Hello reddit!

My name is Brent and with my friend Jon purchased the former mining town of “Cerro Gordo” this past July 13th (Friday the 13th). The town was originally established in 1865 and by 1869 they were pulling 340 tons of bullion out of the mountain for Los Angeles.

The silver from Cerro Gordo was responsible for building Los Angeles. The prosperity of Cerro Gordo demanded a larger port city and pushed LA to develop quickly.

The Los Angeles News once wrote:

“What Los Angeles is, is mainly due to it. It is the silver cord that binds our present existence. Should it be uncomfortably severed, we would inevitably collapse.”

In total, there has been over $17,000,000 of minerals pulled from Cerro Gordo. Adjusted for inflation, that number is close to $500,000,000.

It’s been a wild ride so far owning a ‘ghost town’ and we’re having a lot of fun figuring out what to do with it.

You can follow along with us on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/brentwunderwood/

And Jon's antics here: https://www.instagram.com/jonbier13/

Or you can put in email on this link to be emailed updates: http://brentunderwood.com/r-iama-friday-april-19/

Here are a couple links with more background:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/18/us/cerro-gordo-ghost-town-california.html https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/ghost-town-sold-cerro-gordo/index.html

Would love to chat towns, history, real estate, whatever reddit may have in mind. AMA!

PROOF: http://brentunderwood.com/r-iama-friday-april-19/

EDIT: Headed to Cerro Gordo tomorrow. If you have question for Robert message me on Instagram and I'll ask a few of them live for IG story

Comments: 4980 • Responses: 63  • Date: 

OpenWaterRescue16449 karma

Will you guys be reimplementing the weekly murders?

hkaustin14924 karma

Given the current population, I believe that would be called suicide and I absolutely do not want that. Robert is the best thing about the place

point3988 karma

Could dramatically improve crime rates next year. I’ve done the maths.

hkaustin729 karma

This guy maths

HoboLazer8442 karma

Do you wear a top hat and tails and a sash with ‘MAYOR’ on it and set up mannequins on the street and give bombastic speeches from a balcony of the saloon? Because that’s what I would do.

hkaustin6163 karma

Every day at noon

ImGettingOffToYou5289 karma

Have you ever had a disagreement with your business partner, looked him dead in the eye and told him, "This town isn't big enough for the both of us..."?

hkaustin4277 karma

This is the best thing to come of the AMA. We'll be on the hill next week. I'll let you know how it goes

sonic_tower5851 karma

Are you going to make Westworld?

hkaustin4679 karma

It's been discussed...

pat2man1359 karma

In all seriousness an immersive theater experience would be super cool. For example https://www.thespeakeasysf.com

hkaustin1106 karma

For sure! Or sleep no more style

Senorpuddin3938 karma

How much did the town cost, and who is the solitary resident?

hkaustin9284 karma


The town's one resident is named Robert. Robert originally came to the town 21 years ago to mine the town. He read about it in a mining trade magazine.

When he arrived the former owner was sick so he adopted more of a caretaker role. So for the past 21 years he has lived on the mountain, protecting the town from the elements (and any potential looters).

The first day I asked Robert if he was ever scared of living up there. He said no, he always had his two friends, Smith and Wesson, with him....

Mudgethefudge3093 karma

How did Robert react to this purchase?

hkaustin6110 karma

Robert reacted well. It's mostly business as usual, but given our excitement and energy around the project we're able to do some things he's wanted to do on the property for a while but there weren't the time/resources to do in the past. We deeply respect Robert's knowledge of the place and really enjoy being able to spend time with him

Brooshie806 karma

Robert is a badass.

hkaustin1992 karma

More of a man than I'll ever be. This is Robert: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl9CgRbDRMd/

Senorpuddin355 karma

Are there actual buildings? Is the town set up for water/sewage/electricity?

hkaustin746 karma

There are 22 buildings remaining of the original town. We have electricity and septic fields. Water has to be trucked up currently

moby_dyckens3448 karma

How much of the original town is standing? Are you planning to reconstruct historically or build contemporary structures instead?

hkaustin5305 karma

There are 22 of the original buildings standing, including the original bunkhouse that housed a lot of the miners and the original hotel/saloon (complete with bullet holes and bloodstains)

We plan to restore all the existing buildings but implement amenities to make it more comfortable for guests (running water, insulation in walls, etc).

Since there are 380 acres we do plan to build some new cabins (10 or so) but those are a ways off

bluethazar1790 karma

Did you get the mineral rights, or equivalent of, for the town? And if so, would you turn it in to a mining attraction/retreat/holiday park type thing if it still yields any?

hkaustin3180 karma

All mineral rights transferred as well. The former owners had done some core samples over the years and did not believe that there were any minerals remaining.

Robert (caretaker) however has other ideas. After every rain he hikes the property looking for signs of the long lost 'vein'

selflessGene2900 karma

Stay patient. The silver needs a few years to grow back

hkaustin562 karma

Good to know

redditnewbiecreep1768 karma

So you plan to let people explore a bit, or maybe create ways that people can come and walk the town?

hkaustin3874 karma

We currently offer tours to the public. They're led by our caretaker Robert who has lived on site for 21 years. His tours are unmatched. You'll learn history and mining process. He was a school teacher before so his delivery and punchlines are unmatched

HappyHippoHalifax1188 karma

Do you pay him now? What are his “duties”

hkaustin2233 karma

Robert is on the payroll. Mainly being a presence on the property when we aren't there. Giving tours when people come. Letting us know when something breaks. Coordinating people that come up (contractors, etc)

spad3x1705 karma

Since you own the town, are you allowed to tear the whole thing down to rebuild or is it protected as a historic site by the state?

hkaustin2846 karma

It isn't technically preserved as a historic site but there are lots of interested parties in the place.

We have absolutely no intention of tearing anything down. The history is why we were attracted to the place and to us the biggest selling point

223specialist1661 karma

Do you have to pay property tax on it?

hkaustin2279 karma

Indeed. It is California afterall

selflessGene1159 karma

I always thought property taxes went to the city. Which is now...you?

Who gets the taxes?

hkaustin1592 karma


hackel454 karma

So are you independently wealthy or what? How can you afford to keep paying taxes on a $1.4 million property that is essentially useless and brings in no money? And more importantly, to what end?

hkaustin771 karma

Since it currently doesn't produce income, the property taxes are quite low. It is zoned as open space

skydivinghuman1349 karma

Are you planning on moving there yourself? How far do you have to travel for basic supplies? (Groceries, etc?)

(Edit: spelling)

hkaustin1957 karma

Yes! I hope to move there for at least a few months this summer. It's really one of the most beautiful places I've been and I think it is important to spend time on the land to learn about it and see what we should do with it.

The town of Lone Pine is about 45 min away. They have a grocery store, gas station, hotel, etc

napswithcheesepasta865 karma

I’ll be driving up 395 from Los Angeles a few times this summer. Are you accepting visitors?

hkaustin1370 karma

Yep. Come on by! Or email [email protected] before you stop by and we can make sure to set up a tour

NickKnocks1263 karma

Since you own the town will you make drugs and prostitution legal? I'm trying to figure where I should go on vacation.

hkaustin1916 karma

Well, you're always welcome up at Cerro Gordo. Come on up.

In terms of drugs and prostitution, I believe those fall under more encompassing national regulations but hey, I'm no narc

herb_Tech131 karma

My man. How’s the view?

Edit: I just looked up where it is.. that’s some beautiful country . When I’m in sequoia next maybe I’ll putz around up there.

hkaustin337 karma

It's awesome! The majority of the buildings have views of Mt. Whitney (tallest peak in continental US), then the backside of the property has views of Death Valley (lowest point). The high/low is super interesting to me

Empyrealist1234 karma

I've been there before and brought Robert (the caretaker) packs of water for his troubles and an awesome tour. Is he still living on-site? Will touring the area still be allowed?

Souvenir proof: https://i.imgur.com/gfXsrbk.jpg

Congrats on your ghost town endevour!

edit: What about overnights at the hotel?

hkaustin802 karma

I recognize those mini ingots! Robert is still onsite and tours are happening

CaptainDildobrain1195 karma

So the town has had a murder a week and now it’s just down to Robert. Do you ever wonder there might be more to Robert than you think?

hkaustin717 karma

This gives me lots of think about

superdavit837 karma

Have you considered allowing films to shoot there?

hkaustin2137 karma

There have been a few in the past. The intro scene to Iron Man when they blow Ironman out of that bunker in "Afghanistan" was actually shot at Cerro Gordo's roads

wreese13810 karma


hkaustin1304 karma

I have a love for history and real estate. This seemed a super interesting opportunity and interesting challenge at the same time. I have a hospitality project in Austin, TX that is housed in a historic property and I've found it rewarding to work on.

Jon and I are big history buffs and had been looking for a hospitality project to do together within a few hours of a major city.

Really though when it came down to it, I thought at my deathbed if I could say I once bought a town with a friend, that would be pretty cool.

mtrash399 karma


hkaustin626 karma

We should start recording?

mdperino825 karma

Yes just sit there and shoot the shit with your caretaker Robert and I'll listen every week

hkaustin645 karma

I like that idea

clnrsrch675 karma

What was the motivation to buy it?

hkaustin1022 karma

Jon and I are big history buffs. We had read about the American West for a while and it captured our imaginations. I have a hospitality project in Austin, TX as well that is in a historic building. So we started looking for properties within a few hours of major cities that had history attached to them. We looked in the Catskills outside NYC for a while.

Our friend Aaron forwarded us the listing for this and it was just too perfect. We went out the next day to meet with former owners and Robert. It's been a lot of fun

maluminse652 karma

Public nudity, intoxication or prostitution laws?

hkaustin750 karma

All the above have taken place at Cerro Gordo

2cool4life622 karma

How much can you sell the ghosts for?

hkaustin851 karma

Don't know. Need a ghost guy

McCushAgin621 karma

Seems like a great pick up line. "Hey wanna come back to my town?"

hkaustin897 karma

Not many options on Tinder out there. I checked.

mcswainh_13505 karma

Is there any way to come help/volunteer? I'm taking a solo roadtrip through that area next month for my 28th birthday and would love to lend a hand on any ongoing projects.

hkaustin364 karma

Always! DM me

dogmatixx438 karma

Can you tell us what buildings and infrastructure you got in the deal? Did you get all the mineral rights for the property?

hkaustin761 karma

360 acre property with 22 existing structures including:

*Hotel *Saloon & Restaurant *Bunkhouse (8 rooms) *Clubhouse/Games Room *Museum *Gordon Mansion *Belshaw House *Cook’s House *Caretaker’s House *Hoist House *Assay House

Town has power and various septic fields. Mineral rights were included

Ozlin347 karma

Have you considered offering an annual or ongoing artist retreat, like a residency for artists? Such a space may be a draw for some and the arts in all forms could always use more patrons.

hkaustin392 karma

We would absolutely love to do that. We're currently building a basic music studio in the bunkhouse. Mainly recording room. But we'd love to have a cabin for ongoing artists of all types

MrSquid20364 karma

Any cool ghosts stories from the town?

hkaustin1679 karma

I publicly went on TV and said I didn't believe in ghosts in an interview. Admittedly, Jon and I had had a few beers before the interview and it seemed like a throw-away question from the host.

Well, the next week I was going down to the bunkhouse to crash for the night. I noticed the lights were on and when I got close someone looked through the curtain and closed a window.

No worries, the construction crew had been staying in the bunkhouse. I'm still a bit creeped so I sleep in the truck. Next morning, light is off.

Next day I ask Robert how much longer the crew was staying in the bunkhouse. He says they left 3 days ago and the reprimands me for turning on the lights in the bunkhouse (it was locked).

At that point I get spooked and go down to bunkhouse. Nobody there, all lights off.

That night I start walking to see the sunset. Bunkhouse lights? They're all on. Door is locked. Fuck me.

Either Robert is having fun or something didn't like my comments

original_greaser_bob361 karma

Which of you is the city sheriff and which is the city chief?

hkaustin434 karma

Undecided. Any suggestions on how to decide? Jon is definitely a better fighter but I think I'm quicker

Yourfacepink319 karma

Do you need any volunteers who will help restore the place in exchange for accommodation & board?

hkaustin240 karma

Always. Shoot me a DM!

someone_like_me249 karma


hkaustin210 karma

DM me dates! We've had a few jeep clubs up in the past

RememberThe98Season241 karma

Population of 1 because you murdered your friend?

hkaustin275 karma

Not yet. But I did go into business with a friend so...

urkllnmesmalls240 karma

Can you just make sure that Robert is always taken care of? He’s my new favorite non fiction internet character.

hkaustin147 karma

It's top of the priority list

hkaustin237 karma

*had. Sorry?

Ricky_RZ173 karma

Apology accepted!

hkaustin134 karma


BirdsDogsCats233 karma

Is there any potential/ do you have the intention of extracting more minerals from the land? I imagine mining technology has improved, but then I guess if you were the one to buy it, It probably wasn't economical for a mining company to do so.

Also I'd probably wait a while before reinstating the weekly murders. You want at least a season, not a single episode.

hkaustin308 karma

Apparently the former owners had different mining companies out to do imaging and core samples. The were unsuccessful but Robert (caretaker) still has faith. He can extract new silver out of their old slag or waste, but at scale it doesn't make financial sense (currently)

Frostman2001214 karma

Have you ever thought about declaring sovereignty as an independent micro-nation?

hkaustin280 karma

I actually did go down that rabbit-hole one night. There was a VICE article about it or something. Had forgot about it until now...

SmugSceptic193 karma

What crazy animals have you seen living in the abandoned buildings?

hkaustin445 karma

Personally I've only seen some roadrunners (and maybe a ghost).

Robert (who has lived there for 21 years) has seen mountain lions in some of the mining tunnels, sheep, deer, and has two pet coyotes that he feed every day (before I get up)

The town is at 8,200 ft in elevation so it is quite high

fizzixs175 karma

How did you feel just before you signed the final document and how did you felt after?

hkaustin274 karma

Excited/Nervous and excited/nervous.

The thing that has really sunk in since owning it is the number of people who the town has impacted over the generations. We took on a big responsibility as well as the new custodians. We don't want to mess it up. It's been really fun learning more and more about the area and the property

Dean364136 karma

Where did the money come from to buy the town?

hkaustin227 karma

Jon and I put in essentially our life savings and we tapped some clients from our other businesses to invest.

TheCatHasKhakis135 karma

Hey I work with two of your investors, Brendan and Jason! Wondering if you think the popularity of Westworld is going to help your booking rate at all?

hkaustin137 karma

No shit! You're at Mekanism? Those two are the absolute best. Both have made the trek up to Cerro

bustaflow25128 karma

If I run for mayor in your city will you vote for me? Why and why not?

hkaustin180 karma

We'd have to duel for it. Jon has already bestowed the title on me

OddlyRoger121 karma

Any potential plans to turn the area around the town into a camping area of sorts? I live up in Vancouver and I know I'd absolutely love to get out with friends and go camping in an area like that.

I'm not sure how far it is from everything and if the local wildlife is particularly dangerous (snakes?), but the scenery shown in the video sure looks amazing.

hkaustin196 karma

The town is at 8,200ft in elevation so not too many animals to worry about. I've only heard stories about one or two snakes ever being up there.

We do have a camping area and plan to maintain that no matter what. Send us a message in advance and we can make sure to set something up

RuffledFeathers411106 karma

Can I visit?

hkaustin171 karma

Of course. Come on up! Beers on me. Shoot me a DM if you're serious

rattatatouille105 karma

Any plans on getting a historian's help or such to identify places of interest?

hkaustin140 karma

Definitely. We've been working closely with the two main 'historians' for the town. They have written a few books on the place.

We're finding it important to get a few opinions on all the history. We're finding the events have a way of shifting out in the high desert.

RadleyCunningham45 karma

What's the most fun you've had with all that open space so far?

hkaustin138 karma

Robert has his explosives license. Meaning he can have and keep dynamite, as long as it is used for mining purposes. There was an old piece of slag that he wanted to blow up to see if there was silver in it. Blasting that thing with a few sticks of dynamite was something else

kellyfromfig43 karma

What’s your favorite building in town or most interesting? Cemetery included or you don’t know where the bodies are buried?

hkaustin128 karma

Saloon for sure. It looks exactly as you'd imagine a saloon from that era looked. It has spur marks in the floor, bullet holes in the walls, and bloodstains on the floor (really).

Check it out: https://www.instagram.com/p/BwcpVl3hE8y/

pure61939 karma

Do I smell a new hiker town / wine resort in the making?

hkaustin38 karma

The PCT is across the valley. We're not too far from Mt. Whitney and Lone Pine, which are stopping points for some hikers on the PCT

Skwonkie_27 karma

I checked out the Instagram and it looks great. I feel like I’d want to visit just for the stars. Are their any nearby hotels or air bnb’s?

hkaustin32 karma

You can check in Keeler and Lone Pine, but we should soon be able to accommodate overnight guests. Shoot me a DM and depending on dates I can assist

Jay18021 karma

If silver has a big break out (expected once the US dollar nosedives) how much digging are you going to do?

hkaustin67 karma

Town's closed, we're a mine again!

Apparently Robert (the caretaker) can still produce silver from some of the left over slag from old mining days. But the cost for him to produce an ounce is about 4X the price it could sell for. But if that ration changes, our whole conversation around the town would certainly change!

AmericanPixel15 karma

Holy crap, I remember seeing the For Sale ad and was trying to get up there ASAP to take a quick tour!

Will you still be offering that in any capacity? Would love to take my 87 4Runner up there with my girl and explore/look around.

hkaustin28 karma

Come on up! Robert is always there, happy to give a tour. Jon and I are there quite often too and I'd love to offer you a beer or whiskey in the saloon if you make it up. DM me

poccnr6 karma

Did I see this on CBS Sunday Morning?

hkaustin5 karma

Maybe! The Today Show also came up and did a segment

1320Fastback6 karma

Are you the Mayor, or your friend? Did you fight over it?

hkaustin8 karma

Jon graciously bestowed me as Mayor (publicly, on The Today Show). He may have been joking, but business cards have been made...