A wonderful mountain town with a long history
The town of Breckenridge was formally created in November 1859 by General George E. Spencer. Spencer chose the name "Breckinridge" after John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, Vice President of the United States, in the hopes of flattering the government and gaining a post office. Spencer succeeded in his plan and a post office was built in Breckinridge; it was the first post office between the Continental Divide and Salt Lake City, Utah.
However, when the Civil War broke out in 1861, the former vice president sided with the Confederates (as a brigadier general) and the pro-Union citizens of Breckinridge decided to change the town's name. The first i was changed to an e, and the town's name has been spelled Breckenridge ever since.
Prospectors entered what is now Summit County (then part of Utah Territory) during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859, soon after the placer gold discoveries east of Breckenridge near Idaho Springs. Breckenridge was founded to serve the miners working rich placer gold deposits discovered along the Blue River. Placer gold mining was soon joined by hard rock mining, as prospectors followed the gold to its source veins in the hills. Gold in some upper gravel benches east of the Blue River was recovered by hydraulic mining. Gold production decreased in the late 1800s, but revived in 1908 by gold dredging operations along the Blue River and Swan River. The Breckenridge mining district is credited with production of about one million troy ounces (about 31,000 kilograms) of gold. The gold mines around Breckenridge are all shut down, although some are open to tourist visits. The characteristic gravel ridges left by the gold dredges can still be seen along the Blue River and Snake River, and the remains of a dredge are still afloat in a pond off the Swan River.
Notable among the early prospectors was Edwin Carter, a log cabin naturalist who decided to switch from mining to collecting wildlife specimens. His log cabin built in 1875 exists today and has been recently renovated by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance with interactive exhibits and a small viewing room with a short creative film on his life and the early days around Breckenridge.
The Breckenridge Heritage Alliance reports that in the 1930s, a women's group in Breckenridge stumbled upon an 1880s map that failed to include Breckenridge. They speculated that Breckenridge had never been officially annexed into the United States, and was thus still considered "No Man's Land". This was completely false—official US maps did include Breckenridge—but these women created an incredibly clever marketing campaign out of this one map. In 1936 they invited the Governor of Colorado to Breckenridge to raise a flag at the Courthouse officially welcoming Breckenridge into the union—and he came. There was a big party. And the entire event/idea of Breckenridge being left off the map made national news. The "No Man's Land" idea later morphed into a new theme of Breckenridge being referred to as "Colorado's Kingdom", and the theme of Breck's independent spirit is still celebrated to today during Breck's annual "Kingdom Days" celebrations every June.
The Breckenridge Ski Resort first opened for business in December 1961. In the 50-plus years since its inception, Breck has become arguably the most popular ski resort in the Western Hemisphere, attracting millions of visitors to its signature slopes that rise above the townscape in both winter and summer, and serving as the region's top economic driver. Expanding from its humble origins at Peak 8, the resort has slowly added more and more terrain to fill out its permitted area, expanding to now include Peaks 7, 8, 9 and 10, and in the 2013/14 season will add Peak 6 to the resort's skiable acreage.
Breckenridge was the film location of the 1989 comedy National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and some scenes in Dumb and Dumber (shots of Aspen in the movie are actually Breckenridge).
Downtown Breckenridge, a postcard-pretty National Historic District, is best seen on foot. Start your tour at the open plaza at the corner of South Main Street and East Washington Avenue, and walk along the Blue River, a winding riparian corridor where the valley’s mining industry once flourished.
Breckenridge may be known for its ample snow and giant halfpipes, but the resort also has more than 30 miles of cross-country trails, plus an additional 25 trails in the surrounding White River National Forest. The Beaver Meadows trail offers a 2.2-mile intermediate loop around Cucumber Gulch, a wetland where the resort built “toad condos” for the endangered boreal toads. Just watch out for the ill-tempered moose said to linger near the base of Peak 7. Equipment and trail maps are available at the Breckenridge Nordic Center.
Gold is discovered along the Blue River and a base camp, later to be known as Breckenridge, is established. While none of this base camp remains today, Breckenridge does contain more than 350 historic structures, making it the largest historic district in the state of Colorado.
The Gold Pan Saloon is established as a rough-and-ready bar for the miners. Today, the is still in business at 103 N. Main Street in Breckenridge, and stands proud as the oldest continuously operated bar West of the Mississippi.
Breckenridge gets a post office to serve the more than 8,000 miners and merchants who flock to the area.
Breckenridge Navy founded by "Captain" Sam Adams. Adams, seeking a water route from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, leads four boats on an ill-fated trip from the Blue to the Colorado River before hopes are abandoned.
Father John L. Dyer, the "Snowshoe Itinerant Preacher" founds his Methodist church Breckenridge. Dyer spends winters on his twelve-foot-long wooden skis, traveling between mining camps to preach. The church he founded is located at 310 Wellington and still holds services today.
The railroad arrives in Breckenridge. South Park & Pacific Railroad Company lay rail tracks over what is current day Boreas Pass Road. Today visitors can view original narrow gauge rail cars, including a rotary snowplow, a coal tender and two boxcars, at the Denver, Leadville & Gunnison Railway Park located at 189 Boreas Pass Road.
"Tom's Baby" a 13.5 pound gold nugget is discovered near Breckenridge by local miners Tom Graves and Harry Lytton. Tom's Baby is now on display at the Colorado Museum of Natural History in Denver.
"The Big Snow" comes to Breckenridge. Snow falls everyday from November through February, forcing residents to dig tunnels to travel through town and stopping all trains from visiting Breckenridge for months.
School children discover Pug Ryan's treasure near Breckenridge. Pug Ryan and his gang robbed the Denver Hotel in Breckenridge in 1898, making off with considerable loot. The robbery resulted in a shoot-out and the death of all the gang members except Pug who escaped--never to return to claim his prize. The found treasure included the gold watch of the Denver Hotel's owner.
Mining era money funds the building of the stately brick K-12 schoolhouse, complete with an indoor swimming pool and pressed-tin ceilings. Today, the building is inhabited by Colorado Mountain College and the Speakeasy Theatre and is located at 103 S. Harris Street.
Dredge Boat mining comes to a halt after more than 40 years when World War II requires all metal be melted down for the war effort. Today visitors can view where the progress stopped at Maggie Pond at the Base of Peak 9 or eat on a reproduced dredge at The Dredge Restaurant located at 108 Jefferson Avenue.
The Country Boy Mine ceases operation after a flood. Developed in 1887 and utilized through the years as a gold, silver, lead and zinc mine; today the mine is open to visitors and provides guided underground tours, gold panning and a view into the past.
Breckenridge continues as the Summit County seat, but the population dips to 393 and town members fear the area will soon be a ghost town.
July 27, 1961-
Rounds and Porter Lumber Company of Wichita, Kansas is issued a permit for a new ski area in Breckenridge. Tapping into a new "vein" of winter sports, the ski area ensures the continuation of the town and the area's history.
December 16, 1961-
The Breckenridge Ski Area officially opens with one Heron double chairlift and a short T-bar. Almost 17,000 skier visits were recorded that first season, despite the fact that Interstate 70 was still not complete to Summit County.
Peak 9 opens with two double chairs and 12 trails. Skier visits for the 1971-72 total 221,000, compared to 17,000 during the 1961-62 season.
Colorado's first alpine slide begins operation on Peak 8.
Breckenridge installs the world's first high-speed quad chairlift on Peak 9. The lift, capable of transporting 2,800 skiers per hour, started the industry's high-speed quad revolution.
Breckenridge became Colorado's first major resort to allow snowboarding.
Breckenridge's third interconnected mountain, Peak 10, opens and the resort hosts the worlds first Snowboarding World Cup.
Peak 7, the ski area's fourth interconnected mountain, opens for hiking access and glade skiing.
Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort are merged with Vail and Beaver Creek to form Vail Resorts, the largest mountain resort company in North America at the time.
$18 million is invested into on-mountain improvements, including two new high-speed quads--the most in the resort's 37-year history.
Another $14 million invested includes construction of Ten Mile Station on Peak 9. Breckenridge celebrates being the country's most popular ski resort that season with a record 1,392,242 skier visits.
The country's highest-capacity lift and first double-loading six-passenger chairlift, the Quicksilver Super6 opens at Breckenridge, replacing the world's first high-speed quad. For a second straight year, Breckenridge is the most-visited resort in the US, tabulating 1,441,000 skier visits.
Breckenridge increases intermediate terrain by 30 percent with the Peak 7 expansion, adding seven new trails and the six-person Independence SuperChair. The new Peak 8 SuperConnect transports visitors from Peak 9 to Peak 8 with incredible speed.
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