Breckenridge Museums Make History Exciting

The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance brings history to life through its nine museums and gold panning sites.

Barney Ford: An inspiration

The restored 1882 Victorian home of Barney L. Ford celebrates the life of an escaped slave who became an entrepreneur and civil rights leader. As you walk through the museum, each room depicts a different part of Ford’s life.

Ford escaped slavery at age 17 through the Underground Railroad. He eventually moved to Colorado to mine gold, but he wasn’t allowed to own a mine claim, due to discrimination, so he opened a barbershop, which burnt down. When he returned to Breckenridge, he opened a boarding house, a restaurant and a barbershop and became the one of the wealthiest men in Breckenridge.

Directions: 111 Washington Ave. From Main Street, turn onto Washington Avenue, and then turn into the first alley on the right and park.

Edwin Carter Discovery Center: Animals and more

If you’re a naturalist or like viewing animals and playing around with old telescopes, don’t miss the Edwin Carter Discovery Center.

This museum is perfect for kids, as they can not only see, but also touch artifacts from the 1800s and play with puppets and animal tracks. Carter was a taxidermist, so there are plenty of stuffed animals on the walls. After his death, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science acquired nearly 3,300 of his specimens to showcase, but there are still plenty to be seen in the old log cabin in Breckenridge.

A theater room also shows an award-winning film about Carter’s legacy.

Directions: 111 N. Ridge St. Travel north on Main Street, turn right onto Wellington Road, then right onto the first alley. Park on the left.

Summit Ski Exhibit

It may be small, but it’s packed with treasures.

The ski exhibit portrays the first 100 years of skiing in Summit County. Don’t miss a documentary about the 10th Mountain Division, which trained near Leadville and played a key role both in mountain battles in World War II and also in developing Breckenridge Ski Resort.

The ski exhibit shows how Breckenridge became a ski destination in the late 1900s and prevented the town from withering away into a ghost town. In 1961, Breckenridge became the first ski resort in Colorado.

Directions: 308-B S. Main St. The museum is in the pedestrian walkway, next to Hand & Glove, across from the Patagonia store.

William G. Briggle House

The Briggle House showcases Breckenridge’s finer side of living, away from the tough mining life. The Briggles owned one of the largest homes of their time. William was Breckenridge’s major in the early 1900s, and Katie, his wife, loved to teach piano and hold concerts in her parlor.

The restored Victorian home allows visitors to step into the refined past and catch a glimpse of what it would be like to live a rich Victorian life.

Directions: 104 N. Harris St. From Main Street, turn east onto Wellington Avenue (away from the ski area) and turn right on Harris Street. Museum is on the left.

Alice G. Milne House

The Alice G. Milne House and Memorial Park showcases two original Breckenridge Victorian homes.

The smaller is one of Breckenridge’s oldest homes, built in the 1870s. The Milne House was constructed in 1880 and contains several original pieces, including a sewing machine, a Murphy bed and a wood-burning stove from Montgomery Ward’s catalog (delivered by the narrow-gauge railroad).

High Line Railroad Park

All aboard for an outdoor train display! Located near the Stephen C. West Ice Arena, at 189 Boreas Pass Road, Engine No. 9 is one of the locomotives that first used the narrow-gauge railways to pull cars up high-elevation mountain terrain — it even has a snowblade in the front to clear snow off the tracks.

It enabled Breckenridge residents to receive vital supplies in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The track Engine No. 9 sits upon is the original high line track, which stretched from Breckenridge to Boreas pass. The rotary snowplow on the other engine in the park is one of just five known narrow-gauge rotaries in the world.

Directions: Drive south on Main Street, turn left on Boreas Pass Road. You can’t miss the train on the right. Park just past the train at the ice rink.

Red, White & Blue Fire Museum

Firefighters lead this tour through the museum, located at 308 N. Main St.

The Breckenridge Fire Department first began in 1880 with volunteers. As Breckenridge grew quickly, the threat of a town fire destroying log homes and businesses built of wood increased.

The department had three companies: Red, White and Blue. Miners, teamsters, saloon-keepers and businessmen made up the fire department. When you tour the museum, you’ll hear the stories and see the original, human-powered ladder cart, equipment, uniforms and a restored hose cart.

Call (970) 453-2474 to set up a tour.

Directions: From the Welcome Center at 203 South Main, drive north on Main St. The museum is on the right, next to the Breckenridge Fire Station.

Gold panning

Be a miner for a day at Lomax Gulch or Washington Mine.

Guides will take you back to the beginning, when miners used pans to collect dirt on the side of a creek and then swirled the contents until the gold settled to the bottom. They’ll teach you the difference between fools gold, which is lighter, and the real thing, which remains at the bottom of the pan as you slowly dump out residue. You’ll also walk into a miner’s cabin and see original hydraulic mining equipment. ($10 for adults, $5 for children 4-12)

Directions to Lomax Gulch: 301 Ski Hill Rd; Turn onto Ski Hill Road, toward the ski area. The mine is one mile up the road, on the left.

The Washington Gold and Silver Mine Tour and Gold Panning features one of the region’s largest gold and silver mines. It had five main shafts that led miners to more than 10,000 feet of underground tunnels.

These days, you can explore the underground terrain with a guide and learn how to pan for gold. ($15 for adults, $10 for children)

Directions to Washington: 465 Illinois Gulch Road. Head south on Main Street, turn left on Boreas Pass and go 1 mile. Turn right on Illinois Gulch Road and drive 1/3 mile, to the mine on the left.

Reservations and Details

All of the museum sites are open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, through Aug. 31.

To schedule a tour, or for more information, visit the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance online, or call (970) 453-9767.

By Breck Editorial

The Breckenridge Tourism Office works to enhance and promote the unique character and experience of Breckenridge as a world-renowned destination resort and to represent, serve and perpetuate the common interest and character of its membership and community.

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