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History Comes to Life in Breckenridge

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Sure, we’re known for great skiing and riding, fabulous shopping and gourmet dining, but not many visitors know about Breckenridge’s rich history.  In 1859, at the height of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, white settlers moved into the Blue River Valley, home to the nomadic White River and Middle Park Ute Native Americans tribes.

By 1860, Breckinridge (spelled with an “i” instead of the present day “e”) was a small community of cabins and tents, along with a post office, lining the shores of the Blue River. With the advent of a road in 1861, Breckinridge added stores, hotels and saloons and became the county seat of Summit County. Sometime in the late 1800s, the spelling of the town’s name changed to Breckenridge—there are conflicting stories as to whether it was simply a mistake or in honor of the prospector Thomas Breckenridge.

The discovery of silver in 1879 brought another round of prospectors and by 1880, a planning grid was drawn and a government established. Our wide main street accommodated the freight wagons hauling riches out of the mines and became the social and commercial center of Breck, as it still is today. A railroad line reached the town in 1882 bringing more people who established a church, schoolhouse, three newspapers and a fire department. Homes were built of wood in the Victorian style, some of which are still standing today. Unfortunately, many were destroyed on purpose to reduce tax burdens, lost to accidental fires or deliberately burned as practice situations for volunteer firefighters.

Breckenridge opened for skiing in 1961. The completion of the Eisenhower tunnel in 1973 dramatically reduced the drive time from Denver and attracted thousands of outdoor-lovers year round.

Breckenridge is home to three small but fascinating museums:

The Barney Ford Museum honors an escaped slave who became a successful entrepreneur and civil rights leader in Colorado.
The Edwin Carter Museum celebrates the life of a miner who came to Breck and became concerned about mining’s impact on the environment. His collection of over 3,000 wildlife specimens attracted scientists from all over the world. Kids will love the Red, White and Blue Fire Museum  with its display of antique equipment and uniforms.

To learn more about Breckenridge’s rich history, visit


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