Holden / Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum

Location

40180 Highway 82
(on the Marolt Open Space bike path by the pedestrian bridge at 7th Street)
Aspen, CO 81611

Hours

June 18 - September 28
Tuesday - Saturday
12 - 5 pm

Free Admission

Generously underwritten by Carl’s Pharmacy and Miners' Building Hardware

The Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum explores the industrial and agricultural history of the area. From mining to railways to ranching, the past comes alive on the site of the largest industrial complex in the history of Pitkin County, the Holden Lixiviation Works.  In addition to the original salt shed and sampling building, the relocated and restored historic McMurchy/Zupancis cabin and outbuildings help tell the story of Aspen’s Victorian era and the immigrants who helped shape the community’s agrarian heritage. The museum property is situated within the Marolt Open space and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Discover the property's past in the Archives

View digitized historical photographs of the Holden Lixiviation Works in the online archives, including prints available for purchase.

Browse

Site History

1870 - 1904

Silver Mining

The Holden Lixiviation Works sprawled over 22 acres at the edge of Aspen, boasting state-of-the-art mining technology. Much later the site was incorporated into the Marolt Ranch. This site is a treasure trove of stories, encapsulating both Aspen’s mining and ranching heritage.

Aspen’s mining history is a tale of boom and bust. Founded as a silver mining camp in 1879, Aspen swiftly became the largest silver producer in the US. By 1893, its population exceeded 13,000, and it ranked as the third largest city in Colorado, surpassed only by Denver and Leadville.

The local newspaper heralded the opening of the Lixiviation Works by proclaiming, “the sweet daydreams of those who have longed to see Aspen a great city are about to be realized.” Completed just 21 months before Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Act, the plant went bankrupt, never having generated a profit. It was one of only eighteen plants built worldwide to utilize the experimental Russell Lixiviation process to refine low-grade ore.

The Holden Lixiviation Works refined ore by crushing and treating it with heat and chemical salts to extract silver from as low grade of ore as ten ounces per ton. The plant’s Stetefeldt furnaces emitted fumes from a towering 165-foot-high smokestack, reputed to be the highest in the state. By 1904, after several attempts to run the Holden Works as an ore concentrator, the plant was permanently closed.

One b/w photograph of the Holden Lixiviation Plant, circa 1900.
Photo | Masterson Estate Collection

1904 - 1980

Marolt Ownership

The Marolt family began ranching near the property in 1912. In 1932, they purchased the land for one dollar and combined it with the Midland Ranch to form the Marolt Ranch. The Marolts raised sheep and cattle and planted potatoes. By the late 1950s, the family started selling off parcels of their land due to decreasing Forest Service grazing acreage, financial strains from their children’s college educations, and Mike Marolt’s deteriorating health.

One 8" x 10" b/w photograph of Mike Marolt standing on a large haystack on the Marolt Ranch, 1950. Holden Lixiviation Plant
Photo | Aspen Historical Society

1980 - Present

Interpretive Site

In the early 1980s, the City of Aspen purchased the remaining property and designated it the Marolt-Thomas Open Space. In 1989, AHS partnered with the City to manage and interpret the site’s history, and the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum formally opened in 2003 in the former Sampling building, one of the last structures remaining from the Holden Lixiviation Works. The museum was established and managed under the guidance of Carl Bergman, an Aspen Historical Society board member. His love for steam machinery and mining history played a vital role in the success of the museum. In 2017, the City of Aspen added to the site by moving the historic McMurchy/Zupancis buildings to the property to accommodate their construction of a new police station, bringing more chapters of the area’s history to the Holden/Marolt site. These structures now house exhibits on Ranching, Immigration, and feature a recreation of a Victorian middle-class interior.

McMurchy / Zupancis House and Barn buildings added to the property in 2017.

Gallery

Additional Locations

Wheeler / Stallard Museum

620 W. Bleeker Street

Independence Ghost Town

16 miles east of Aspen on Highway 82

Ashcroft Ghost Town

11000 Castle Creek Road

Archives Office

620 W. Bleeker Street

Land Acknowledgement
We gratefully acknowledge we gather on the land of the Uncompahgre band of the Ute Nation, or Nuche, past and present. We honor this land and the people who lived in harmony with the natural world for generations before their forced removal. We are committed to sharing the complete history of the land, recognizing and partnering with Native Peoples, and supporting the advancement of Native places and heritage. This calls us all to be better stewards of the land we inhabit and the natural resources we benefit from today.