The gold and silver rushes of the western United States saw the rise and fall of many industrial communities. Thriving settlements that grew up around mines and railroads are little more than ghost towns today, some abandoned, others kept alive by a fraction of their former populations. Chloride, Arizona, is one of the most notable – a ghost town that is still very much alive, and home to the “Chloride Murals” by hippie artist Roy Purcell.
Once a thriving silver mining town in Mohave County, Chloride is the oldest continuously inhabited mining town in Arizona. Founded in 1863, silver chloride discovered by prospectors two decades earlier gave the town its name. But it wasn’t until a treaty was signed with the Hualapai Indians during the 1870s that silver mining became widespread and Chloride began to thrive.
With the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in 1899, the town grew to around five thousand inhabitants. Its importance was highlighted by a spell as the county seat before changing fortunes saw Chloride’s population dwindle to two thousand by 1917. While still inhabited, Chloride was considered almost a ghost town by 1944, after the cost of extracting silver ore went up and manpower was in short supply due to World War Two.
A strange feature of the town is a group of murals painted by hippie artist Roy Purcell. Known as the Chloride Murals, the paintings stem from the town’s brief spell as a counterculture haven during the 1960s. Even today, the 250 or so residents that make up this living ghost town are an eclectic mix of retired and semi-retired business people, families and artists.
While some survive to this day, many of the original wooden buildings have been lost to time and fire. Survivors include the Santa Fe Railroad Station, the old bank vault and two room jail. The Chloride post office is now located in what was once the old pool hall, and while it has changed locations, it is said to the oldest continually functioning post office in Arizona.