Historic headframe collapses in Silver City
Appeal Staff Writer
SILVER CITY ” Wind and gravity took down a mine headframe dating back to the late 1800s or early 1900s, while the owners and the Comstock Historic District were at an impasse over its demolition.
The headframe from the Dayton mine fell of its own weight over the weekend.
Thomas “Irish” Cutts, caretaker for the property, said he heard some cracking at about 1 p.m. Saturday and went out to find the headframe swaying.
“I ran to get my camera and heard the crash and came out and it was already down,” he said.
The huge structure with two bull wheels ” used to hoist an elevator 500 feet down into the mine ” toppled into a nearby building, which was used as a warehouse when the works were still operating.
The owner of the Dayton Consolidated Mine and Mill property, Al Fieghan, had applied to the Comstock Historic District to demolish the structure because he considered it a hazard, but said the district’s requirements were too stringent.
“They wanted us to file a lot of paperwork and stuff, and we wanted to take it down because it was a danger,” said Fieghan, who has owned the property at the intersection of State Routes 341 and 342 for about 15 years. “They made it so difficult to take it down, we thought it will go down, it’s just a matter of time. So it went down.”
He said there was no hope of saving the structure, as the main timbers were rotten and cracked.
Cutts said he was concerned that the bull wheels that held the cables for the mine’s hoisting works would roll down the hill to the highway and hurt or kill someone, so
Fieghan had workers put cables around the wheels so they didn’t roll down to the highway when the structure fell. The wheels ended up in the warehouse building just south of the headframe.
The request to tear down the headframe was on the agenda for the April meeting, but neither Fieghan nor Cutts appeared at the meeting. The issue was continued to the May meeting, according to administrator Bert Bedeau, and in the meantime he wrote a letter asking Fieghan or his representative to appear and discuss options besides demolishing the headframe, including stabilizing it or taking it down carefully and rebuilding it.
At that point, Cutts called and said they were withdrawing the application.
Bedeau said asking Fieghan to consider other options was no different than the requests the commission makes of all applicants who want to demolish an historic structure.
“He chose to withdraw his application, and that is his right under the law,” he said.
On the property, what remains of the headframe is still at risk of falling, as it swayed with every breeze. The Dayton Consolidated was a mine, but also a custom milling operation where mine owners from around the Comstock would send their ore to be milled.
Former owner Art Wilson said the milling operation started in about 1935, and used some of the first cyanide equipment ever manufactured.
“It was a great mill, it had really great recovery,” he said.
He saw the headframe recently and knew it would come down soon.
“I don’t know why something wasn’t done,” he said. “That was really an historical artifact. It was a beautiful headframe.”
– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or call 881-7351.