Breckenridge legend Barney Ford inducted into the Denver and Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame

Barney Ford
Special to the Daily

One of Breckenridge’s most famous historic figures, Barney Ford, was posthumously inducted into the Denver and Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame last month, according to a news release from the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance.

Born a slave in Virginia in 1822, Ford achieved fame and fortune during the Colorado gold rush of 1859 after learning how to read and write from his mother, although it was illegal for her to teach him at the time.

Later, Ford’s master “loaned” him out to work on a steamboat as a cook and porter, but Ford used the opportunity to escape his bonds with the help of the Underground Railroad.

After moving to Colorado, the laws of the day forbid black men from filing mining claims. Still, Ford found and worked a gold mine with white partners, only to have them cheat him out of the mine.

Ford then discovered one area in the West where he could work freely and no color barriers existed — the hospitality industry.

As a result, Ford opened a series of restaurants, hotels and other businesses. In doing so, he became one of the richest people in Colorado. Ford and his wife, Julia, also built a home on Main Street in Breckenridge, which has become the Barney Ford House Museum.

Along with Ford, Stephen Bartolin, the 24-year president and current chairman of The Broadmoor; former Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown, the longest-serving member of the Denver City Council until he was tenured out; and Gary DeFrange, the former president of Winter Park Resort, were also inducted into the Tourism Hall of Fame last month.

The four men were honored during the 19th annual dinner for the Denver and Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame on March 14 at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

Jerry Dziedzic, president of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance board, and executive director Larissa O’Neil accepted the award on Ford’s behalf.

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