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Ghost Town: Cerro Gordo, A Once Booming Silver Mining Town, Gets Another Chance29:55
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The American Hotel in Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The American Hotel in Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)

The old Latin phrase "memento mori" is a favorite of 33 year-old Brent Underwood's. It refers to the inevitability of death, which is fitting given that Brent owns something that died long ago: a ghost town.

Cerro Gordo, California is an abandoned silver mining town tucked between the tallest mountain in the continental United States — Mount Whitney — and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley. During its heyday in the mid-late 1800s, it's believed to have produced half a billion dollars worth of silver, adjusted for inflation.

Cerro Gordo, California circa 1916. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Cerro Gordo, California circa 1916. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)

When the town was put on the market in 2018, Underwood — founder of the hostel HK Austin -- got a message from a friend that joked, "I know you're looking for a bigger project. Look at this ghost town for sale!" Within the month, Brent, his business partner Jon Bier, and a handful of friends-turned-investors had purchased Cerro Gordo for $1.4 million with a plan to revive the town for visitors while preserving its history.

Brent Underwood, co-owner of Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Brent Underwood, co-owner of Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)

From dealing with a lack of running water at Cerro Gordo to getting snowed in there during a global pandemic, Brent has had no shortage of challenges so far. But he thinks back to "memento mori" — everything dies, so what does he want to do with the time that he has?

His answer? Cerro Gordo.

Show Notes:

To see more pictures of Cerro Gordo, check out @cerro.gordo.ca and @brentunderwood on Instagram. There's more information about helping the town rebuild HERE.

The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, before and after the fire that burned it down in June of 2020. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, before and after the fire that burned it down in June of 2020. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Cerro Gordo circa 2018 (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Cerro Gordo circa 2018 (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The saloon inside the American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The saloon inside the American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Cerro Gordo's lack of light pollution makes for a breathtaking night sky, Milky Way and all. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Cerro Gordo's lack of light pollution makes for a breathtaking night sky, Milky Way and all. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The sun sets over Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The sun sets over Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The winter of 2020 at Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
The winter of 2020 at Cerro Gordo, CA. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Robert Desmarais, Cerro Gordo's caretaker. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Robert Desmarais, Cerro Gordo's caretaker. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
A peak into the old silver mine at Cerro Gordo. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
A peak into the old silver mine at Cerro Gordo. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Cerro Gordo's newest residents: Tofu, Bubba, Bucket, Elon, and Senorita Juanita. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)
Cerro Gordo's newest residents: Tofu, Bubba, Bucket, Elon, and Senorita Juanita. (Courtesy Brent Underwood)


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Amory Sivertson Twitter Co-Host and Producer for New Programming
Amory Sivertson is the co-host and producer of Endless Thread.

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