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Castle Rock's New Beltway: Everything Old is New Again

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Castle Rock, Colorado

As Castle Rock, CO continues to grow, now with over 50,000 residents, the construction of a beltway encircling Colorado's largest Town is almost complete. The final leg of this ambitious project is the North Meadows Extension, giving a new outlet for the thriving Meadows Development. Although this will be the final section of the beltway and when finished, the newest and most modern section, it ironically will travel along long pathways of commerce dating back over 130 years. The new beltway will follow the road of the lost city of Plateau, Colorado. And what a story it is.

For a brief period in the 19th century, Castle Rock was a thriving mining town. Its rhyolite mines turned out tons of rhyolite rock over a 20+ year period. The stone was used as the main building material for many famous homes and office buildings in Colorado including our State Capital. Rhyolite is an igneous, volcanic rock that was dug out of the top of many mesas in the Castle Rock area.

Plateau quarry, in the Castle Rock Business Corridor, was the first "uniquely topped mesa" to be worked in the Castle Rock area. Today the quarry and its mountain forms the line between Castle Rock and Castle Pines. The quarry itself was owned by William H. Brown who finally perfected his ownership of the mesa by Federal Land Patent in January, 1882. Plateau quarry's beautiful variegated stone was hauled by horse and wagon down the north face of the quarry and delivered to the rail stop called Mill No. 2 or Plateau on the train schedules of the day. The railroad stop and related business interests were owned by Larkin Baker who had acquired 80 acres between the Denver and Rio Grande and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe rail tracks. Baker thought a new city was born, Plateau City.

Plateau City served a dual commercial purpose. In addition to being a railstop for loading rhyolite from Plateau quarry, there was also a sawmill to serve an active lumber business at Riley's Gulch, the Daniels Park area, and an area north and south of Happy Canyon Road. Logs would be hauled to the Plateau rail stop, the lumber sawn at the Plateau saw mill and then shipped by train north and south. The rhyolite mined from the Plateau quarry was eventually used for foundations, granaries, school houses (Fonder school on Cherry Creek came to Plateau quarry for its building stone), and a variety of other uses.

The stone quarries were nearing the height of their production in the summer of 1882. In November, 1887 there were orders for 350 cars of rock shipped from the Madge and O'Brien quarries alone. Unfortunately for the rhyolite business, the hand writing was already on the wall for an end to this mining activity. In 1871, David O. Saylor was the first to make portland cement in the United States. Each year the production of portland cement at Saylor's Lehigh Valley, PA works increased and the many new rail lines in our country made transportation of this heavy material less and less expensive. Rhyolite just couldn't compete.

In 1902, the Denver and Rio Grande railroad abandoned the spurs to the workings at the Madge and O'brien quarries and removed most of the rails, thus writing "finis" to their quarry business in Douglas County. The Santa Fe quarry closed shortly thereafter. The road established to bring the rhyolite from the quarry to the Plateau railstop eventually became a dividing line for property as it was later subdivided. Today the road still exists and serves as a dividing line between the two communities of Castle Rock and Castle Pines. The Pines Apartments today uses this old, historic road and it is called Castlegate Drive. With the construction of the North Meadows Extension right over Castlegate Drive, the old Plateau Quarry road will live once again.

Who knows, Larkin Baker's dream of a town called Plateau City may come true after all.

Mike Robinson is Sr. Partner at Robinson & Henry P.C., a Castle Rock Law Firm

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