Thursday, November 15, 2012

Empire Mine State Historic Park

The Empire Mine is "one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California." The mine had been operational for over hundred years–between 1850 and 1956. During that time it produced 5.8 million ounces of gold and apparently there is still at least four times as much gold left in the mine! In the 1950's the mining costs soared and the operation became unprofitable, which led to closing the mine. Well, since then the price of gold has increased over 40 fold, so maybe it's time to reopen some of these mines!

During its operation, the Empire Mine kept "The Secret Room." This room contained an accurate scale model of the entire Empire/Star mine complex with its 367 miles (591 km) of underground passages. The model was a valuable tool for mapping the richest gold spots and as such it was a tightly guarded corporate secret. Today, visitors to the park can see the model in the Visitor Center.

View down the main drift at Empire Mine.

The park protects not only the mine, but also several historic buildings, in which the Bourn family-the long-time owners of the mine–lived and entertained their guests. On weekends, the park offers guided history tours of these buildings. They're quite interesting to see, as they were extremely modern for their times: they had running hot water and electricity!

The Bourn Cottage–a residence of the Bourne family.
The Bourne Cottage.

The Bourne Cottage.

The living room inside the Bourne Cottage.

The dining room inside the Bourne Cottage.

The living room inside the Bourne Cottage.

The servants room inside the Bourne Cottage.

Amazing stove in the kitchen, the Bourne Cottage.

The gardens surrounding cottage are well-maintained and have a variety of exotic plants.