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Ghost Town Living — The Abandoned Mines at Cerro Gordo

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 27, 2020 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

What if you were offered to buy an abandoned mining town? The price would correspond approximately to your entire life’s savings. For Brent Underwood the answer was yes.

In 2018, the marketing genius, threw his life savings into a pool with a few other investors and bought the historical town of Cerro Gordo, California. Among his partners, he alone is actively living in the mining town as they slowly restore it to former glory.

Brent Underwood
Brent Underwood talking to the camera all by his lonesome. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Cerro Gordo was one of the major sources of wealth for the Los Angeles region since it was started back in 1865, until it shut down in the late 1950’s. The first silver was found by a Spanish-speaker named Pablo Flores, who named it “Fat Hill,” a.k.a Cerro Gordo.

Such was the economic impact of the silver mines that in 1869 The Los Angeles Times called it the silver cord that binds our present existence.

Now the silver is long extracted, and lead and zinc as well. And the town is abandoned, crumbling, with many a mineshaft collapsed. But that is about to change. The silver of the 21st century, after all, is tourism, and once again these mines will extract ore.

Follow the journey — Ghost Town Living

I first heard about the mines in my YouTube recommendations, when a video named Day In The Life: Living Alone In An Abandoned Ghost Town popped up. I was intrigued (as the title intended), and with my 1 year old boy on my lap, we hunkered down and plowed though several of the videos in one go.

The Cerro Gordo mining town.
Current day Cerro Gordo from the air. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

It is reality-tv that inspire one of the values we promote here at Red Hat Factory. Fighting back against the stress of our culture, and embracing the rest that comes with being completely absorbed in what you’re doing.

What is it that has such a draw about the Cerro Gordo restoration project? I think the idea of taking something once great, and slowly bringing it back to life is such a primal human desire. We are made to create and improve, and following others on their journey of doing so is immensely satisfying.

It also helps that the scenery is absolutely stunning, again and again.

Cerro Gordo mining town sunset.
The view from Cerro Gordo. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

And kittens!

And goats, quad bikes, mine exploration, along with the restoration itself. Can it get more inspiring?

I don’t know, but at least it can get more dramatic…

Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

The 2020 fire at Cerro Gordo

The silver mines hold a long history of hard work, success and tragedy. And recently another disaster became part of the 155 years of history. The American Hotel, which was a hallmark of the mining town, burned to the ground.

The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo.
The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, before the fire. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

“Cerro Gordo is not a start up,” said Brent Underwood, and he claims he will die there. This long term thinking resounds deeply with me. From the beginning, Red Hat Factory, has been more than just a start up to grow and sell, and I relate to the feeling of wanting to stick with your passion through thick and thin.

However, I don’t dare to claim I’ll die with Red Hat Factory.

The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, interior.
Interior of the American Hotel, pre-fire. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

When the fire struck, I think the commitment showed. They will have to rebuild it from scratch, and winter is coming. But Brent refuses to sell and leave. With his goats and his score of kittens for company, he keeps working away at the place, all the while delivering reality-tv of the best kind.

The kittens of Cerro Gordo.
Brent and his litter of kittens. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Each video drops little bits and pieces of history, often based from things he discovers while scavenging the mining shafts.

Mine shaft discovery — hunting for denim in the Silver Mines

A large part of life at Cerro Gordo, as I already mentioned, is exploring mines. The land is so riddled with shafts and tunnels, that Brent can literally head out on his huge property with no plan, and go look for signs of humans, and it leads him to a shaft. The trails of drinking bottles, tuna cans and metal pieces often lead us up to the gaping dark entrances, and in we go.

The amount of tunnels and shafts that crisscross subterranean Cerro Gordo is astounding. Kilometer after kilometer of undiscovered territory, just waiting to be searched for 150+ year old artifacts. Maybe it was just a can of tuna for the hungry miner of 1865, but for us it’s a treasure of history.

The main treasure he’s looking for is denim — and I know a lot of you Red Hatters love denim. If you find a pair of original 150 year old Levi’s jeans, they can go for quite the sums. Levi’s themselves, among others, will buy it back from the finder.

Lost jeans however is a whole another area to dive into. I am aware of the subculture of denim hunters — and if you’re one of them, please reach out to me and tell your story. The Red Hat community would love to hear all about that!

I, for one, am excited to keep following the journey of Brent Underwood and Ghost Town Living as the area slowly gets restored.

Here’s the video that reeled me in.

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 27, 2020 in Red Hat Culture Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

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