The Castle Dome Mine Museum plans to expand before the next round of winter visitors returns in 2020. Among the expansions that Castle Dome Mine owner Allen Armstong has in mind are additional tours to new mines and displays of artifacts he is thrilled to exhibit.
“I’m excited,” Armstrong said. “This is the most complete mining collection I’ve ever seen anywhere. Everything’s preserved the way it was, and you could start operating a mine here today if you wanted. The only thing that’s missing is the miners.”
The main expansion will be the Hull Mine, a mine that lies about a half mile from the Mining Town that most visitors to the Museum know. The Hull Mine is a 750-foot vertical mine that miners in the latter half of the 19th century used to extract metals like lead.
The miners who used Hull Mine left behind much of what they constructed for the mine including the shaft, the mill house to break ore and the toolhouse to repair and build tools. However, the forgotten items that have excited Armstrong the most are the pants left behind.
Underground explorers Frank Schlichting and Gabe Romo, who were exploring some of Armstrong’s mines, found seven pairs of Levi’s jeans from the 1890s in the Hull Mine. Now, Armstrong plans to put the jeans in a glass display in the underground part of the Hull Mine where visitors can see them.
“That’s the kind of thing that brings international visitors,” Armstrong said. “People come from all over the world to see old Levi’s. They go crazy for them.”
The underground part of the Hull Mine also has the fluorescent rocks that Armstrong said he loves to show off. The rocks hold onto light for an extended period of time and transmit their light through the minerals inside of them.
When Armstrong takes visitors to the fluorescent rocks, he shines ultraviolet lights on them for a few minutes then turns the lights out. In the dark, the rocks glow a blend of fluorescent pink, green, red and orange.
The Hull Mine will also include artifacts that Armstrong spent several months collecting from other preserved mining towns who were selling their artifacts. The Hull Mine will now display tools and equipment miners used including drillbits, anvils and a truck-sized stainless steel compressor that once smashed ores.
The Mine Museum continues to give tours of the mining town that was once the center of the Castle Dome Mining District that boomed in the last few decades of the 19th century. Armstrong has spent the past few decades restoring, preserving and adding to the artifacts he’s found throughout the old district that sometimes date back to Spanish presence in the 16th century.