The Pandora Mill

“Without the gold and silver mines, the historic community of Telluride would not exist. And while there are a number of historic mining sites throughout the San Juans that have been preserved, none are as significant as the Idarado/Pandora Mill. While its preservation presents a number of technical challenges, this amazing structure has great potential to become an interpretive site or an activity center.”
– Kaye Simonson, Historic Preservation Planner for Town of Telluride (1992-2001)





The future of our iconic Pandora Mill is in question.  On Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 10AM, the San Miguel County Commissioners, Telluride Town Council, and Idarado officials will meet in Rebekah Hall to discuss the fate of the Pandora (Idarado) Mill.  Government representatives have explored ways of preserving the mill over the last few years, but without a plan for its future, the mill will likely be demolished.




The Pandora Mill is an impressive visual reminder of why Telluride exists. Without the mining industry that flourished in the region, there would be no Telluride and no historic district, and few of us would be here. Currently, Pandora Mill is in need of stabilization if it is to continue to be one of the region’s most iconic historic structures. The roof is damaged and in desperate need of replacement, but with a new roof, the building will endure for many more years.





Telluride’s historical significance is not limited to the familiar buildings in town. It is defined by the mining culture and economy the Pandora Mill represents. Preservation of the mill illustrates the mining history of Telluride in a tangible way, better than any collection of photos, artifacts, or exhibits ever could.  Pandora Mill remains one of most significant mining structures, one of few remaining, eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic places maintained by the National Parks Service and complementary to the Telluride Historic Landmark District.



A Quick History of the Mill

The Pandora Mill, originally known as the Smuggler-Union Mill and Gray Mill, was constructed in 1920, replacing one of the previous mills nearby which had burned. It was the largest mill in the Telluride region and one of the most important in Colorado in the early 20th century.




With later consolidation of mines, the Smuggler-Union Mine remained the center of mining activity, thus representing the mining history of the entire Telluride region.

The mine (and mill) played a significant role in Telluride history, from staking of the original mining claim in 1876, through the gold and silver boom, as well as the 1901-04 labor strikes. The Smuggler-Union closed in 1928, but reopened in 1936 under new ownership.  The mine and its mill was one of the few gold operations in the country to stay open during World War II because it also produced lead and zinc. Idarado Mining Company bought the Smuggler-Union and most other mines in the region in 1953. Idarado, still the current owner, retrofitted Pandora Mill in 1955, tripling its capacity to 1800 tons per day, enabling San Miguel County to become Colorado’s leading county in the production of gold, silver, lead, and copper. The mine and Pandora Mill ceased operations in 1978.


History and Status of the Pandora (Idarado) Mill

Here's an updated video on the history of the Pandora Mill.

Posted by Save Pandora Mill? on Sunday, March 13, 2016



That question is on our community’s table.  We invite everyone interested in historic preservation to attend the March 29 meeting at 10AM, Rebekah Hall in Telluride.  If you have comments for Telluride Town Council and San Miguel County Commissioners on this matter, please email them to [email protected]

Stay up-to-date on all Pandora Mill happenings by following


Catch up on the continuing Pandora Mill story with these recent Telluride Daily Planet articles:

Newmont/Idarado and County Looking for Way to Keep Pandora Mill Standing
Telluride Daily Planet, 12/17/15

The Forging of Partnerships
Telluride Daily Planet, 3/4/16