Long before Breckenridge was known as one of the best ski towns in North America, it was part of the summer hunting grounds of the White River and Middle Park Ute Indian tribes. The town was created during the mid-19th century rush to settle the West during the gold rush.
Town leaders platted a grid for the 320-acre town site. Main Street was laid out parallel to the Blue River, and residences were built along Main Street to the north, south and east of the commercial core. On the west side of the Blue River, in “West Breckenridge,” industry, inexpensive housing and a red light district were established. By mid-1861, Breckenridge boasted several stores, hotels, saloons and a post office.
By the mid-1860s, however, miners were lured away to more profitable mines; in 1866, the population hovered around 600 people.
The community was incorporated in 1880, and began a new boom period. Comfortable houses, churches and a school were built on the hillside east of Main Street. Saloons and other false-fronted commercial ventures were confined to the main streets. Main Street became the business thoroughfare, and in 1880, 18 saloons and three dance halls lined the street.
Ridge Street boasted a grocery store, hotel, post office, dry goods store, bank, assay office and a drug store.
By 1882, Breckenridge secured a depot site for the Denver, South Park and Pacific railroads, bringing rail service to town.
World War II brought an end to the mining era, and the town nearly became a ghost town until the advent of the ski industry.
The Rounds family opened the Breckenridge Ski Area in 1960, with skiing available on Peak 8. That has since expanded to Peaks 9, 10 and 7, with high-speed lifts serving an array of terrain on the Tenmile Range.
Breckenridge is now home to a wide variety of residents, from professionals to ski bums and second homeowners. And despite all the changes, the town still touts itself as being “genuine Colorado,” with a real town at the base of a world-class ski resort.
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