Main Street in Breckenridge offers a little something for everyone; and it always has.
You will no longer find Roby’s Store, Bruch’s Barbershop & Confectionery or the Assay & Mine Broker’s Office; but you can find the walls. And, oh, the stories they tell! Stand in front of just about any building on Main Street, or numerous others that make up the heart and soul of Breckenridge, and you are standing in front of history.
Within the 45 city blocks that make up the historic district¹, the small red plaques identifying each building as part of the National Register of Historic Places are nearly overwhelming. The district is one of the largest in Colorado, with 249 individual sites in the original application, which was submitted in 1980. There is more than one way to learn about these buildings, including guided historic walking tours and a self-guided brochure you can purchase, both offered by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance.
What Are They Saying?
These walls, they do talk. The history within them is thick, connected and intertwined. You may have dined at Modis, purchased a latte from Starbucks, or stopped in the Welcome Center for activity information. In all of these cases, you have been inside a building that has memories, one that expressed the beauty and fervor of Victorian era Breckenridge.
Place yourself at the corner of Main Street and Lincoln Ave; it’s easy to find, it’s the only street light within blocks. As you look from north to south, you see the red and white Sterling Building, most notably the home of Craniologie. Once a well visited saloon, Mr. Johnny Dewers stood behind the bar here. Some call it self-defense, some call it murder; either way, he was shot by Dr. Condon in August of 1898 in the middle of that intersection. Dr. Condon had an office in the building we know now as the “Theobald Building,” and the two endured increasing tension leading up to that fateful day; a result of rumors surrounding Dr. Condon and Mrs. Dewers.
Keep Looking. Listen.
Pick a direction. From the middle of Main Street, you are surrounded by buildings that have withstood over 150 years of storms, sun and rowdy residents. Skinny Winter Gifts was occupied by a herd of goats in the back section at one time, and the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Springmeyer, resided in the front. Just up the hill on Ridge Street sits the Engle Brothers Exchange Bank. The brothers, originally entrusted by miners when they operated a saloon across the street, ran the bank from 1900-1936².
The events that took place behind these many walls created what we think of today as the encompassing history of Breckenridge. Parties, study sessions, piano lessons and secret society meetings and political schemes. Bar brawls, hurdy-gurdy girls, gambling and general mayhem. Treasures in our community history are just recently becoming common knowledge once again; the “Breckenridge Navy,” the Sisters Mustard Seeds and the story depicted in the murals in the eves of the Courthouse. The streets themselves were the places for baseball and football games, parades, races and soap box lectures.
Check out this Historical Society image from 1910, of the Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge: 1910 Courthouse photo
These are the stories we love to recount, told by local historians and the casual observer alike. These are the the stories walls tell; and many more, yet to be discovered by today’s community.
So go. Get out there. Explore Main Street. Shop, dine, and play around town. Just do not forget to listen to the walls as you go.
¹Jan M. Radosevich and Anne Ostyre-MacDonald. “National Register of Historic Places Description Statement.” United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 29 Jan 1980. Accessed 15 Aug 2013; http://pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/80000927.pdf.
²Mary Ellen Gilliland. Breckenridge! Alpenrose Press, Silverthorne, Colorado, p46-55.