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Park City history, headframe rise at Deer Valley

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Alexander Cramer
/
KPCW

The Daly West Mine headframe, built by blacksmiths in the hills above Park City while World War I raged in Europe, was raised on Friday.

History was in the air at Deer Valley Resort on Friday. After some creaking and groaning, a century-old, 80,000-pound steel mine headframe soared through the sky, lifted by two of the largest cranes in Utah from where the structure had fallen in 2015.

According to the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History, a group that helped push the project to completion, the headframe was rebuilt following a fire at the Daly West Mine complex in 1914. The site is 100 yards away from what is now the Montage Deer Valley resort.

Park City and the Empire Pass Master Owners Association financed the more-than $400,000 project. Doug Ogilvy, president of the Empire Pass association, was the project manager.

“I think it's always good for people to understand their roots, understand where a town came from. If it wasn't for the mining — that's what built this town. That's what gives it the character on Main Street is all the historic structures there. And this is really an extension of that," Ogilvy said. "Lying on its side, it's really an eyesore. Back on its feet, it's kind of a proud reminder of Park City’s past.”

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Crews from Rise Steel, a South Jordan firm that’s also working on a nearby Deer Valley development, restored the toppled headframe last summer. Its mangled legs and other pieces had to be strengthened, replaced or repaired.

Early snows scuttled plans for an October rising, and weather once again contributed to a delay this week.

But at 12:32 p.m. Friday, an operator slackened the lines holding the top of the structure, and the Daly West headframe stood again.

It's tough to know the right unit for measuring this project: Is it the 108 years since the headframe was built? Its 80,000 pounds? The 2,100 feet the mine descended? The $440,000 dollars it cost to raise it?

Maybe it’s lives — the thousands of miners who were lowered into the mine and the 34 who died after an explosion in 1902, according to the Park City Museum.

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Ben Hampton, who owns Rise Steel, described what it may have been like when the headframe was assembled in 1914, two years after the Titanic sank.

Blacksmiths would have run fires on site every day, heating rivets until they were red-hot and then throwing them up to be caught in buckets and pounded into place one by one.

Hampton views the headframe as a monument not to the people who made a fortune from the mines, but to the miners who worked the land and earned a paycheck for their families.

“It stands again," Hampton wrote in a message to his crew about the project, "… pointing back up toward the sky above this tree-lined horizon, daring us to believe in reaching out with it, pulling back time to revisit those past generations and feel the promise of the purpose they lived in.”

It might give some pause to Deer Valley skiers and bikers — or those enjoying a flute of champagne on the patio of the Montage — as a restored and imposing connection to Park City’s past.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.