Brent Underwood, a 31-year-old who, along with his friend Jon Bier, purchased a ghost town called Cerro Gordo back in 2018 for 1.4 million dollars.
He spent his whole life’s savings on it, as well as cash from his business partner Jon, friends, clients, and other investors, in hopes of transforming it into an actual tourist attraction.
Fast forward to the start of 2020, the coronavirus ravaged the world and Brent decides to self-isolate in Cerro Gordo. The original plan was to stay for 3–4 weeks because he thought that’s how long quarantine would last, but he actually living there for 6 months now—first because of the snowstorm and the pandemic, and now he just fell in love with the place.
Cerro Gordo, the 300-acre ghost town, used to be the biggest silver producer in California with about 4,000 people across 400 houses. Over its whole history, the residents managed to mine around 17 million dollars worth of silver—500 million bucks today after correcting for inflation.
But when mines ran dry, and so did the town. Brent is now the only resident in a 22-building town—actually, him, 7 cats, and 4 goats.
Recently, Brent came to Reddit with an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session inspiring people to ask questions as well as a YouTube video about his 6-month practice living in a ghost town.
“The more time you spend in Cerro Gordo, the more it enchants you,” explained Brent. “It’s weird to say that out loud that a property can do that, but, like, maybe see it in the video, it looks beautiful, but here, there’s something about this place, it casts a spell on you, this is the only place you wanna be.”
Over those 6 months, Brent undertook plenty of projects: he’s reworked the bunkhouse into a place for people to stay in, washed up and restored the former garage-turned-chapel, converted a shed into a simple and cozy writer’s retreat, and turned the general store into a museum to show all the cool things he discovered on site.
His most notable project thus far is reviving the town’s water supply system. The town has a 900-foot-deep mine shaft with a hoist from the 1800s. He coupled up with some of the more remote locals and went down 700 feet to find the spring used for the water supply. They changed the pump, restored over 500 feet of piping, and now the town has flowing water for the first time in almost 15 years.
“Our goal is to maintain the historical nature of the property and respect the piece of history,” Brent in an interview with NBC. “We want to continue this piece of American history.”
Now, Brent did get some help from friends, but for the largest part, he has been doing all of the work alone in a town whose location is not easy to access: “Out here, you learn to depend on yourself. If you forget something, too bad. Figure it out. If you don’t have the right screw, figure out some other way.”
Besides the scraps and junk he found stored in many of the buildings, there were also some treasures for the museum. These include an old rusted pistol, denim mining clothes (jeans and jacket), various tools and hats, pots, pans, utensils, even leftover dynamite in the mines.
His 6-month stay in Cerro Gordo hasn’t been easy. The crown jewel of the town, the American Hotel, which has stood there since 1871, has burned down due to some tinkering with 100-year-old wiring. Then there was an earthquake that shook things a little bit and an extreme hail storm that damaged the road and the power supply.
To top it all off, there’s believed to be ghosts there. One day, Brent went down to the bulk house and noticed that the light was on in the kitchen—the curtain moved and a face peeked out. At first, he thought that was the contractors but soon found out that they had left weeks ago. After locking the door, he noticed how the light turned back on again despite the house being locked. Needless to say, he has been reluctant to enter it since then.
Since the 6-month update, all of this ran viral with the YouTube video amassing over 645,000 views, and his AMA bringing in over 40,000 upvotes and 4,600 comments.
Brent will continue being there, working for one more month until winter comes and starting the work in the spring. His plan is to have it all open for next summer.
You can check out the entire update video in the article below. Besides his YouTube channel, he also has an Instagram where he also posts updates and finds, and he has also started a Patreon to fund the rebuilding of the American Hotel.