Climax Cross Unplugged for Christmas Season
For nearly 90 years the simple, red-bulbed cross at the #3 Mill at the Climax Molybdenum Mine has shone brightly, ushering travelers back home, back to Leadville. This Christmas season, the cross atop Fremont Pass on Highway 91, will remain dark, unlit.
“I always liked seeing it as we came over the hill toward Leadville,” wrote Maureen Scanlon, former resident with strong generational ties to Leadville. “It meant we were almost home and we knew someone was out there besides us.”
Yes, for many, the simple Christian symbol was the beacon of red light through blizzard conditions that can exist over the mountain pass. For others, the lighting of the cross meant the Yuletide season was underway and that goodwill was the order for the day. But that all came to an end this week as Climax management made the call to pull the plug on the symbol of hope.
“We understand the historical and cultural significance the lighted cross on the old Climax mill building has to the Climax employees and local residents, particularly long-term residents,” wrote Eric E. Kinneberg in a note to Leadville Today who is the Director of External Communications for Freeport-McMoRan who owns the molybdenum mine located 9 miles north of Leadville. “However, upon reflection of this historical practice, we determined that it is appropriate to instead display a secular symbol on our place of business, with the intent to reach all of our employees and those who pass by our property as a celebration of the holiday season.”
The dimmed cross points to a growing concern in Leadville about the traditions long-held in this mining town.
“I changed the red bulbs in that cross when I worked at Climax,” recalled Charlotte Tuxhorn at the Lake County Senior Center meeting on Monday. Pat Wadsworth hung on to me for safety, she continued, while I reached around from the back to replace any bulbs that had burned out.
While some reports on social media indicate the decision was made due to the religious objections of a few, other residents retort that the cross has come up in discussions with Climax management in recent years, but slowly faded into the background each time as the Christmas season took its course and the cross was unplugged at the New Year. This year, the topic came up a bit earlier and saw a different fate.
“We plan to remove the cross when weather and other conditions are more favorable to performing the work safely,” Kinneberg responded when pressed for additional details about its replacement, adding. “The cross will not be illuminated during this time. A decision has not yet been made for a replacement.”
Many weighed in on the “I Used to Live in Leadville” Facebook page, recalling the earlier days of Climax when it was more of a company town, than a holding by an international mining giant. They grew up with the lighting of the cross as part of the kickoff to the Christmas season. In fact, it weathered enough late night winter storms that it eventually had to be rebuilt in 1986 to shine brighter and better by Gordon Stinnett and Howard Tritz.
There is a petition to keep the cross lit being circulated by a group of former Leadville residents. However, when Leadville Today reached out to corporate to inquire if such an effort would weigh in on their decision, there was no response, yet. But as anyone who has lived in Leadville knows, wonderful and magical things happen all the time at 10,200 feet, especially in this season of miracles.
May the spirit of Christmas reign in your hearts this holiday season!