Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Central City bet pays off for Boulder developer, who bids $525,000

People have been paying big for little pieces of Western history. William Koch bid more than $2 million for a tintype of Billy the Kid, and paid about that much for the old town of Buckskin Joe. A Vietnamese national shelled out $900,000 for the town of Buford, Wyoming,, population one.

So you could understand why Williams & Williams, the auction house selling off a 6.8 acre property in Central City -- complete with seven historic buildings, including a jail and the original office of the Register-Call, once Colorado's oldest newspaper -- thought that the sale price in this mining town would go sky-high.

It didn't. The July 27 auction was quick: Although interested buyers had signed up from around the globe, the entire assemblage went for just $525,000, to Stephen Tebo, a Boulder developer and collector who's been buying up property in the limited-stakes gaming area of Central City, according to The Little Kingdom Come newspaper.

Why so low? Maybe because the fragile buildings are brick and stone, which would make them harder to move than the structures of Buckskin Joe. Koch has rebuilt those buildings on his ranch outside of Aspen, where he's reassembling a Wild West town.

Maybe it's because that unlike Buford, the Central City property doesn't come with the possibility of a green card for foreign investors who bring business into rural areas.

In any case, Williams & Williams isn't letting any grass grow under its feet. Within hours of the Central City auction ending, an agent was on the phone with people who'd been at the Buford sale, to let them know that another piece of Western history is going on the block August 15: the town of Garryowen, Montana.

The population there? Two.

Camera crews from around the globe were on hand for the April 6 auction of Buford, Wyoming. So was Patricia Calhoun. Read her account in our post "Buford, the one-person Wyoming town, sells for $900,000."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun