Most of the ski towns of today were once the mining towns of yesteryear. Some have undergone so much renovation and modernization that they have removed all traces of their illustrious past. Breckenridge Colorado is the exception to the rule. Its planners are quite serious about preserving the town’s historic integrity. Don’t even think about tearing down a building the has survived since the 1800s. You can renovate, but you can’t annihilate. Even new buildings must conform to the the Victorian architectural style.
Stroll along Main Street, and almost every shop and restaurant has a story behind it. Then, walk uphill to French and Harris Streets and explore the elegant Victorian homes and mansions. The museums of Breckenridge recount fascinating stories of the town’s quirky history, and many of these anecdotes appeal to all ages.
You already know that Breckenridge is a world-class ski resort, which boasts the highest chairlift in North America, but these off-slope activities put the icing on the cake, because:
- They give your non-skiing and riding friends, significant others and family members a reason to accompany you on your ski trip.
- They provide you with activities to do during the fist day, while you acclimate to the town’s high elevation.
- They provide an alternate activity when Breckenridge is experiencing one of those high-wind days. There’s a reason why they call it “Breckenwind!”
Exploring the Town of Breckenridge
The Welcome Center on South Main Street provides information about lodging, dining, activities and events, but the back of the first floor and the entire upper floor functions as a museum. The first floor has a “then and now” exhibit, which displays the buildings of the past, their history, and their current appearance and function. This exhibit provides a convenient means of mapping out the places you would like to visit. The upstairs portion of the museum has a kid-friendly section, where children can mine for gold, and check out the typical kids clothing and bedroom furniture of the past.
And be sure to check out the 1970s chairlift, also located on the second floor!
Visiting Barney Ford
The Barney Ford Home and Museum sits across the street from the Welcome Center. Ford was born into slavery, but his mama was determined that he would not stay that way. She sneaked spelling books into her son’s quarters, so he could teach himself to read. During this Pre-Civil War period, educating blacks was a crime worthy of a whipping.
After Barney’s mother died, his master sold him to another owner. The reason is unclear, but it might have had something to do with the fact that his master was also his father, which accounted for Ford’s Caucasian appearance. His new master was an alcoholic Shakespearean actor, who liked to walk around the house quoting the bard. Ford thought that this was the way that white people spoke, and adapted a Shakespearean speech pattern.
When his master rented him out to a steamship company, Ford escaped by jumping off the ship. He came to Chicago and got involved with the underground railroad. Through a series of complex events, which your tour guide will explain, he became a successful restaurateur.
Like many men of the era, Edwin Carter came West for the gold. He was not misinformed, but he did not realize the environmental damage that the mining industry had caused. Mercury and cyanide were the primary chemicals used in mining, and these ingredients caused grotesque mutations in the local wildlife. Convinced that these animals would soon face extinction, Carter taught himself taxidermy, so that future generations could see the animals that once roamed our lands . Fortunately, the town listened to him, and revised their mining standards.
The Carter museum sits on Ridge Street, and the Backstage Theatre is nearby. This theater company features musical, dramatic and comedy performances for adults, and matinees for children during the weekend
This is just a taste of the off–slope activities in Breckenridge. Come on out and enjoy!