Man Spends Life Savings Buying Ghost Town To Bring It Back To Life
It's been rough riding out the pandemic in lockdown, but one American marketer wound up having plenty of space for social distancing, after living out the last 10 months in a ghost town he'd bought with his life savings.
Thirty-two-year-old Brent Underwood bought the dilapidated old silver mining town of Cerro Gordo in California for $1.4 million in 2018 using his life savings, but had only visited the deserted town for a few days here and there.
He left it in the otherwise capable hands of live-in caretaker Robert Desmarais, who'd looked after the holding for 21 years.
However, when the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic became clear in March 2020, Desmarais left to check on his wife in Arizona with Underwood taking over duties. He's never left since, and now regularly documents his progress on YouTube.
Speaking to Vice, Underwood said "I showed up in March, during a snowstorm - which, coming from Texas and growing up in Florida, I was horribly underprepared for.
"So that ended in me getting stuck in the town for five or six weeks.
"I literally could not leave, because the final seven miles of road to get to the town is a dirt road that is very steep, and if you get five or six foot of snow on the road it's staying there until it melts."
The town sits 8,500 feet high, tucked in the Inyo Mountains of California. On one side is Mount Whitney, the tallest point in the 48 contiguous US states. Death Valley, the lowest, is on the other side.
Underwood used his life savings, as well as support and investment from friends, plus business partner John Bier, to buy it in August 2018, with a view to turning it into a booming tourist destination.
He has since gained a level of fame for his escapades in trying to breathe new life into the once booming mining community, including setting up a Youtube channel that has over 760,000 subscribers, while a Reddit AMA attracted over 4500 comments and questions, with Underwood explaining that 22 buildings remained of the 500 that were once there.
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Cerro Gordo's golden - or rather silver - years occurred back in the 1860s and early 1870s, when more than 4,000 residents lived in the town at its peak. According to Underwood in his AMA, some $500m worth of minerals were mined from the area.
However, as Underwood has since found out, Cerro Gordo's remote location was a problem, as it meant essential supplies such as wood and water were often scarce.
The town also had a reputation as a somewhat lawless area punctuated by shootings and violence and, despite several attempts to keep its nearby mines open, it eventually fell silent in the middle of the 20th century.
From the images of the snowy hills, the buildings that have fallen into disrepair - the American Hotel that was built in 1871 sadly burnt down last year, but Underwood has a permit to rebuild it.
Add this to the fact that he has electric but no water or sewers, and it looks like a tough existence. Perhaps the worst part, though, is that he may not actually be alone.
"I was not a big believer in ghosts prior to buying Cerro Gordo," Underwood told Vice. "Then one night I was here and I was walking to this sunset spot I like to go to-and I know I saw somebody look out the window of the bunkhouse, and the light was on. They looked out the window, then closed the curtain."
Cerro Gordo has had visitors before - including actor Jeff Goldblum - and also has contractors periodically working on it, but Underwood was informed they hadn't been there for weeks when he called up his old caretaker to tell him the tale.
Nevertheless, he largely leaves the spirits to their own devices, and instead spends his time finding old artefacts and bits of the town's history, including a briefcase he found and shared on Instagram, that included documents such as a mining lease taken out for the area in 1934 and letters from the Utah Junk Company offering to buy 200 tonnes of zinc ore.
So while his isolation might have been spookier than most, he's certainly making the most of it.
You can support Underwood's campaign to redevelop the town on Patreon.
Featured Image Credit: Instamgram / brentunderwood
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