Built in 1904, the Pedro-Botz House is a log dwelling in the working-class community of Smeltertown, which developed near the Ohio and Colorado Smelter northwest of Salida. Occupied initially by the Hungarian Pedro family and later by the Yugoslavian Botz family, the house serves as a reminder of the large number of southern and eastern European immigrants who worked at the smelter in the early twentieth century. One of the best-preserved original houses and the only log dwelling remaining in Smeltertown, the Pedro-Botz House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.
Smeltertown was established northwest of Salida in the early 1900s to house workers at the Ohio and Colorado Smelter, which extracted precious metals from ore mined in the surrounding mountains. The Ohio and Colorado Smelter was the offspring of the New Monarch Mining Company, which started in Leadville in 1897. The mining company, headed by John C. Kortz, wanted to avoid sharing its profits with ore-processing companies like American Smelting and Refining. New Monarch planned to build its own smelter, which it hoped to use for all of its own ores as well as ores from other mines in central Colorado.
In 1901 New Monarch formed the Ohio and Colorado Smelting Company, which had many of the same officers as the mining company. The smelting company chose a mesa near Salida as the location of its 1,200-ton smelter. The site had the advantage of being on a railroad line downhill from Leadville, making the shipment of ores from the mine to the smelter relatively cheap and easy. The smelter was announced in late 1901 and was in operation by November 1902. In 1903 it treated more than $1.3 million worth of gold, silver, lead, and copper ores.
The smelter employed about 150 workers by the end of 1902 and ramped up to 300 workers or more in full operation. Many of these workers were immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, especially the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Greece, and Italy. To house the workers, in 1902 a subdivision was laid out just east of the plant. About fifty houses were built in the area, which was officially named Kortz (after the company president) but which everyone called Smeltertown. Soon the area boasted saloons, boarding houses, a grocery, and general stores, and local businessman Louis Costello platted Costello’s Addition to provide additional housing.
In August 1904, Louis Costello sold two lots in Costello’s Addition to the Hungarian smelter worker Stephen Pedro. Born in Hungary in 1858, Pedro had come to the United States in 1890. In 1897 his wife Annie and their two children joined him in Leadville, where he worked at the Arkansas Valley Smelter. In 1904 the family moved to Salida, where Stephen found a job at the Ohio and Colorado Smelter and built a log house in Smeltertown.
Located on County Road 150, the Pedros’ house faced south toward the Arkansas River. It was a simple rectangular building with a stone and concrete foundation. The walls were made of round logs with daubing, which was unusual for the area; most houses in Costello’s Addition used wood-frame construction. It is unknown why the Pedros chose logs, but cost could have played a role. A full-length porch stretched across the front of the house, and inside there were two rooms and a coal-burning stove, but no plumbing. A chicken coop, also built in 1904, sat behind the house.
Ore prices declined during the 1907 financial crisis and did not rebound until World War I, leading to hard times for the Ohio and Colorado Smelter. Annie Pedro died sometime before 1910, and Stephen Pedro and his sons seem to have bounced around at different jobs for a few years before selling their house in 1912 to the Yugoslavian smelter worker Frank Botz.
Born in Yugoslavia in 1871, Botz had come to America in 1901 and moved to Salida in 1903. He got a job at the smelter and soon married another Yugoslavian immigrant, Josephine Botz. The couple moved to Utah for several years, then returned to Smeltertown in 1908 and bought the Pedros house in 1912. By 1920, when the Ohio and Colorado Smelter shut down, they had six children. Frank soon got a job at the creosote plant that opened on the site of the former smelter plant and worked there until the 1940s. For a while in the 1920s, Josephine ran a restaurant in Salida.
Frank and Josephine Botz became naturalized citizens but maintained ties to their native culture. They were members of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Salida and joined the South Slavonic Catholic Union, a mutual-aid society.
Botz family members continued to live in the house until 1979, when Josephine Botz died. Since then, the small house has been mostly vacant. Ownership has changed hands several times. Since 1994 it has been owned by David and Dora Jean Earl, who live in the larger house just to the east. The front porch has deteriorated somewhat, but the rest of the house remains largely in its original condition, providing a good example of immigrant housing in an industrial working-class community in the early twentieth century.