When it comes to history in the United States, many places and events come to mind, but few have as much history as the town of Empire. A town that’s been part of the Colorado territory long before Colorado was even declared a state in 1876.
Located in the valley of Clear Creek County, right on U.S. Highway 40 ~ Park Ave. Named after the State of New York and the Empire State Building, as the name suggests, Empire was expected by many to be a massive empire with a great abundance of gold and silver.
Now nicknamed ‘Heart of the Rocky Mountains’ and considered a mountain country because the town is surrounded by vast mountains like the Douglas mountain, the Lincoln mountain, the Covode mountain and the Republican & Democrat mountain, as well as a group of summits.
Empire was founded in 1860, right when the gold was found on that territory with the beginning of the Colorado Silver and Gold boom in the late 19th century. As a result, around 36,500 different mining planes and over 4000 mining operations took place in Empire truly expanding the city’s development.
During that time Empire was filled with miners and mines owners which led to the creation of the original Hard Rock Cafe, which is still actually open, named literally because of the miners having to mine tough rocks to extract the precious metals. We say original because it was created in 1934 in Empire’s Town Hall, way before the huge recognized line of hotels and casinos began.
Another big business that became almost a brand of Empire was the Peck House Hotel & Restaurant, which is also currently open and one of the most famous places in the town.
The mostly scaled gold and silver mining stopped around the beginning of World War II, and that has forced Empire to sustain off tourists, people that pass by to get to the bigger cities or resorts and, curiously enough, living off the new legal marijuana industry.
As of 2014, Empire’s size remains 0.2 square miles, and the population is 283, although it has never been a big populated town. Empire has always been a small town high on ambition.
Today, approximately five to six thousand (5000-6000) cars pass directly through Empire on U.S. 40 making it a quite active town trying to accommodate people to make a stop and get to know the place to get the sales tax flowing.
Surprisingly, as aforementioned, the legal marijuana industry has become some life savior for Empire since the marijuana laws were promulgated.
Only two legal marijuana dispensaries generate around one hundred thousand (100,000) dollars in sales tax. This is because most of the tourist when passing through the town, do not only make a stop to go to the bathroom or grab something to eat, they make a stop to buy the allowable amount permitted in Colorado and then continue their way to the nearby resort. Keep in mind though that only recreational marijuana is available in the town of Empire.