Why 2 Friends Spent $1.4M on a Ghost Town

They're hoping to revive California's Cerro Gordo
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2018 4:44 PM CDT

On Friday, two friends became the proud new owners of a California ghost town. Cerro Gordo, a 300-acre town nestled in the Inyo Mountains not far from Death Valley, has a "Wild West" history thanks to the discovery of silver there in 1865; within four years, mining operations made it the largest producer of silver and lead in the state, and it later became the largest producer of zinc carbonates in the entire country. But that era ended, and by 1950, Cerro Gordo was basically abandoned. The previous owners, brothers who inherited the town from their family—the property listing says the town had been owned by the same family for decades—decided to sell it while attempting to keep its history intact, and received a dozen serious offers after announcing the sale in June. The original asking price was $925,000, but Brent Underwood and Jon Bier ended up purchasing it for $1.4 million, the New York Times reports.

The entrepreneurs' plan is to revive the town, developing it into a destination while preserving its history. There are nearly two dozen buildings on the property, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, including a church and theater, a general store, a museum, a two-story hotel, an eight-bed bunkhouse, and of course a saloon; in addition to its iconic swinging doors and two pianos, the saloon features a bloodstain underneath three bullet holes on one wall. (The real estate agent tells CNN the town "averaged a murder a week" at the peak of the mining era.) Its caretaker—he's been there 21 years, NBC LA reports, and is currently the only person living in the town—will stay there as buildings are restored. Underwood and Bier plan to move there in August, the Sacramento Bee reports. Among other things, they plan to build an observation deck; Mount Whitney and Death Valley National Park can be seen from parts of the town. "You very much feel like you’re back in time," Underwood says. (More California stories.)

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