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Breck funds Barney Ford project

With an infusion of new grant money, Robin and Patty Theobald hope to open the historic Barney Ford House as a museum by next July. The house at Washington and Main in Breckenridge was built around 1880.
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BRECKENRIDGE – The Barney Ford house is one step closer to coming back to life.

The Breckenridge Town Council has agreed to give the newly formed Saddlerock Society the funds it needs to restore the historic home at the intersection of Main Street and Washington Avenue in Breckenridge.

The organization is composed of the house’s owners, Robin and Patty Theobald, architect Randy Hodges, historian Larry Gilliland and Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula. The group is named after the Saddlerock Restaurant, one of many business endeavors undertaken by the original owner of the home, Barney Lancelot Ford. The group wants to transform the house into a museum.



Ford, who started his life as a plantation slave, and his wife, Julia, moved to Breckenridge in 1860 and operated a miners’ boardinghouse on the northwest corner of Ski Hill Road and Main Street. The couple moved to Denver in 1861 after the sheriff kicked Ford off his mining claim. At the time, blacks were not allowed to own land.

They returned in 1879 and began construction on what is now known as the Barney Ford house.



Ford, a light-skinned black man with blue eyes, owned numerous restaurants and hotels in Denver and Cheyenne, Wyo., and was considered a prominent businessman in Breckenridge.

The Saddlerock Society hopes to obtain historical status for the house, either locally through the town or county, or on the Colorado State or National registers of historic places. That would enable the group to get a variety of grants toward the restoration of the structure and the operation of the museum.

To obtain state historic preservation funds, the board needs to conduct a structural assessment of the house. To obtain local, state or national historic designations, the group must compile a cultural survey that identifies the history of the building, its builders and occupants and the historic and present significance to the community. The board plans to build upon a preliminary study conducted by town officials and present it to the state historical society.

But first, it told the Breckenridge Town Council, it needs funds to forge ahead with projects before the snow begins to fall. Included on that list is tree trimming, installing a security system and repainting the exterior of the building. Additionally, the indoor furnishings need to be put in storage to make it easier to work in the house this winter.

Saddlerock board members expect repairs, restoration and a year of operating expenses to total more than $120,000, depending how much work they choose to do.

Some of the work includes sanding hardwood floors, removing baseboard heating systems, repairing plumbing and drywall, installing insulation, replacing the fence surrounding the home and building a handicapped-accessible ramp. Work also must be done on the foundation.

Town council members said they were excited to see the transformation.

“When I was on the council years ago, this was just a dream,” said councilmember Greg Abernathy, who was recently appointed to fill the remainder of Dave Hinton’s term. “It blows me away to see it’s back.”

“It’s something we’ve wanted to see for years,” Mamula said. “It’s a wonderful historic building. Other than the Carter Museum and the Milne house, this has got to be one of the most significant historic structures in town – even more so because of its connection with Barney Ford.”

Mamula believes the society needs to accentuate Ford’s history as well as the building’s.

“We celebrate buildings a lot; here’s a chance to celebrate a person,” Mamula said. “Here’s a man who goes from being a plantation slave to owning the biggest home and a business in Breckenridge. I marvel at that story. It’s such a unique story, and we don’t celebrate it as much as we should. This is a wonderful thing for our community.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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