mining relics, a church, and chopped wood waiting for winter.
Just down the block, Bread Bar keeps Silver Plume awake Friday afternoons through Sunday evenings. The former Sopp and Truscott Bakery (and more recent home of Dram Apothecary) sings a consistent song of community chatter over the clatter of ice and botanical-infused elixirs meeting in metal shakers. Bread Bar honors its rich history through vintage decor and cocktail dedications, like the Clifford Griffin, a Rittenhouse Rye, amaro, and lemon concoction with a sanguine float of red wine named after that mine superintendent.
The watering hole’s four owners had always talked about opening a roadside bar in the mountains. When Dram outgrew the building, the quartet swiftly made an offer, opening Bread Bar in 2016. “The property was there. It sort of chose us,” says co-owner Rob Duray. “We all got that same feeling when we arrived. It’s a really cool spot in a really cool town.”
Bread Bar keeps the community engaged with events like Tunes & Tunes—a November and December ski-tuning workshop set to old-timey funk music from Mile High Soul Club—and cocktail classes led by Death & Co. Denver’s Alex Jump.
“The moments I enjoy the most are when there’s a handful of locals and a handful of visitors and they start chatting,” Duray says. “The visitors get to hear the local stories. The locals get to hear about where visitors are from.”
There is a separation between the locals who have unofficial bar stools at Silver Plume’s newest establishments and those who begrudgingly welcome the onslaught of tourists who seek out the venues.
“I think some people go to mountain towns to sort of be alone,” Duray says. “I don’t know that locals love that Silver Plume is busy now. But there’s another group of people who love that we offer a gathering space in the community.”
As for the ghosts, Smith says, it’s all part of the charm.
“We’ve heard that if you’re a nice person, the ghosts will stay on your good side,” she says with a wink.
Plume Coffee Bar, 855 Main St., Silver Plume; Bread Bar, 1010 Main St., Silver Plume