Breckenridge Historic Alliance – Keeping Breckenridge’s Colorful History Alive
Just over 160 years ago, prospectors panned for gold in the Blue River close to today’s City Market. That first pan, which yielded 27 cents and is considered the first official gold strike, led to the development of Breckenridge. The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance (BHA) celebrates the town’s early mining days as well as our community’s more recent history. The Heritage Alliance operates a dozen historic sites and museums, many of which are free to visit, and more than 20 tour guides share stories of Breckenridge’s past on guided hikes, a variety of walking tours through the historic district and Valley Brook Cemetery, as well as mine tours and gold panning sites. With support from BGV Gives and The Summit Foundation, BHA has been able to host field trips for area schools, child care centers and camps free of charge – and also bring hands-on history programs to local 4th grade classrooms in partnership with the Summit Historical Society.
The Breckenridge Historic Alliance also works to preserve and interpret Breckenridge’s most important historic sites. Recent accomplishments include stabilizing the Reiling Dredge in French Gulch, one of nine gold dredges that operated in the greater Breckenridge area and preserving the Wellington Ore Bin, a five-story structure that was used to sort mineral-rich ore from underground mines. Approximately 20 interpretive signs dot area trails and ghost town sites with historic photographs and information. BHA’s Mather Archives, located at the Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center & South Branch Library, is home to one-of-a-kind photographs, letters, newspapers and other archival materials. Searching matherarchives.com gives a good overview of all the resources the Alliance offers.
Finally, BHA is also working to document the town’s more contemporary history, from the 1950s until now. More than 90 long-time Breckenridge locals have shared their early Breckenridge memories, from living in cabins with no running water or electricity (much like the early miners!) to watching George Johnson ride his horse into – yes, into – the Gold Pan, to catching rides home from kindergarten in the bus driver’s station wagon. These stories paint a picture of how Breckenridge transitioned from a sleepy mining town to an emerging ski and tourism-based community. For more information on the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, visit their web site at www.breckheritage.com.