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Hilliard House undergoes historic restoration

Hilliard House, a historic building at 110 Ridge St. in Breckenridge, is undergoing restoration.
Courtesy Gwen Fletcher

BRECKENRIDGE — Hilliard House, a structure dating back to the time of the local legend of “Tom’s Baby” gold piece, is being restored over 100 years later. Gwen Fletcher, who grew up coming to Summit County, bought the Hilliard House at 110 Ridge St. in Breckenridge in 2017 with plans of restoring the original home. Fletcher explained that the building has housed restaurants and bars for the last 50 years, most recently Moe’s Original Bar B Que, which has since closed. 

The major historic significance of the house is that when Tom Groves and Harry Lytton found a 13.5-pound chunk of gold in Farncomb Hill on July 23, 1887, the piece made its way to Hilliard House for weighing and cleaning. This was because when Groves and Lytton brought the gold to an assayer — a professional who would take samples of the rock, weigh it, clean it and test for other metals like lead, zinc or silver — the assayer, Lewis F. Hilliard, was concerned they would be robbed since there was a large glass window at the front of the assayer’s office. The men decided to bring the gold across the street to the Hilliard’s home, which was named Hilliard House after his family. 

About six months ago Fletcher partnered with local architect Janet Sutterley and her husband, contractor Randy Kilgore. Fletcher said the restoration project is currently underway and she expects it to be completed in four to six months. 

“The original house is just a little one room log cabin that was the assayer’s house in the mid-1800s,” Fletcher said. “Since then, it’s been added to and added to. So what we’ve done starting in October last year was to take all the buildings that were not of the historic residence and get it down to the historic log house.”

Fletcher said that after taking down the buildings that had been added onto the original structure, the construction team lifted the original cabin, built a foundation and basement and put the cabin back down. Fletcher said that plans have been approved to add onto the cabin to make it suitable as a commercial space. 

At the end of the process, Fletcher said the building will be a 3,000-square-foot commercial building with 600 square feet of employee housing in the basement and a residence in the back of the property that also has historic significance. Fletcher said that she is willing to sell the whole property or just rent the commercial building and live in the residence herself.

As for the logistics of the process, Fletcher said that it has been lengthy, but that she appreciates the town’s agenda in historic preservation. 

“It’s a long process with the town,” Fletcher said. “They have a lot of criteria and rules and regulations and that’s why Breckenridge is like it is. Trying to get a project done, it’s painful, but the end result is you have a historic district in Breckenridge that is very unique and has saved the history of the town. It seems that the decision makers in town want to save these properties so they always have the best interest in doing that.”

Mark Truckey, director of community development for the town of Breckenridge, said that the planning of the Hilliard House restoration went through the Community Development Department as the highest class of application, which means it received a high amount of scrutiny. Senior Planner Chris Kulick, who worked closely with the project, said that the main goal is to preserve and bring back the original structure, as materials in the building had previously been altered. For example, during the planning process it was asked that the windows be realigned to be as close to how they were in the 1800s.

Kulick said that the plans for the restoration made the new additions more sympathetic to the character of the historic district. Kulick said that the process from applicant submittal to final approval took between 10 and 11 months.

Fletcher said that while the property has been a bar or restaurant for many years, it is simply zoned commercial. Hilliard House therefore can’t be a residence, but has the option to be a different type of commercial establishment.


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