The Racy History of the Abandoned Town of Arbourville, Colorado
Not much is left of the abandoned town of Arbourville, Colorado, but the single structure that has remained standing for more than 130 years serves as a reminder of the forgotten destination.
Nicholas Creede established Arbourville in 1879 after silver was discovered on the nearby Monarch Mountain. Miners and traders began moving to the town shortly after, causing the population to rapidly increase. In 1880, approximately 50 houses a week were being built in Arbourville, occupied mostly by prospectors and their families. In addition to Arbourville, residents referred to the town as Arborsville and Arbour-Villa.
Sometime around 1890, Eli J. Wolfrom built a beautiful three-story parlor house in Arbourville. It was constructed using concrete and glacial stone aggregate - an unusual choice for that time, but the reason it is still standing strong today. The six-inch thick walls were reinforced with horizontal steel cables. The construction date is a guess, as Chaffee County has no official record of the house being built.
The structure started out as a stagecoach stop along the Monarch Pass Toll Road, but that soon changed.
A few years later, the parlor house became a brothel, attracting customers from near and far to the tiny town of Arbourville. Although there were mining opportunities in Arbourville, the Colorado destination was best known for its brothel. Miners and traders frequently gathered at the bordello, as it was the only one in the Monarch district. The building also provided lodging for overflow guests of the nearby Maysville Inn.
Despite its scandalous past, the parlor house eventually transitioned into being a family home. Louis and Blanche Gunkel bought the residence in 1940 and spent two separate stints living inside the home with their family. Daughter, Elsie Porter, explained the bottom floor was used as a root cellar during this time.
Louis Gunkel was the last to live inside the parlor house, it's been sitting vacant since his death in 1957.
Like the house, the town of Arbourville was also deserted - for the most part.
After the miners moved away, a writer by the name of Frank E. Gimlett settled into the abandoned town. He wrote under the pen name “The Hermit of Arbor-Villa” and documented a nine-volume account of his experiences in the West. As a means to support himself and his wife, Gimlett sold these short stories to tourists traveling through the Salida region for just fifty cents. The author was also known for his defiant attempt to rename the surrounding mountain peaks after his favorite movie star, Ginger Rogers. His campaign got as far as the White House, only to be sympathetically declined by the President. Gimlett lived in the Chaffee County ghost town until passing away in 1952.
Only memories remain of Arbourville, but if those thick walls parlor house walls could talk, they'd definitely have a lot to say.
The historic Parlor House is now owned by the Shaver family who currently operate the Monarch Spur RV Park and Campground. Motorists can spot the deteriorating building a few hundred feet from the road while driving on Highway 50 toward Monarch Pass. It sits on the Monarch Spur property, just west of Maysville.
Several log outbuildings adjacent to the house are also still standing. It's believed that in 1938, Arbourville's cemetery was buried under the new construction of U.S. 50.