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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.
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.
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.
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