Sitting at 8,827 feet is the historic mining town of Rico in the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado. It’s a 30-40 minute drive from Telluride on the San Juan Skyway. In the late 1800s, the silver boom town boasted a population of over 5,000 people. At that time, it has two banks and 60 businesses. Following the silver crash, the population plummeted to 811 in 1900. Staunchly holding on to its historic roots you’ll immediately notice the Victorian architecture of the buildings lining scenic Highway 145. Rico is a tiny town on a resurgence to its former glory. What’s old is new again at the Mine Shaft Inn.
As you drive into town, look for the two-story yellow house with brown trim and a bay window. Here’s a little history on the building. The Victorian home was originally built in the 1880s by silver baron Charles Rohde. During Rico’s mining heyday, Charles Rohde was frequently seen strolling downtown in his silk top hat and gold tipped cane. After the silver crash, the home was converted to the Rohde Hotel, a boarding house for high-class clientele. With fancy linens, silver dinnerware, and elegant furnishings, it was a bed and breakfast well before they were popular in the United States. The Rico-Argentine Mining Company purchased the building and it served as quarters for the mine assay officer until the 1950s. During the 1960s through 1974, it sat empty. From then it was a inn, hostel, even used again as a private home. My cousin Andrew and his girlfriend Jorden tirelessly and painstakingly put in the sweat equity in 2018 to restore, refurbish, and renew the glorious historic building to a wonderful bed and breakfast.
There are seven rooms in the inn. In the historic side that dates back to the 1880s there are four rooms with a shared bath. In the newer side that was built in the 1990s, there are 3 rooms with private baths. Each room is filled with antiques, including my grandmothers china in a cabinet in the front parlor. As you walk into the lobby, the décor from the wallpaper to sofa set dating back to the Civil War will immediately catch your eye. There’s an old piano, McClellen saddle adopted by the United States Army in 1859, and old phone. It’s like stepping back in time, but you have modern amenities. All stays include free wifi and breakfast.
For eating in Rico, The Enterprise Bar is a lively spot with pub grub and fabulous outdoor space. For something more upscale, Prospector Restaurant is top notch. Folks drive from Telluride and Cortez just to eat there. Jorden’s dad is the owner/chef and he whips up some fabulous creations. Eammon’s spinach artichoke dip is one of my favorites and he shared the recipe with me. But if you want to fix meals yourself, there is a common kitchen space and living area in the Mine Shaft. There’s also a wonderful nook upstairs that’s perfect for sipping coffee or reading a book.
The first time I stayed at the Mine Shaft, I was in Room 2. On the second floor, it’s the no pets room and has a private bathroom. This quiet room almost has a nautical theme to it with all of the blues, or maybe its a nod to Colorado’s spectacular blue sky.
My favorite room to stay in has since become Room 3. It overlooks look Main Street. You do hear a little traffic noise, but this room is more spacious and has a private bathroom. I love the floral wallpaper, reddish plum embossed bedspread, and lacy drapes. It feels like a bedroom straight out of the late 1800s or early 1900s.
Sure, I’m biased because Andrew and Jorden are family, but if you find yourself in this tiny town west of Telluride and stay at the Mine Shaft Inn, I have a feeling you’ll agree with me this is a gem of a find in Southwest Colorado. While you’re there explore some of Rico’s mining history and hike one of the many trails right from town. There are some hot springs not too far away too.