Public Art: Old Prospector Statue
Sculptor: © Alphonse Pelzer
Description: A 12ft high, 490lb handmade copper statue of a gold miner (1842-1902) holding a chunk of gold in one hand whilst leaning on a pick. It may look like it has seen better days, but considering it is handmade and over 115 years old, it is holding up.
Location: The Old Prospector statue now resides on the south side of 15th Street between Araphoe and Curtis Streets, Denver, Colorado, United States.
Original Location: Believe it or not, the Old Prospector statue was originally atop the 7 story Mining Exchange building from 1891 to c. 1962.
Background: In the late 1880’s Colorado and Denver were experiencing a gold boom of sorts. During this time a group of wealthy gold miners bought some land in Denver to build the Mining Exchange building (1891) via funds from subscribers. Many of Denver’s prominent citizens, including John Evans (first governor of Colorado), C.B. Kountze, (prominent banker and founder of the present Colorado National Bank), Henry C. Brown (built the Brown Palace Hotel) and W.N. Byers ( owner and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News) contributed to the fund. When the building was completed it housed the Central Savings Bank (later the Central Bank and Trust Co.), the Colorado Mining Stock Exchange and the Mining Record, one of the oldest mining weeklies in the United States.
History: Sculptor Alphonse Pelzer was commissioned in the early 1890s to create a statue for the top of the seven-story Mining Exchange Building, the financial hub of Denver at the time. Pelzer used Colonel John William Straughn as his model for the 12-foot sculpture.
The Old Prospector
In 1891, this 12ft high, 490lb. hand made copper statue was erected on the top of the seven storey Colorado Gold Mining Stock Exchange building, on this site until 1962. The sculptor, Alphonse Pelzer, modeled this statue after flamboyant and colorful “Colonel” John William Straughn, a civil war veteran, prospector and wheelwright who lived from 1842-1902.
The statue symbolizes industry, patience and enterprise.